AN English Literature student is turning back the clock to discover more about the life of women who worked in local mills.

William Burns, from Paisley, has been speaking to women from Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire about their memories, with a view to producing creative writing based on their recollections for his PhD thesis.

The 27-year-old, who studies at the University of Glasgow, started out focusing on women who worked in Paisley’s Anchor Mill and Ferguslie Mill.

But as he started to put requests out for ex-workers to get in touch, he found lots of women who worked in Neilston Mill reaching out to him.

And he’s hoping more ladies from across Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire will share their stories with him.

Mr Burns said: “The response has been great so far, but I’m still hoping more people will get in touch.

“The interest really started when I was at the Glasgow School of Art when I did a project creating poetry from interviewing women who worked in the mills.

“It’s great how the project has expanded. I originally envisioned it to just be about Paisley, but I’ve now spoken to women who worked in Neilston. I’d be open to speaking to any women who worked in mills across Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire.”

The project is called Threads of Memory, with his research being funded by the College of Arts at the university.

After the thesis is complete, an archive of the content will be held in Glasgow Women’s Library and Paisley’s Mill Museum.

Mr Burns is also hoping to produce a book from the interviews, taking his interest in the workers’ past beyond his studies.

Mr Burns, who attended Castlehead High School in Paisley, said the project had been a huge part of his life since his hometown put itself forward as a bidder for the UK City of Culture 2021.

He added: “I always wanted to do a project focused on where I’m from. I have family members who worked in the mills, so one of my first interviews was with my gran.

“I started doing the project just when the council decided to bid for the City of Culture, so it’s all grown from there. It’s made it really personal focussing on my hometown.”

If anyone would like talk to Mr Burns about their experiences of working in local mills, call 0759 750 5383 or email

All interviews will be recorded.