Paisley Many Years Ago

So far as we know this is the earliest picture of the Town Hall building.


By Walpole Murdoch,
Santa Monica, California

During the early days of Paisley the enterprising men who resided in the community were numerous and some of them are remembered as exceedingly interesting characters.

One of the most active and ambitious of the business men of seventy-five years ago was Mr. James Laidlaw. Laid1aw’s foundry was situated near the old Willow Creek bridge on a corner of the principal streets, Queen and Cambridge. The buildings that formed the establishment were numerous, and high above the smoke-discoloured roofs, towered an immense chimney made of red bricks from which issued a great quantity of black smoke. Nearby was an arched belfry from which sounded regularly the early call to each day’s labor. (Ed. Note--The belfry and its bell are long gone from the scene, but the chimney mentioned by Mr. Murdoch still stands alone, and ‘apparently as sound as it was several decades ago.) In the foundry were employed more than two score men who were engaged in all the various tasks of turning wood and iron and paint into plows, mowers and reapers. It was a thrill for young school boys to be permitted to stand in the open door of the large casting house and listen to the furnace roar and watch the bright molten metal flow from the moaning furnace and fill the sunless room with tiny shooting stars, while red-faced, bare-armed men moved about like shadows on the earthen floor.

Others among Paisley’s active business men of those times were Duncan and John F'isher. Fisher’s carding mill, flour and saw mill, with their spouting flumes and overflowing dam on the Teeswater River near the Main Street bridge advertised the beauty of the town, turned the river into foam and produced a great variety of sounds that harmonized with the character of the place. One of the water wheels revolved in the open air within sight of those crossing the bridge and noisy cogs sang a song through all the busy days.

The first cloth manufactured by power in Paisley was woven –on looms introduced by Mr. John A. Murdoch. The original three-storey woollen mill, painted blue, stood on the bank of the Saugeen and was driven by power obtained from the diverted waters of Willow Creek. The factory was burned in 1870. The second one that took its place was dismantled many years later, and now scarcely a fragment remains to mark the spot.

Sinclair’s and Blackburn’s planing and saw mills were united with MacKay’s and Young’s fine planning mills. The large building, with boiler rooms and smoke stack, stood on the banks of the Saugeen River near the Baptist Church. On one side was a tramway to carry the lumber to the yards nearby.

The Mackey & Young mill was on Victoria St. north, and years later was operated by Scott & Grant.


Two brothers there were of old,
They clannish were and bold,
Both drank a wee bit,
Tho’ one was always fit,
To manage for two I am told.
On All Hallowe’en Eve, long ago,
Duncan met, in the town, his old foe,
And alack and alas!
Willie sampled his glass,
Home they started, for weal or for woe.
When they climbed across the Hog’s Back,
Through the night which was now inky black,
And, as they did ride,
Before them they spied
A head, which a, body did lack.
Said Duncan to Will “Daeye see
I’m no telling a word o’ a lee
Auld Clutie has came
Tae tack us baith hame
So we’ll turn right around an’ flee”
So they turned their horse right about,
That wobbling monster they’d flout;
To the village they hied
In fear, side by side,
By Lockerby they would go out:
At home they arrived safe and sound,
‘Twas many a day ere they found
Auld Clutie was Jack--O-Lantern, alack!
And so the story went round.
Now, in fun, it was done, we all know,
The Elora Road boys were not slow,
No harm from it came,
They went on the same,
And held not a spite for their foe.




The winter has swooped down upon us
Without any bother or fuss
Just snowflake after snowflake
Huge hills and hollows to make.
Out came the sleds and toboggans,
Or in lieu of these some old pans;
And down the hills with many a yell
We rushed each other, pell mell.
Of course there was many a spill
As We tried out the steepest hill,
We took it all as part of the fun,
Hills or spills we did not shun.
To feel the keen air rushing round
As we started away at a bound,
Gave a zest, a zip and a thrill
That memory brings back to you still.
And can’t you see Fisher’s pond
Of which all skaters were fond?
A bevy of girls and of boys
Grown-ups, too, full of joys.
How hard the boys worked at that snow!
To clear a wide pathway was slow,
One across and one up and down
Made them sweat, but never afrown.
Then in the centre a pile
Stumps and brush, was gotten by guile,
Which at night a fairyland seemed
As the bonfire glistened and gleamed.
While the skaters gracefully glide,
Sometimes a fall followed pride.
Gay colours weave in and about
With laughter and many a shout.
So the years fall away as we think
Of the fun we had, minus a rink,
Our pleasures were simple, but keen
Our amusements happy and clean.

C. R. L. F.


By Walpole Murdoch,
Santa Monica, California

I cannot go back in person to partake of the pleasure of the reunion holiday in the “Old Home Town” of Paisley, but I can visit the charming place in imagination, and to-day as I, in this way, wander along, the Saugeen there comes to me the memory of delightful years of boyhood spent on the sloping banks of the river. Here in front of our old home (now vanished) is the little Eddy, and here is the large rock with flat top that used to project above the surface of clear water and where I often stood with bare feet, browned by sun and wind in summer, when fishing with rod and line. The rock was only 3 steps from the bank. Anglers upon that rock enjoyed a wide sweep of the little bay, always a favorite place for fishing. On the point of land above the rapids driftwood accumulated and beneath the submerged logs fish of large size were caught and frequently succeeded in tangling the line. There was a clump of flags that bloomed at the edge of the stream. Close by a butternut tree and several hawthorns leaned towards the water and on the grass in the shade of these trees was just right for boys to congregate and tell stories. The trees are gone now and the bay seems very small indeed; around the rock the grass grows, but the rapids nearby still murmur their endless song - the factory with its noisy looms has vanished along with the home and the silver poplars that fringed the garden - emblems of all earthly expectations, I observe that time has made many changes. Springs that used to gush from overhanging banks have ceased to flow. Where once the shadows gloomed the deep pools trees that stood with pevdant roots have been dislodged and gone their way with the currents of seventy years. Trees that used to carry tangled grape vines in their bows have vanished leaving only a memory of wild fruit and happy autumn days -The river seems smaller and distance less than imagination had painted. The visitors at this time are mostly strangers to me but memory becomes busy with companions of long ago, almost all of whom have reached that vast realm of silence where the innumerable dwell and where all that live must reach their journey’s end.

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