2 Family Line

The Tannahill family line

Birthplace My great-great-great-great-great grandparents Thomas Tannahill and Mary Buntin had (at least) six children, Marion, James (father of the poet), Thomas (my direct ancestor), Mary, Robert and John.


The Tannahill family were weavers in the town of Kilmarnock late in the 17th century and early in the 18th. Old Thomas was born in 1700, son of Robert, a weaver. He died in 1744 when his oldest child, Marion, was 13 and John, the youngest, was only born in that year; times must have been hard for the family and the children must have been put to work on the looms at a young age. James and Thomas were possibly apprenticed because they were later classed as master weavers.

To Paisley

All four sons moved from Kilmarnock to Paisley in 1756, and left their mother behind, possibly with Marion who had married James Lamond three years earlier. Mary, their mother, died the year after her sons left.

Master weavers

Paisley seems to have been a developing town although only 4297 people lived there when the Tannahills arrived. The two older boys thrived and became master weavers in the Paisley Weavers' Society, Thomas joined in 1763 and James in 1764. Each man employed one of his brothers as a journeyman, Thomas employing John and James employing Robert. Having to work for their brothers may explain why Robert and John later emigrated to America, settling in Schenectady, New York where they made their way independently. Whatever the reason, the American families provide us with plenty of material for other stories - of cotton, slavery, civil war, wealth and art.

Establishing their roots - Thomas

The records show that Thomas and James prospered, buying houses in Paisley and becoming stalwarts of the town. Because James was father to the Poet, much more is known about him than about my ancestor, Thomas. However, we do know that Thomas married Margaret Biggar on 22 August 1761, so becoming my 4 times great grandparents (eventually!), and they bought a house in West Brae where Thomas died in 1823 at the grand old age of 88. Queen Street

Establishing their roots - James

Thomas's older brother James married Janet Pollock on 29 August 1763 and lived with her in a cottage in Castle Street. James was, according to the biography of David Semple, "about 5 feet 4 inches, slender, of gentle disposition." He and his wife bought Bailie Slater's steading in Queen Street and built a single storey cottage. According to James' personal notebook, it cost 60 16 shillings and 4 pence (including 1-14-5d spent on drink for the workmen!). They threw a party or "house-heating" when the cottage was finished, paying the Widow Dunn 2-14-6d on 5 June 1776 for "dinner and drink."

Next - School and apprenticeship