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Robert Burns


Although not world-renowned like his great hero Robert Burns, Robert Tannahill is remembered today throughout Scotland. His name is firmly attached to the founding of what claims to be the "world's oldest formally constituted Burns Club in the world," its 40 members still meeting regularly in Tannahill's old cottage in Queen Street. His handwriting can be read in the opening pages of the minute book from his time as founding-secretary.

The songs

Of course, Tannahill's literary works are his real legacy. His first book of poems and songs was 175 pages in length and had to be financed on a subscription basis. He is often described as a shy man yet despite this, he managed to raise the money and to sell every one of the 900 copies. He obviously found this too personally exhausting and for the next volume relied on a publisher to produce the book. His fame also rests on what others have done with his works so for instance, the tune of "Waltzing Matilda" seems to have come from the music composed by Robert Barr for Tannahill's song, "The Bonnie Woods of Craigielea". His own song, "The Braes of Balquhidder" forms the basis of the folk song, "Wild Mountain Thyme" with its refrain, "Will ye go lassie, go".

Robert Tannahill left profile

Commemorating Robert Tannahill

The Poet was remembered for many years after his sad death, the memorial set over his grave in 1867 and another placed in Paisley Abbey in 1883 are evidence of the respect in which he was held. On the centenary of Robert's birth in 1874, a "Glen Concert" was held on the Gleniffer Braes above Paisley. These concerts continued until 1935, with choirs of 500-700 members performing his songs and hillside audiences of thirty thousand recorded.

They estimate there were 290 weaver poets in Paisley but it's Robert Tannahilll who is best remembered and the legacy of over 100 songs and poems he left to us.

Next - Will ye go lassie, go (Wild mountain thyme)