Cowan & Stewart


Cowan & Stewart were a firm of house-painters and decorators founded in Paisley by Archibald Cowan (c. 1862–1950) and James Stewart (who soon vanishes from the record). They first appear in Watson's Directory for Paisley in 1883–4, as 'painters, decorators, oil and colour merchants', in the days when painters mixed their own paints from raw ingredients. Linseed oil was used as a binder to hold the pigments which gave the paint its colour. The firm moved a short distance along the High Street to Wellmeadow, a continuation of one of the town's oldest thoroughfares, in the late 1890s. They were still there at the end of the 20th century.

Cowan, the son of a Paisley spirit merchant, was from a modest, working-class background. 1 His firm redecorated Paisley's Municipal Buildings in 1892, and Cowan himself married in the grandiose, classical Town Hall that year. 2 He was engaged to paint the Clark Memorial Hall of Thread Street United Presbyterian Church, and Renfrew Town Hall, both in 1895. 3 Cowan & Stewart were among the 'first-class firms' who stocked McCaw, Stevenson & Orr's patent Glacier window decoration – 'the best substitute for stained glass ever invented ... many of the windows in the palace of the Sultan of Turkey are decorated with it' – which, reassuringly, could 'be affixed by ladies'. 4 Despite administrative reorganisation, the firm survived into the 21st century. 5


1: John and Archibald Cowan, Census 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, [accessed 30 April 2012].

2: Glasgow Herald, 16 March 1892, p. 6; 23 September 1892, p. 1.

3: Glasgow Herald, 22 April 1895, p. 6; 13 August 1895, p. 9.

4: Graphic, 10 May 1890, p. 547.

5: Edinburgh Gazette, 19 November 1976, p. 1565; 18 September 2001, p. 2130; 21 October 2003, p. 1027.