Snailed it… Law Society takes a shine to ‘Pilgrimage to Paisley’ commemorations



Provost Lorraine Cameron

Two commemorative plaques highlighting the importance of the ‘snail in a bottle case’, which laid the foundations of the modern law of negligence, have been refurbished and unveiled in Paisley today as part of the Law Society of Scotland’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

The world-famous 1932 case Donoghue v Stevenson resulted from Mrs May Donoghue falling ill after consuming ginger beer from a bottle which contained the remnants of a dead snail. Whilst she had bought and consumed the drink in a local café, she successfully sued the manufacturer of the ginger beer, with the House of Lords ultimately ruling that the manufacturer owed her a duty of care not to cause the consumer any harm.

The plaques were originally inaugurated in 1990 to commemorate the Paisley Conference on the Law of Negligence, which was inspired by Canadian judge Mr Justice Martin Taylor who encouraged the event to be held in Paisley Town Hall. The plaques had recently fallen into a state of disrepair.

John Mulholland, president of the Society, said: “It’s a privilege to be here today to unveil the newly refurbished plaques. This landmark case transformed consumer rights not just in Scotland and the UK, but all over the world.

“Mrs Donoghue’s monumental victory almost 90 years ago established that a manufacturer of a product owed the consumer a duty of care, putting the onus on them to ensure their product would cause no harm to consumers. As part of our own 70th anniversary celebrations we wanted to restore the plaques to their former glory.”

Mr Mulholland was joined at the ceremony by Provost Lorraine Cameron and local MSP George Adam.

Provost Cameron said: “It was an honour to unveil the refurbished plaques. They have been spruced up and re-installed in that historical meeting place where they were originally placed in 1990. The place is an important piece of Paisley history and is where May Donoghue and her friend sat in what was then the Wellmeadow Café. Little did she know the significance of her visit that day, nor that it would result in a legal landmark case that is used throughout the world by law students.”

Mr Adam said: “As a born and bred Paisley resident, I have always known of the importance of the ‘snail in a bottle case’ and the key part it played in laying the foundations for the ‘neighbour principle’. As a local MSP I take great pride in knowing that the birth of modern consumer rights, which has helped some of my own constituents, was right here in Paisley. It’s great to see the plaques refurbished and shining bright again.”

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