A MYSTERIOUS map that is so big it could easily cover two family cars is to take centre stage in an exhibition charting the forgotten stories of an influential river – and it's NOT the Clyde.

The map, made for Paisley police, dates from sometime in the 1950s, and includes a vivid depiction of the White Cart Water, Paisley's river.

John Pressly, curator of the new exhibition at Paisley Museum that seeks to tell the White Cart's story, said: "We think the map is from the 1950s because there are tram lines on it, and the trams came up in the 60s.

"Apart from that, we don't know much about it. We don't know what the police used it for, but it has fascinating details on it.

"There's a shipyard," he said, pointing to one corner that unmistakably shows a ship under construction on the banks of the Cart.

And that illustrates the point of the exhibition in a nutshell, says Mr Pressly.

He said: "A lot of the stories we want to tell have been overshadowed by the Clyde and the Clyde's story, which has been well documented.

"But the Cart has its own story to tell. A lot of tales have been lost to history, or maybe lost the emphasis they should have."

The Cart's own legacy as a hub of shipbuilding is just one of them.

He said: "There were at least five or six major shipbuilders on the Cart, they produced more than 1200 ships. Shipbuilding was a huge employer in the area."

That industry, which thrived from the 1850s right up until the 1960s, even specialised in an unusual type of 'flat pack' shipbuilding, creating vessels that could be produced in a form that allowed all the components to be manufactured and then transported to the location where the ship was to be used. Only then would the ship be built.

Some of the Cart's 'flat-pack' boats are still sailing in North American lakes and African inland waters today.

That little-remembered snippet of the Cart's importance is just one of hundreds of stories the new exhibition seeks to explore.

It also delves far back in time to Paisley's Medieval past, telling how archaeologists are still sifting through evidence from one of the nation's most important archeological finds: Paisley's 'Great Drain.'

The 14th century drain was built to carry the town's waste into the river, but its location was lost until the 1990s. When it was finally rediscovered it contained a treasure trove of well-preserved artefacts, including the earliest example of written music ever found in Scotland, on a slate discarded by the monks at Paisley Abbey.

The exhibition, Paisley's River: The White Cart Water, will take visitors on a journey downstream from its source on Eaglesham Moor, through Glasgow and its suburbs until it crosses into Paisley at Hawkhead.

Visitors will see how the White Cart has shaped the town, from its industry that once used the river as a source of power, to trade and the wildlife that now thrives on the water.

To bring the story to life, there is also a walk that visitors can follow along the banks of the river through the town.

The walk begins at the Watermill Hotel and ends at Paisley Museum, taking in the historical places featured in the exhibition, including the Watermill, Abbey, Town Hall and the site of Paisley's earliest harbour.

The route of the walk will be printed on the back of the exhibition leaflet, which visitors can collect free from Paisley Museum.

Councillor Derek Bibby, deputy convener for Renfrewshire Council's community and family care policy board, said: "I am delighted to be launching this important exhibition.

"This is the perfect location for an exhibition of such local significance.

"The exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to showcase more of the outstanding collections held by Renfrewshire Council, while demonstrating their link to local heritage, both industrial and environmental.

"I am sure this will be immensely popular with local and national visitors."

Entry to the exhibition is free and it opens on September 19.

ewan.fergus@ eveningtimes.co.uk