Robert Tannahill

Robert Tannahill was born in Paisley in 1774, the fifth of eight children born to Janet Pollock of Lochwinnoch and James Tannahill, a textile worker from Kilmarnock. Tannahill was educated in rudimentary reading, writing and accounting. During his young life he developed a love of reading and writing poetry inspired by the work of Robert Burns. He also mastered the German flute despite having no tutor and further widened his cultural interests by regularly attending performances at the theatre in Glasgow and with an enthusiasm for Irish music. When he was twelve years old he was apprenticed to his father and became a weaver in Paisley.

He kept up his interest in poetry however, and travelled to Alloway Kirk in 1794 and spent several days visiting other places in the south west associated with  Burns. After the death of his father in 1802 he wrote more than ever and developed his style and talent both with poetry and composing new lyrics for existing airs. He also established one of the first Burns' Clubs in Paisley. His work soon came to the attention of a wider audience and his first publication 'Poems and Songs (1807)' proved very popular with the public. 

Perhaps his most famous works were "The Braes O'Gleniffer", "O are ye Sleepin, Maggie", "Jessie the Flower O' Dunblane" , "The Flower O' Levern", "Loudoun's Bonnie Woods and Braes"and "The Soldiers Return". His poems were often about local people or landmarks, but due to the threat from France during this period and the drive to recruit increasingly large numbers of men into local  Scottish Militia regiments many are also about soldiers and military life. 

Tannahill was prone to bouts of depression and after his second volume of works was rejected by publishers, first in Greenock, and then in Edinburgh in 1810, he burned almost all of his own manuscripts before drowning himself in the Glasgow, Paisley and Johnstone Canal. 

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