Robert Tannahill

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Robert Tannahill.jpg
Portrait of Robert Tannahill in Paisley Museum
Robert Tannahill by David Watson Stevenson

Robert Tannahill (June 3, 1774 – May 17, 1810) was a Scottish poet. Known as the 'Weaver Poet', his music and poetry is contemporaneous with that of Robert Burns.


He was born at Castle Street in Paisley on 3 June 1774, the fourth son in a family of seven. Soon after his birth the family moved to a newly built cottage in nearby Queen Street, which became both family home and weaving shop. Robert had a delicate constitution and a limp, due to a slight deformity in his right leg. On leaving school at age twelve, he was apprenticed to his father as a handloom weaver. It was during this apprenticeship that Tannahill began to show a real talent for poetry.

His mother was Janet Pollock from Boghall Farm near Beith and his father was James Tannahill from Kilmarnock.[1] After a short period of working in Bolton, Lancashire, England around 1800, Tannahill returned to Paisley to support the family in time of illness. In the years which followed, his interest in poetry and music blossomed and his writings began to appear in such publications as The Scots Magazine. In 1810, following the rejection of some of his work by the Edinburgh publisher Archibald Constable, he died by his own hand, drowned in a culverted stream under the Paisley Canal.[2]

Tannahill's grave is situated in Castlehead Cemetery, on Canal Street in Paisley.[3]


Tannahill's Well, Glen burn, Gleniffer Braes Country Park.

In 2006 Brechin All Records released The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill Volume 1. Volume 2 was released in 2010, two centuries after Robert Tannahill's death.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Robert Tannahill is his song "The Braes of Balquhidder" – the basis for the ballad "Wild Mountain Thyme," which has the chorus "Will Ye Go Lassie, Go."[4] In it he refers to a story from his nursemaid Mary McIntyre of Balquhither parish, wherein she and her mother had baked bannock for the army of Charles Edward Stuart, marching to Culloden.[5] Tannahill also wrote "Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea", the tune of which was later modified to form the music for the famous Australian bush folk song "Waltzing Matilda".[6]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Tannahill (1817). Poems and Songs, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. Cowie. OCLC 79738431. OL 20460574M. 
  • Robert Tannahill (1874), The poems and songs of Robert Tannahill, with life, and notes by David Semple, Paisley: A. Gardner, OL 13516086M 
  • Douglas, George Brisbane (1899). James Hogg. Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier. pp. 22 et seq. OL 13492155M. 
  • Motherwell, William, ed. (1872). (The Harp of Renfrewshire ed.). Paisley: A. Gardner. pp. 37 et seq. OCLC 13418884. OL 24174663M.  Missing or empty |title= (help)


  1. ^ Tannahill Club (1874). Complete Songs and Poems of Robert Tannahill (Centenary Edition ed.). Paisley: William Wilson. p. iii. OCLC 10858082. 
  2. ^ Howitt, William (1877). Homes and Haunts of the Most Eminent British Poets (Third ed.). London: G. Routledge. pp. 628. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Renaissance Festival Lyrics: The Braes of Balquhidder (Wild Mountain Thyme)". Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  5. ^ Tannahill, Robert; Semple, David (1874). The poems and songs of Robert Tannahill, with life and notes, by David Semple. Paisley: Alexander Gardner. pp. 182–185. OL 13516086M. 
  6. ^ O'Keeffe, Dennis (2012). Waltzing Matilda: The Secret History of Australia's Favourite Song. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74237-706-3. 
  7. ^ Douglas, George (1899). James Hogg. Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier. OL OL7132098M.