NS4864 : Oakshaw Trinity Church: spectacles in the cobbles

taken 2 months ago, near to Paisley, Renfrewshire, Great Britain

Oakshaw Trinity Church: spectacles in the cobbles
Oakshaw Trinity Church: spectacles in the cobbles
Set amongst the cobbles in the foreground is the outline of a pair of spectacles. Nearby are a heart-shape and a square: NS4864 : Oakshaw Trinity Church: shapes in the cobbles; see that picture for further context.

A helpful lady passerby explained to me the story associated with these figures, pointing out that it was something of an urban myth: the tale is that a workman fell from the steeple of the adjacent NS4864 : Oakshaw Trinity Church, and that the three shapes in the cobbles mark the landing place of, respectively, his heart, his handkerchief, and his glasses.

Page 32 of David Rowand's "Pictorial History of Paisley", though not commenting on the heart-shape or the square, briefly relates some other circumstances that could be related to the presence of the outline of spectacles in the cobbles.

- - - -

Although the story about the fall from this steeple is almost certainly apocryphal, it is worth mentioning here a historical account about an accident at a different Paisley steeple, an event that is likely to have captured the popular imagination, leading me to wonder whether it might have played a part in inspiring the urban myth about the shapes in the cobbles shown here (though it is unlikely to be connected in any way with the real reason for their presence). A detailed account of the accident can be found on page 11 of the second volume of Robert Brown's "History of Paisley" (1886); the passage is about the building of a steeple adjacent to the town's Tolbooth in 1757:

"In the completion of the spire, it is worthy of being noticed that John Mair, a young mason, aged sixteen years, had just fixed the cock which formed the vane, and was descending, when he fell from a considerable height, and would have been killed on the street below, but that he caught a projecting stone, to which he hung till feather beds were laid below him, and on these he fell uninjured; a man on the street also partially breaking the fall with his hands. On reaching the ground, he is said to have uttered the exclamation, 'By this fall, I rise'."

"He did not return to the mason trade, but went into the muslin business in Glasgow, and acquired considerable wealth. He afterwards established a large mercantile business in London; and, in 1793, bought the estate of Plantation, near Govan. He laid out upwards of 3o,ooo in improvements and alterations on the dwelling-house and the estate.(*)"

[(*) Footnote: "It is reported of him that he was at one time reduced, by the wreck of a vessel which had not been insured, to the necessity of requesting indulgence for some time from his creditors. This, from the high character which he bore as a commercial man, was at once freely granted. Some time afterwards, he invited his creditors to his house, and, on sitting down to table, each found under his plate the principal and interest owing to him." "Glasgow, Ancient and Modern", page 1175.]

"He obtained possession of the stone that saved his life, and had it fixed near his arbour, in Plantation estate, where he was in the habit of sitting. In his prosperity he did not forget the man who had broken his fall with his hands; for, having ascertained that he was in indigent circumstances, he sought him out, and pensioned him for life. In memory of his escape, Mr Mair had emblazoned on his carriage the figure of a swan, with the motto, 'I rise by a fall'. The figure of the swan was suggested by his mother's maiden name, which was Swan; and the motto represented improvement of circumstances, which his fall had brought about. He died in 1824, and was interred in Govan churchyard. Mr McLean, who purchased the lands of Plantation, preserved Mr Mair's two relics."

A shorter account of the accident can be found on pages 31618 of W M Metcalfe's "History of Paisley" (1909).
Paisley High Kirk
Though known by 2014 as Oakshaw Trinity Church, it was built as the High Kirk, so called because of its location on Church Hill. It was completed by 1754 (a few years after what came to be called, by contrast, the Laigh Kirk). The High Kirk was built to the plans of Bailie John Whyte. A steeple, also to Whyte's plans, was added later (before 1771), and was given a bell in 1776. The High Kirk Parish was disjoined from that of Paisley Abbey in 1782.
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NS4864, 1134 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Saturday, 3 August, 2019   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 14 August, 2019
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Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4808 6411 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:50.7720N 4:25.6808W
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OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4808 6411
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East-northeast (about 67 degrees)
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