Robert Tannahill - Encyclopedia




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ROBERT TANNAHILL (1774-1810), Scottish song-writer, son of a Paisley silk-weaver, was born on the 3rd of June 1774. He was apprenticed to his father's trade at the age of twelve, and, inspired by the poetry of Robert Burns, he wrote verses as he drove the shuttle to and fro, with shelf and ink-bottle rigged up on his loom-post. He was shy and reserved, of small and delicate physique, and took little part in the social life of the town. The steady routine of his trade was broken only by occasional excursions to Glasgow and the land of Burns, and a year's trial of work at Bolton. He began in 1805 to contribute verses to Glasgow and Paisley periodicals, and published an edition of his poems by subscription in 1807. Three years later, on the 17th of May 1810, the life of the quiet, gentle, diffident and despondent poet was brought by his own act to a tragic end. Tannahill's claims to remembrance rest upon half a dozen songs, full of an exquisite feeling for nature, and so happily set to music that they have retained their popularity. "Loudon's Bonnie Woods and Braes," "Jessie, the Flower o' Dunblane," and "Gloomy Winter's Noo Awa" are the best of them. "Jessie, the Flower o' Dunb] ane" and "The Farewell" tell the story of the poet's own unhappy love for Janet Tennant.

Tannahill's centenary was celebrated at Paisley in 1874. See edition by D. Semple (1876) for details of his life.

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