🗓️ Following on from my previous blog post on the cleared village of Boreraig, I think Gaelic week is a good time to write about the former St Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard in Paisley, which I was also able to visit but much more recently – in December 2022! One of the destinations for those forced off of their land due to the Clearances was of course Scotland’s towns and cities, so this is where many ended up whether directly or after having to leave poorer land they were first pushed on to due things like famine. Below I’ll detail some of the history of Paisley’s Gaelic population, the graveyard and highlight some gravestones in particular with photos.
ℹ️ The above photo shows the information board on the wall of the former St Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard in the Oakshaw area of Paisley. Unfortunately the Scottish Gaelic information was a bit too obscured by the graffiti to try to transcribe, but I’ll quote the English information below so it’s easier to read:
“ST. COLUMBA’S GAELIC CHAPEL GRAVEYARD, OAKSHAW
This plaque marks the location of a former gateway into St. Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard which was in use for more than 150 years from 1795 to 1949.
Many who were buried here were Gaelic speakers who worshipped in the Chapel. They came to Paisley from 1770 onwards to find work in the booming textile and manufacturing industries and to escape famine in the Highlands and Islands.
Rates of infant mortality were particularly high in the first half of the 19th Century when the town’s population increased rapidly but sanitation remained very basic. Many people buried here died young. One wealthy family lost five of their seven children.
A number of gravestones from the Gaelic Chapel Graveyard can be seen at Hawkhead Cemetery. Inscriptions show that Gaelic people brought skills with them from the Highlands or learned new skills to adapt to an industrial town. More than 30 jobs are mentioned and it is clear that Gaelic people helped enrich the lives of people in Paisley and beyond.
The chapel was built in 1793 and the last service was held in 1958. The building was then converted into flats.
The graveyard has developed into a wildlife sanctuary with woodland providing undisturbed nesting sites for songbirds like Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Chaffinches and Wrens. The damp, shady conditions are ideal for woodland flowers like Bluebells, Enchanter’s Nightshade and the Wild Orchid, Broad-leaved Helleborine.”From info board put up by Historic Scotland and Renfrewshire Council
ℹ️ The information board at Hawkhead Cemetery was thankfully in a better state, though a bit dirty. I think I’ve been able to get both the Scottish Gaelic and English this time so I’ll put both below – scroll down to the relevant language for yourself and for more photos, including some of the gravestones:
“CLACHAN-UAIGHE BHO CHLADH CILL GHÀIDHLIG NAOIMH CHALUIM CHILLE
Anns an sgìre seo tha clachan-uaighe bho sheann Chladh Cill Ghàidhlig Naoimh Chaluim Chille ann an Oakshaw, Pàislig.
Bha cladh na Cille Gàidhlig air a cleachdadh còrr air 150 bliadhna, eadar 1795 gu an tiodhlacadh mu dheireadh ann an 1949.
Ged a bha a-Chill Ghàidhlig air a stèidheachadh airson Gàidheil a bho air gluasad a Phàislig bhon Ghàidhealtachd agus na h-Eileanan, cha robh ach beagan chlachan-uaighe sgrìobhte sa Ghàidhlig.
Bha còrr air 30 dreuchdan air ainmeachadh air na clachan-uaighe, mar chomharra air farsaingeachd sgilean nan Gàidheal agus mar a ghabh iad ri beatha bhailteil Phàislig agus gnìomhachasan soirbheachail.
Tha cuid de na dreuchdan sin gun atharrachadh mòran ann an 150 bliadhna, gu sònnaichte feadhainn togail leithid sgleàtair, sglàibeadair agus criadh-chlachair. Tha cuid cha mhòr air falbh gu tur ann an Alba m.e: feadhainn ceangailte ri muilleannan clò, leithid glanadair clò agus dathadair agus cuideachd feadhainn eile leithid uaireadairiche agus ròpadair. Tha cuid eile, leithid breabadair, greusaiche, diolladair is gobha staoin ann fhathast mar obair dhualchas no làmh-cheàrd sonràichte.”From info board put up by Historic Scotland and Renfrewshire Council
“GRAVESTONES FROM ST. COLUMBA’S GAELIC CHAPEL GRAVEYARD, OAKSHAW
This area contains gravestones retrieved from the former St. Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard in Oakshaw, Paisley.
The Gaelic Chapel Graveyard was in use for more than 150 years from 1795 until the last burial in 1949.
Although the Gaelic Chapel was founded for Gaelic speakers who had moved to Paisley from the Highlands and islands, only a small proportion of the stones were inscribed in Gaelic.
More than 30 jobs are mentioned on the gravestones, indicating the diversity of skills held by Gaelic speakers and how they adapted to their new urban life in Paisley’s booming industries.
Few of these jobs have changed in 150 years, particularly building trades like slater, plasterer and bricklayer. Some have virtually disappeared from Scotland – those associated with textile mills, like cloth lapper and dyer, but also watchmaker and ropemaker. Others survive as heritage of luxury handcrafts – weaver, shoemaker, sadder and tin-smith.”From info board put up by Historic Scotland and Renfrewshire Council
🍂 Those were just a few of the surviving gravestones that I wanted to highlight – many of the older ones were of a similar, quite plain design with some more recent ones being a bit bigger and a bit more ornate. Have a look at the gallery below for more photos:
🪦 Thank you for reading! It was very interesting looking into this being from Paisley myself, as well as being interested in Scottish Gaelic and death customs in general 🔍
📸 Featured Photo & all other photos credit: me and my dad. We went to look for the graveyard and graves along with my husband and mum. My dad instilled a love of history in me from a young age and took us to lots of sites as we were growing up, so it was really nice to be back in Scotland after travel restrictions were eased to do something like that again 🏴