The Sma' Shot Strike, 1856

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The problem

In the 19th century the intricate patterns of the Paisley weavers work was held together by an unseen strong thread called the Sma' Shot. This secret stitch held together Paisley's famous shawls and without the stitch the patterns would come apart. The weavers had to pay for the thread but the fact that it was unseen meant that the manufacturers who purchased the patterns would not pay for the cotton in the sma' shot.


By the middle of the century the Paisley weavers were fed up with the bosses tight-fistedness and decided to take strike action. In 1856 after a long and bitter dispute the bosses caved in and the weavers won their claim to be paid for the hidden thread.

Longest Runnung Class War Celebration

From 1856 the first Saturday in July, a traditional Paisley holiday was named “Sma' Shot Day. This celebration of the weavers victory continued until 1975. For a few years it seems to have been dropped but in 1986 the tradition was revived and continues today.

Charleston Drum

The original Charleston, (a district in Paisley) drum which historically was used to rally weavers in times of disputes, is now in the Paisley Museum, a copy of the original drum is now used to rally the masses on Sma' Shot Day. The climax of the celebrations on Sma' Shot Day is the burning of an effigy, in top hat and tails, representing “the Cork” who was the despised boss in the days of the dispute.

Material supplied by Stevie Gallagher. Thanks Stevie.

Posted by John Couzin

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