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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
May owes fame to slug
by Stephanie Todd
BBC News Online Scotland

The discovery of a slug at the bottom of a ginger beer in 1928 made May Donoghue famous in legal circles around the world.

A piped parade was held in recognition of the case
While Edinburgh Castle, the Highlands and Loch Ness are all popular locations for visitors to Scotland, a quiet street corner in Paisley tops the "must-see" list for some.

The story of May Donoghue and the slug in her drink in Frankie Minghella's café is renowned among lawyers at home and abroad - but particularly those in Canada where it is often referred to in their large number of negligence, or "tort", actions.

In 1990 an international legal conference on the law of negligence was held in Paisley to commemorate the significance of the Donoghue v Stevenson case.

It was so successful that a book has since been published - "The Paisley Papers on the Law of Negligence" - detailing the debates on the day.

Members of the Canadian Bar Association, including a Supreme Court judge, made a pilgrimage to the former weaving town for the conference and shortly afterwards erected a plaque on the site of the old café at Wellmeadow Place.

May Donoghue is famous across the Commonwealth - her case is well-known in Canada, Australia and Malaysia
Ellen Farmer
A piped parade along Paisley High Street led the group to the site - now wasteland - and a special dedication ceremony was held while the plaque was put up.

A Canadian Beech tree was also planted in recognition of May Donoghue, David Stevenson, their solicitors and advocates.

As a thank-you gesture, the lawyers received "Donoghue v Stevenson" paperweights, crafted from a genuine Paisley paving stone found where Mr Minghella's cafe used to stand.

Ever since, parties of lawyers and law students have gathered to worship the "shrine" much to the bemusement of Paisley buddies.

Hundreds of Paisley "buddies" marched to the site of the old cafe
Historian Ellen Farmer, of the Old Paisley Society, said the case was more famous outside the UK than in Paisley itself.

"Local people are a bit bemused by it all," she said.

"I'd say May Donoghue is more famous outside Paisley. Her case changed the law right across the Commonwealth so it is well-known in Canada, Australia, Malaysia and the like.

"We actually knew nothing about it in Paisley until the Canadian Bar Association got in touch in the 1980s and asked us to help organise a legal conference in the town.

"Everything snowballed from there. As well as the two-day conference, we had a civic reception and a parade through the town - hundreds of local people turned out to watch."

She added: "Unfortunately, nothing is planned for this year - the 75th anniversary of Mrs Donoghue finding the slug - but we are hoping to arrange a big event for August 2007 to mark 75 years of Lord Atkin's momentous ruling."

The slug that changed the world
18 Aug 03  |  Scotland
How the law changed
18 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Slug's trail to silver screen
18 Aug 03  |  Scotland

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