Robert Tannahill


Robert Tannahill was originally buried in an unmarked grave in Castlehead Cemetery, Canal Street, Paisley, Scotland. However, in 1866 a granite momument - funded by public subscriptions - was put up close to the spot in recognition of his growing reputation.

Robert Tannhill's Grave © Victor Nelson

Robert Tannahill

Tannahill was the son of a handloom weaver and was apprenticed to his father at the age of 12. A delicate child with a deformed right leg - he developed a skill for poetry at an early age. His father died when he was young and he was left to support his ailing mother.

At the age of 17 - he paid homage to Robert Burns by embarging on a walking tour of Ayrshire - though he probably did not meet Burns. He then went on to found the Paisley Burns Club - which is still active today.

From 1805 onwards Tannahill's work began to appear in newspapers and journals and in 1807 he published a collection of poems and songs which sold out. However, some of the poems were attacked by critics and when a revised edition was declined by a publisher Tannahill committed suicide by drowning himself in a culvert near Paisley. As he had taken his own life, he was buried in an unmarked grave.

In 1883 a statue of Tannahill, made by David Watson Stevenson, was erected in Paisley Abbey.

Fellow Renfrewshire poet Douglas Dunn paid tribute to him in his poem Tannahill which appeared in his 1981 collection St Kilda's Parliament. Written in a Burns stanza - it contains the lines: 'Composing verses at your bench/Lines woven inch by linen inch'.

Today Tannahill is best remembered for landscape poems such as Gleniffer Braes. He is held in high regard and often favourably compared to his mentor Burns.

Keen blaws the wind o'er the Braes o' Gleniffer.
The auld castle's turrets are cover'd wi' snaw;
How chang'd frae the time when I met wi' my lover
Amang the broom bushes by Stanley green shaw:
The wild flow'rs o' simmer were spread a' sae bonnie,
The mavis sang sweet frae the green birken tree:
But far to the camp they hae march'd my dear Johnnie,
And now it is winter wi' nature and me.






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