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How went the night?!

Posted by [email protected] on October 27, 2015 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (1)

“A wonderful, educational and very evocative evening” was how Warp & Weft- Kilbarchan Woven in story & Song was described on 24th October in the Kilbarchan Performing Arts Centre. The evening of storytelling, music and song brought alive the rich history of this small handloom weaving village. The sell-out success was the brainchild of Anne Pitcher local storyteller. Joining her on the journey was singer songwriter and author Ewan McVicar whose father was a Habbie and whose family owned the Glentyan Laundry. Also joining them were members of Kilbarchan Pipe Band, “Village Voices”, St Barchan [John Stephen], Habbie [Ian Andrew] and Miss Lilias, Victoria Thompson. Anne and Ewan took the audience on a journey through Kilbarchan’s history from the 18,000 year old Clochoderick Stone, to 6th century St Barchan who gave the village its name, to 16th century Habbie Simpson Kilbarchan’s famous piper, to the handloom weavers, to Lilias Day past and present. Ewan sang two songs which Kilbarchan Primary School P5/6 class had written with him “Long ago and nowadays in Kilbarchan” and “Lilias Day” which were fantastic. Three of the school pupils were present, Robbie, and twins Archie and Rhona to hear their song performed. “Village Voices” sang the 1933 Lilias Day song beautifully - last heard 82 years ago! Fellow storyteller Marjory Leithead said of the evening “Excellent – thoroughly enjoyable.” Anne expressed her thanks to Creative Scotland who made the three month long project possible by their backing. She also thanked the many people who helped to bringing to reality her dream of telling Kilbarchan’s story. Arts Centre owner Brian MacMillan took a video whilst at the sound desk which can be seen on YouTube. Local man Graham Baird 87 years young, took a video of the night which will be available on You Tube soon. Anne would still love to hear any stories about Kilbarchan, please contact her on [email protected] or call 07708059770. Go to for more on the project.

Other quotes from the night:

It was terrific. Thank you. All and more than expected

Tremendous Anne – well done! I’ve known the story of the spinning, weaving and sewing ladies all my life but never heard it told so well

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and learned a lot more about Kilbarchan

Good show [Robbie from P5/6] I loved the show [Shona and Archie from P5/6]


Magic – a success

Very worthwhile coming

Great show


Viewing Betty MacDonald's photos

Posted by [email protected] on October 18, 2015 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)

See Betty's photos on our Newspapers And Photos page - choose More above.

October 16th: Digging Habbie oral history - Betty MacDonald

Posted by [email protected] on October 18, 2015 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I arranged to talk to an elderly local lady called Betty MacDonald, 92 years young, a Habbie, who lives in New Street to hear about her stories about Lilias Day as a child in 1930s. She is a lady with such a very sunny nature - always a smile on her face and a very positive attitude to life. I heard so much more than just her Lilias Day stories.

Her father was a well known Habbie, George Fulton who was a blacksmith in Steeple Street and her mother Elizabeth Fulton ran an Ironmonger's shop also in Steeple Street. Both premises were compulsorily purchased and demolished in 1960s. Where they were is now a car park. She showed me a lovely photograph of her as a wee girl with her mum and dad outside the shop and of her dad outside the blacksmiths with his apprentice. Before setting up for himself he had worked in James Martin's smithy in Church Street. George was not only a blacksmith but he also fixed bikes and lawnmowers. The ironmongers sold not just the ususal ironmongery but also all sorts of crockery and even fine glasses. The shop closed for business in 1938 and was turned into a private house. Itwas demolished in the early 1960s. George retired in the 1960s when the blacksmiths was also compulsorily purchased for demolition.

Betty told me of her many happy memories of Lilias Day and I will be telling her story on 24th October - so you'll have to come to hear more! From a calendar I produced for fundraising for Kilbarchan Community Nursery in the 90s, there is a photo of 1931 Lilias day with her father on a lorry with the tools of his trade in the background and her mum is one of the "washer women" in the foreground. Photos courtesy of Betty MacDonald.

13th October

Posted by [email protected] on October 13, 2015 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)


Off a quiet country road, on the outskirts of Kilbarchan, in a flat green field, you will find an absolutely enormous grey boulder – all by itself - there are no other giant rocks anywhere like it for many, many miles. Fifty miles away in Inverary are stones like it. It known as the Clochoderick Stone. Its surface is nobbled and gnarled and lumpy. Some parts of the surface look like wind and weather worn hexagons. The whole boulder almost looks like an enormous, giant hand has squashed it and thrown it away. How curious, how strange – how on earth did it get there?

If, like me, you have stopped there, or have rock climbed it as an interesting bouldering challenge, you may have read the plaque on the wall beside the field where the Clochoderick Stone stands which placed there by the Civic Society in 1993. The plaque is mounted on a large big piece of granite. Looking at the stone you’d never know how difficult it was to get the plaque’s base there.

Well known Kilbarchan local, Russell Young told me the story of how in 1993, he and Ian Trushell of the Civic Society had been given the task of getting the rock for the plaque in place on top of the wall so that passers -by could read the Clochoderick Stone’s story. When the piece of granite had been delivered they realised that the wall was too uneven at the top to take this load, so they created a cement base on top of the wall for the rock to go on. All was ready but they encountered another problem, hard as Ian and Russell tried, they could not lift it. It was unbelievably heavy. A solution came to them -they went to the local Andrew’s farm and explained the problem. Andrew got out his tractor,used the muck lifters and a hoist to pick up the muckle great lump of granite and dropped it into place. Where you see it to this day.

28th September

Posted by [email protected] on September 29, 2015 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)


Two questions might spring to mind when looking at this project - How did this project come about and where did the idea come from? And what do I want to achieve through this project telling the story of Kilbarchan?

I first came across Kilbarchan was when I was house hunting in 1984, because my husband Neil had been appointed as a Mathematics lecturer at Paisley College. I saw this beautiful house, the old police station and jail built in 1833 on the main street of Kilbarchan and fell in love with it straight away. We even had the old cell door complete with its peep hole, hatch and great big bolts propped up in the side entrance - we were living in Kilbarchan history!

Then we discovered Lilias Day on the first Saturday in June - which has a historical parade, pipe bands, floats, Miss Lilias with her attendants in a horse drawn carriage and the School Queen in a limousine. People dress up their houses and businesses along the route - thousands of people come from all around. We discovered that way back in the 1930s they used to make huge floral arches across the route of the parade. We also discovered that the parade travelled up to the Steeple on the hill and out of the niche, with a flag draped over it, the statue of Habbie Simpson comes out of the niche - alive and leads the parade to the public park then at night he goes up to the Square plays his pipes for the crowd and then returns to his niche for another year. Fantastic - I just thought what an amazing place to live.


When I became a storyteller many years later in 2009 after being a nursery teacher for 10 years, the idea of re-telling Kilbarchan's rich history - its stories, legends, music and song began to blossom until, encouraged by singer songwriter and author Ewan McVicar in 2015, the dream became a reality. I was successful in gaining a grant from TASGADH Creative Scotland's small granting bodies to make this project a reality in August 2015.


26th September again

Posted by [email protected] on September 29, 2015 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I've had many conversations during August with Brian Knight about the involvement of a few of Kilbarchan Pipe Band in the performance of "Warp & Weft" playing some of the bagpipe music that Habbie Simpson would have played. I heard them play outside the Steeple in the historic Square on the afternoon of 7th September and I met up with Brian for the first time. The locals turned out in large numbers and the sun shone - it couldn't have been more perfect. They have done so well this year and have come away with many trophies and were even in the qualifiers for the World Pipe Band Championship held in Glasgow this year. They are so talented and they are following in the tradition of Kilbarchan's most famous son Habbie Simpson

I arranged to meet up with the Pipe Band during rehearsals in the Scout Hall on 13th September and there we talked about who would be involved with the performance on 24th October. Brian Knight and lady piper Isobel Hardie plus drummer Stewart MacKay will be joining the talented locals on that evening - fantastic!!

The trio will work with the pipe music sent to them by Ewan McVicar sourced from Pete Stewart's book "The Daws It Daws - The Lowland Scots Bagpipe and its Music 1400 to 1715" plus use music that would be in the spirit of Habbie. Pete Stewart's book draws almost entirely from the "Elegy of Habbie Simpson" written by Robert Sempill in the middle of the 17th century.

Kilbarchan Pipe Band wear the Ancient McLeod of Harris tartan

As a result of this work that both Ewan and I are doing we have been invited to speak at the Annual Collogue of the Lowland and Borders Pipers' Society in Peebles on November 7th. They are very interested in Habbie Simpson and so Ewan will speak about the music side, Pete Stewart will play some of the bagpipe music and I will tell the gathered throngs about how Habbbie is much a part of Kilbarchan life today as well as in the past. His statue in the niche of The Steeple was made by public subscription he was so popular.


26th September

Posted by [email protected] on September 29, 2015 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Using the many sources I have gathered - Rev Robert D. MacKenzie's "Kilbarchan - A Parish History", Derek Alexander and Gordon McCrae's "Renfrewshire - A Scottish County's Hidden Past" and various other sources plus orally collected legends and stories I have begun to re -create the historical part of the performance. This is so that I will be ready to discuss the musical and song aspects which will weave around this with Ewan McVicar when he visits Kilbarchan Primary School on 30th September.

I've been studying pre-history whilst looking at the Clochoderick Stone and early history of Strath Clyde. I've been out and taken lots of photos of the stone [see attached]

Also I've been studying the many sources which tell me about St Barchan. It is interesting to note that St Barchan was a prophet a bit like the Brahan Seer [its in Irish Gaelic]

Then I'll be studying Habbie Simpson, followed by the handloom weavers and finally Lilias Day. Such a rich, rich seam of history that exists in this little village - its a amazing!


Progress - Anne

Posted by [email protected] on September 21, 2015 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (0)


On 10th of August I received the wonderful news that my application for the TASGADH small grant had been successful.


I knew that I should start researching the history of Kilbarchan thoroughly and began my search the next day. I spent most of the day 11th August in Paisley Museum's Archive section looking at all sorts of wonderful treasures. I discovered a huge collection of old Lilias Day programmes some from as far back as 1932, 1933, 1934 and the Festival of Britain 1951. Plus I had a good look through the collection of old photographs. In addition I found an absolute treasure in "Kilbarchan: A Parish History" by the Rev. Robert D. McKenzie, BD, published in 1902, but was not allowed to take it out as it is so old.


The following day, 12th August, I arranged to meet with Helen Calcluth, a local amateur historian and "Habbie" [so called if you are born in Kilbarchan after the 16th century Kilbarchan piper Habbie Simpson]. More treasures came to light in conversation with this local lady. It was in her little flat which looks out over the historic Steeple built in 1755 by local master mason David Kerr. This is where Habbie Simpson's statue stands in his niche in the Steeple tower, playing his pipes to the village below.

I learnt so much that day from this amazing lady who is a prominent member of the Renfrewshire Local History Forum and is at present researching and writing about the history handloom weavers in the village which she hopes to publish in future.

She told me that her grandfather had said to her when she was a wee girl that the huge boulder in a Kilbarchan field called the Clochoderick Stone was thrown there by a giant and she proceeded to tell me what little she remembered from so long ago. I immediately recognised the story as the folktale the Giant's Causeway - of the Irish giant Finn McCool and Scottish giant Benandonner "The Red Man". I thought that this could well be a story which I could work with as well as telling all the facts of this boulder which is a huge glacial erratic stone deposited from the last Ice Age 18,000 years ago now in a flat field with no other stone like it for 100 miles. I thought this story would appeal to the school children I intended to work with in Kilbarchan Primary School.


14th August

Having managed to get a copy of the Rev McKenzie's book from Johnstone Library on loan and beginning reading it the next day, 13th August, I realised that I could not tell the whole of Kilbarchan's history and decided to tell five periods of history:-

1] The story and folktale of the Clochderick Stone [18,000]

2] The story of St Barchan a 6th century Christian monk who came with St Columba from Ireland to our village.

3] The story and music of Habbie Simpson the 16th century bagpiper - Kilbarchan's most famous "son" and from whom locals born in the village get their name "Habbies"

4] The story of the handloom weavers at their peak in the late 18th, early 19th century [Weaver's Cottage - National Trust for Scotland's property in the village]

5] The story an music of our traditional festival day "Lilias Day" past and present


Half a day spent on 14th August with Ann Grieve another amazing local lady and hearing how she along with others in the Kilbarchan Parents' Association restarted Lilias Day in 1968 and how she researched past Lilias Days. This was fascinating living local oral history at its best. I also was allowed to take away with me old Lilias Day programmes to peruse at my leisure. She promised to give me more of her time to hear more.


The Kilbarchan Pipe Band - some members will be playing some of Habbie Simpson's music on the night of 24th October.

From Ewan and Anne

Posted by [email protected] on September 2, 2015 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to the site. We will add stories as they come in. Please contact Anne to find out how to contribute, at 07708 059770.

We hope to hear from you soon.