HERITAGE enthusiasts are staging a new exhibition which brings Renfrewshire’s industrial history to life.
The display, which includes rare photographs, memorabilia from famous factories and historic documents detailing business transactions, has been been put together by members of Johnstone History Society, with the help of a leading businessman whose family were involved in the engineering trade for more than 150 years.
The show also reveals little-known information about one of Scotland’s most celebrated engineers, whose exploits have been admired across the world and whose glittering career began in Johnstone and Paisley.
It is based on the story of the Thomas Reid and Sons engineering company, which was led through three centuries by five generations of the Reid family.
The proud story began way back in 1852, when blacksmith Thomas Reid set up a workshop at Bridge Street, Paisley.
As the company prospered, Mr Reid acquired a flour mill at nearby Thread Street in 1876, which became known as the St Mirren Engineering Works.
Its product range expanded into the manufacture of simple engineering equipment such as loom card cutting machines and starch-making devices.
During subsequent years and with the input of succeeding generations of Reid family members, the firm designed windlasses, capstans and other navigational equipment for yachts and larger maritime vessels.
It flourished at its Thread Street works until 1967, when a compulsory purchase order was served by the former Paisley Town Council.
This forced a link-up with the Reid Gear Company at nearby Linwood, which had been in existence since 1897.
The merger meant the two organisations were able to keep working and provide their skilled workers with employment for a further half-century but, ultimately, Thomas Reid (Engineers) was forced to close in 2008 following a downturn in the shipbuilding industry.
Also featured in the exhibition is the Reid Gear Company, which was founded by William Hart Reid – who was no relation to the Paisley Reids – and its subsidiary, the Eclipse Tool Company, also of Linwood.
There is also a special section devoted to Sir William Arrol, who designed the Forth and Tay railway bridges, as well as Tower Bridge, in London.
Sir William, who was born in nearby Houston, worked at a cotton spinning mill in Johnstone before going to Reid’s around 1854, where he learned the skills which made him one of the world’s greatest engineers.
The display was assembled by museum curator Adam Lynch, with the help of the fifth Thomas Reid, who now lives in Ayrshire, along with other members of Johnstone History Society, including secretary Janette Lynch and Stuart Michie.
It can be visited free of charge at Johnstone History Museum, which is located within the Morrisons supermarket, in Napier Street, Johnstone.
Opening times are from 10.30am until 4pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.