top of page

John Cowan, Paisley Poet



Jude is a direct descendant of the Paisley poet John Cowan.


A nationalist Scots writer, he was born in Causeyside Street in 1840. His own father was from the Island of Kerrera who operated the ferry between Oban and the island port. John Cowan (Jnr) came to Paisley in 1837. He was apprenticed as a boilermarker but left the trade to become a spirit seller (ie a purveyer of alcohol). When Robert Brown collected the work of the Paisley poets in the late 1880s John Cowan still ran a spirit sellers in Love Street.


His work was written for performance, including his song The Banner of Scotland which was set to music by by John Hayes, the leader of the orchestra in Theatre-Royal, Paisley. One work, 'Talisman' Crew was recited by John Cowan to a 'Meeting of the Paisley Men Belonging to the Crew, and their Friends' on Friday 28 January 1876, as

they celebrated their release from prison in Lima.


John Cowan's work expresses some of the unpleasant international ambitions in which many Scots became caught up during the nineteenth century. Overall his work expresses ideas of militant colonialism, nationalist assertion and his poems were at home in the jingoistic world of the Music Hall of popular working-class entertainment. However they have a softer side, showing concern for others in his community and support for local causes. In an personal strand,  despite his own landlocked career, he takes an interest in seafaring, inspired by the life of his own father who was an islander and a ferryman in the Bay of Oban.



The Banner of Scotland

'Talisman' Crew

Straight Tips from an Old British Tar

The Blue-Coat Boy


Robert Brown, FSA Scot, Paisley Poets: with brief memoirs of them, and selections from their poetry Vol. 2 (J&J Cook, 1890) pp.369-373

Collage for the Paisley Poet John Cowan
bottom of page