Alexander Wilson – The World Famous Father of Ornithology

Another of Paisley’s weaver poets is Alexander Wilson. Born near the Hammils in 1766 and was a contemporary of Robert Tannahill and Robert Burns. At the age of ten, he was forced to leave Paisley Grammar School, after the death of his mother. In ordr to help his father to support their family, Wilson took a job as a cow herder. At the age of thirteen, he became a weavers apprentice and worked with different members of his family.

 Alexander Wilson

Weavers Were Some of The Best Educated

At this time, Paisley’s weavers were known for being some of the best educated in the country. There was a strong focus on self education and radicalism. This saw Wilson taking an interest in writing poetry. There was a suggestion that he spent more time writing than he did weaving.

Some of his poems were commentories, which focused on the conditions faced by those working in the towns mills, often criticising the mills owners. This led to Wilson being arrested and he was forced to burn some of his work. After he was released from prison, Wilson emmigrated to the United States of America, where he ended up taking up teaching jobs. Alexander Wilson

Father of Ornithology

It was after his arrival in America that Wilson developed an interest in ornithology. Despite his lack of means, Wilson managed to travel widely, recording all of the birds that he came across, painting them as he went. All of this work went on to become the book American Ornithology, which is nine volumes in length.

Unfortunatly, Wilson died in 1813, the year before the final volume of American Ornithology was published. He was buried in the Gloria Dei cemetary in Philadelphia. Alexander Wilson

Even though Wilson lived and died in America, that does not mean that Paisley has forgotten him. A statue of him stands in the Abbey Close and a monument was erected in his memory next to the Hammills.

A collection of his poems was publishe in 2016 and is available on Amazon.

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