A WALKING tour of Paisley to celebrate the life of the town’s first African-American resident has been deemed a major success.

Peter Burnett fled there from the USA to escape a life of slavery having been born a cotton plantation in Virginia in 1764.

Local charity Shopmobility Paisley teamed up with the town’s Darkside Historical Tours to celebrate Burnett as part of Black History Month. The event was also partially funded with lottery money.

Although born a free man Burnett was aware that he could end up back as a slave.
He fled the plantation at the age of 12 during the American War of Independence and ended up in Paisley 15 years later having travelled there via New York, Kilmarnock and Glasgow.

He became friends with local weaver James Tannahill, who took him under his wing, and his famous poet son Robert Tannahill.

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With James Tannahill’s help, Burnett trained to be a weaver and set up his own thriving business in the town.

In May 1810, 36-year-old Robert was found drowned in the Maxwellton Burn and it was Burnett who dived into the water to recover his body.

Peter who was married three times to Scottish women and had four children died in 1847 at the age of eighty-three and is buried with the Tannahill family in the Paisley’s Castlehead Church graveyard.

The Saturday morning tour, which was attended by 40 people, highlighted Burnett’s close links with the Tannahill family and told the story of his life in Paisley.  

It covered Castle Street, Maxwellton Street and Well Street where he lived and concluded at the town's Loud ‘n’ Proud’s studio complex where a video of his life was shown 

One of the organisers Councillor Kenny MacLaren, chair of Shopmobility Paisley, said: ”It was great to see so many people engaged in the story of Peter Burnett and his place in Paisley’s history.”