Robert Tannahill – Paisley’s Famous Buddy and Poet

 Robert Tannahill

Paisley is known for its weaving and mill heritage. The town’s weavers had the reputation for self-education and having a love for poetry, with many putting pen to paper. One of the town’s most famous weavers and poets is Robert Tannahill. Born in 1774, he lived most of his life in Paisley.
At the age of 12, he became his father’s weaver apprentice, living and working in the family cottage, on Queen Street. It is known that Tannahill had a small desk attached to his loom. Which he kept stocked with paper, pens and ink. This allowed him to write, without leaving is work.

Robert Tannahill

Engraving from the Biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen (1875)

Despite the physical demands of weaving, Tannahill had problems with his right leg, which was slightly shorter and thinner than his left. This left him with a limp and caused him a lot of pain, but this did not stop him from walking up to ten miles a day.

Robert Tannahill the Poet.

In 1807, Tannahill managed to publish 900 copies of his first collection, which sold out in only a few weeks. In 1810, his second collection was rejected by a publisher, throwing Tannahill into a period of depression, which caused fears for his health. His friends began to walk him home, making sure that he was safe.
One night, some of his friends again walked passed Tannahill’s cottage, after working him home, they realised that something was wrong. Going into the cottage, they discovered that Tannahill had managed to leave, without his mother realising that her son was no longer in the family home.

Robert Tannahill

Robert Tannahill as appearing on the Scott Monument in Edinburgh.

A search was begun for Tannahill straight away. It did not take long for his jacket and pocket watch to be discovered on the banks of the Paisley canal. Not long after, Tannahill’s body was discovered. He had drowned himself. His was a life that was tragically cut short, but he has not been forgotten.

Robert Tannahill

Portrait in Paisley Museum

Concerts used to be held in the Gleniffer Braes, celebrating Tannahill’s work. During the Spree Festival of 2016, Tannahill’s work was performed and celebrated. Recently, a new collection of his songs and poems have been published. It is available to buy on Amazon.

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