Robert Tannahill, Paisley’s Famous Weaver, Poet, Songwriter,

Robert Tannahill’s Auld Hoose

Castel Street Home of Robert Tannahil

The life of Robert Tannahill begins here Robert was born on the 3rd June, 1774, Robert was their fourth child born here in Castle Street, Paisley.

Tannahill’s Cottage

It was during his infancy Robert’s father James Tannahill acquired land from Bailie Slater’s to build a new family home in Queen Street in 1775, they had a family of six sons and one daughter. The father James Tannahill  built a  one-storey thatched cottage with a passage through the centre, the north side was 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 house was built at a cost of £60.16. 4. and was one of the important acts in the life of James Tannahill.

Robert Tannahill lived in the cottage until he died on 17th May 1810.Robert Tannahill founded a Burns Club in Paisley in 1805 at the Sun Tavern in the High Street Paisley, “The Oldest Documented Burns Club in the World”,

Sadly, during the night of June 6th, 2003, the cottage and its contents were destroyed by fire. The fire was thought to have been caused by an electrical fault, fortunately the resident caretaker and his family escaped unhurt.

This is the cottage after restoration in 2005. Note that the roof is now slated, not thatched. The cottage no longer has a resident caretaker.The Burns club and The Tannahill Macdonald club hold their quarterly meetings here.

Robert’s Apprenticeship

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.

Tannahill working at The LoomRobert 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.

Robert was a lover of nature and he found its beauty and inspiration from the “Fairy Woodside” “Sweet Ferguslie”and “The Braes o’ Gleniffer”,

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; his friend enjoyed the company of Janet and 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… “The Farewell”

Residence in Bolton

In 1799 Robert left Paisley and went to find work in Bolton with his brother Hugh.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’ returned to Paisley and gathered with other members of the family around the death-bed of their father. 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…


Robert Archibald Smith was the composer of melodies to the lyrics of Robert Tannahill and other musical friends, John Ross of Aberdeen and James Barr of Kilbarchan.

Burns Club

In 1805 Tannahill along with a number of other members formed the Burns Club. William McLaren was the first president and Robert Tannahill was the first secretary of the Club. The Burns Club is the world’s oldest formally constituted Burns Club.

Robert Tannahill, “Paisley, Scotland’s, Brad “Paisley’s Weaver Poet and Songwriter, was honored with a Club in his name.The Tannahill Club was instituted on 25th May, 1858,

Tannahill Macdonald Club was instituted on 1874

Mr James Hogg Visit to Paisley

James Hogg - The Ettrick Shepherd.Mr James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd made a pilgrimage to Paisley to visit Robert Tannahill with the express purpose of seeing him,they spent one happy night together and, next morning Tannahill convoyed him half-way on the road to Glasgow. On parting, Tannahill, with tears in his eyes, said, ” Farewell! we shall never meet again! This was a prediction which was too truly verified

Tannahill’s Death

On the 16th May 1810, Tannahill walked to Glasgow and called on his friend Alexander Borland, with whom he had a long conversation; the poet was so incoherent in what he said that Borland thought it prudent to see him safely home to his dwelling in Queen Street Paisley.,

Borland, informed his brothers, who lived in different parts of the town of his suspicions as to Robert’s condition. They hastened to their mother’s house to find that Robert had returned to rest. James and Matthew wished to remain overnight as they were anxious as to Robert’s condition but their mother reassured and advised her sons to go back to their own homes and she would see to Robert herself, which they accordingly did.

During the night the mother had unconsciously dropped into sleep and was awakened by a slight noise and found Robert’s bed empty, she at once sent for James and Mathew and also for Peter Burnet “Peter was a friend of the family.” Instantly a search for Robert was formed. Peter on enquiry learned that a small-sized man had been seen hurrying from Queen Street across George Street westward. 

Tannahill's Hole

Peter made for the Brediland Road and soon found the poet’s coat and silver watch on the south side of the culvert of the Candren Burn. Under the canal was the lifeless body of Robert. His body was recovered and taken back to the house in Queen Street.

Robert Tannahill –The Gentle Weaver And Poet Died 17th May 1810

Robert was buried in the West Relief Churchyard in Paisley. The Castlehead graveyard is the resting place for all the Tannahill family. The Tombstone was erected at the Poet’s grave, 1886

Memorial Plague Outside The Home of Robert Tannahill Robert Tannahill 1810