For reasons that are fairly obvious, this year for the first time, Paisley is celebrating their annual Sma’ Shot Day online. They’ve a full programme of online events and activities will take place to celebrate this historic date in the town’s calendar.
But, have you ever thought ‘what is the Sma’ Shot?’
Paisley’s traditional Sma’ Shot holiday takes its name from a famous dispute between the local shawl weavers and manufacturers in the 19th century. At the height of their powers in the mid-19th century, there were more than 7,000 weavers in the town.
The ‘invisible’ Sma’ Shot is the stitch that bound the Paisley Pattern shawls. It was a fine weft yarn, woven into famous shawls by the weavers – but the manufacturers, known locally as ‘corks’, refused to pay for the thread.
In 1856, following a long dispute, the manufacturers backed down and an agreement was reached to pay for the Sma’ Shot with a new table of prices published on July 1 1856. Mon the weavers!
There was also a custom at that time for workers to go on an annual outing one Saturday during the summer, usually ‘doon the water’ to Ayr.
The Paisley weavers’ practice was to take this holiday and go on a trip on the first Saturday in July. Many weaver’s wives and daughters working in the thread mills naturally asked to have their own holiday on the same day.
In 1856, the annual holiday happened three days after the weavers’ Sma’ Shot victory. They gathered from each weaving district to the ‘tuck of the drum’ and marched with bands and banners, to the railway station, before departing with their families for destinations such as the seaside, known locally as “doon the watter”.
While this year’s Sma’ Shot Day is being marked in a different way due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the event will still celebrate this important date in Paisley’s history, as well as our fantastic key workers.