Robert Tannahill 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.
In 1775, James Tannahill acquired Bailie Slater’s steading in Queen Street and erected upon it a one-storey thatched cottage with a passage through the centre, the north side being occupied as a dwelling-house and the south side as a four-loom weaving shop. James Tannahill was a very accurate individual and he kept an account of the whole cost of the building which has been preserved
in his note pocket book to the present day.
The building of the house was one of the important acts in the life of James Tannahill. The house was built at a cost of £60.16. 4. Robert Tannahill lived in the cottage until he died on 17th May 1810
In his thirteenth year, Robert Tannahill was appointed an apprentice to the weaving trade; with his father and was entered into The Weavers’ Society in 1786. Robert’s loom was facing the front door of the loom shop. By the side of his loom he had a rosewood box with paper and pen and a German flute. Robert would take note of all visitors to the cottage and write lyrics for his poetry and play songs on his flute while the shuttle clicked and the loom whirred, he turned it all to rhyme and music. Tannahill was a lover of nature and he found its beauty and Inspiration from the “Fairy Woodside”, “Sweet Ferguslie”,
And “The Braes o’ Gleniffer”,
The Poet’s Love Story
Robert’s sweetheart was Janet Tennant, whose parents came from Dunblane “Robert and Janet were together for some years; Robert wrote a song for Janet…“Jessie, The Flower o’ Dunblane”
Robert was not keen on dancing due to his lameness and asked a friend to take Janet to The Weavers Summer Annual Ball; he enjoyed the company of Janet, when parting company he plighted Janet with a kiss. When Robert saw this his heart was broken and knowing it would be the last he would see of his sweetheart Janet his “Jessie, The Flower o’ Dunblane Robert went home and wrote a heartbroken love poem,
Residence in Bolton
In 1799 Robert left Paisley and went to find work in Bolton with his brother Hugh.
His Father’s Death
After remaining in England for two years the brothers received word that their father’s health was rapidly declining. In winter 1802 the two brothers’ retuned to Paisley and gathered with other members of the family around the death-bed of their father. Later that year his brother Hugh got married shortly after the death of his father and Robert remained with his mother in the cottage in Queen Street.
Friends of Tannahill
Robert had many friends the most outstanding of these being William McLaren, Robert Archibald Smith,
William Motherwell and a family friend Peter Burnet.