Robert Tannahill lived from 3 June 1774 to 17 May 1810. A silk weaver by trade, he was a self-taught poet and musician who went on to become known as the Weaver Poet. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Robert Tannahill was born in Castle Street, Paisley, the sixth of nine children of a silkweaving family. The family later moved to 11 Queen Street in Paisley, which remains the meeting place of Paisley's Tannahill Club. He became an apprentice silkweaver at the age of 12, but in the spare time he had he extended his basic education, teaching himself to read music and write poetry.
As a fully qualified weaver Tannahill moved to work in Bolton in Lancashire, but in 1800 he returned to Paisley to support his family during the illness of his father. In 1802, Tannahill began to publish his work. Frail, and with an injured right leg, he would often write about the countryside around Paisley, and more widely, in poems such as "The Braes of Balquhidder" and "The Flower O' Leven Side". His work appeared in a number of journals, including the Scots Magazine.
Robert Tannahill published a collection of his work in 1807. This was successful and led to him becoming well known as the Weaver Poet. After another collection if his poems was rejected by an Edinburgh publisher, Tannahill fell into a deep depression, burning many of his manuscripts before drowning himself in a Paisley canal on 17 May 1810. In 1883 a statue of Robert Tannahill, paid for by public subscription, and by a series of concerts featuring his work, was erected near to Paisley Abbey.