It took Paisley to Broadway and has had Hollywood heavyweights including Sean Penn, Robbie Coltrane and Kevin Bacon playing its much-loved characters.

Now, some of the original Slab Boys and Girls who worked with renowned Scottish playwright John Byrne as teenagers in a carpet factory have been reunited to talk about how their experiences helped inspire a masterpiece.

The Slab Boys Trilogy is a set of three plays by Byrne which tell the story of a group of young, working-class Scots during the period from 1957-1972 in the slab room of a fictional carpet manufacturer in Paisley.

The company was inspired by Stoddard’s carpet factory in Elderslie, near Paisley, where Byrne worked as both a slab boy and later as a designer following his graduation from art school.

The Herald: Jean Scaglione, David Blair, George Johnston, Jim Rafferty, Alex HolmesJean Scaglione, David Blair, George Johnston, Jim Rafferty, Alex Holmes (Image: Paisley Museum)

The slab room is a small, paint-mixing room where young apprentices grind colours together for the designers.

Byrne described his time in the factory as a "technicolour hell hole".

Friend Jim Rafferty, who worked alongside Byrne at Stoddard’s, said: “The play has been such a worldwide success and the thing about it is its universality – you can recognise yourself or someone you know in it – and that’s what John tapped in to.”

Mr Rafferty recently reunited with other former Stoddard's colleagues at Paisley’s Secret Collection museum. 

READ MORE: Did Tutti Frutti pass the test of time? - review 

Memorabilia, including carpets designed by Stoddard’s, a design of the play’s original set and a painting, Paisley Sunset, by Byrne, will go on display when the museum reopens next year following a £45 million refurbishment.

Another of the slab boys, Bill Brown, added: “John was a one-off. John Byrne could have been born anywhere and still been the same. His talent was amazing.

"He took characters and exaggerated them a bit and produced an amazing work of comedy. He’s a credit to Paisley.”

The Herald: John ByrneJohn Byrne (Image: Newsquest)

The work in the factory could be tedious, which is where the humour associated with the plays came from.

Slab girl, Jean Scaglione said: “I just think it was the character of the people in the factory.

"We were all full of ideas, heads bursting with jokes and it just so happened that we all got together and it became something else, something special.”

Byrne was raised in Ferguslie Park, not far from the factory.

Unlike the main character in the play, Phil McCann - whose application to go to art school is turned down - Byrne was accepted to Glasgow School of Art in 1958.

His former colleague, George Johnston remembers him well.

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He said: “He always seemed a bit of a tricky chap, and he used to turn up for work in safari boots with no socks and massive coats.

"He looked eccentric and he was quite unusual, but really funny as well. He was a very imaginative man and I always enjoyed his company.”

The Slab Boys premiered at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh on April 6 1978, before going on to be staged in Broadway in 1983 with a star-studded cast.

A film version was released in 1997, starring Anna Massey, Tom Watson and Julie Wilson Nimmo.

Byrne later wrote hits including Tutti Frutti, as well as his large body of iconic art work, some of which will also be featured in the revamped museum.

The Herald: A production of the Slab Boys in 2015A production of the Slab Boys in 2015 (Image: Newsquest)

In recognition of the part played by the group – who refer to themselves as the Slabbies or the Stoddardistas – an anonymous donation was made to support the work as part of the museum’s fundraising appeal.

The group, who live across the world, still write to each other by email, conversing in Scots and keeping the memories and laughs alive.

Fellow slab boy Alex Holmes recalled how the Stoddard’s staff once took turns rolling a barrel of scrumpy cider through Glasgow city centre after a night out. 

With his parents away on holiday, Holmes invited his colleagues back to his for a party.

READ MORE: A director's life with John Byrne's comedy 

He said: “We eventually rolled it up to my house there and we had a weekend long party.

"It was so good that John and a few others took the Monday off to continue the party and had to explain to the bosses when we went in the next day.

"We were lucky we weren’t fired!”