Robert Allan lived from 4 November 1774 to 1 June 1841. He was a weaver who became more widely known for the songs he composed and the poetry he wrote. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Robert Allan was born at Kilbarchan in Renfrewshire. He became a muslin weaver and he seems to have started to compose songs to pass the time while working at his loom. He was a contemporary and friend of Robert Tannahill, who encouraged him to start to publish his work. A number of Allan's songs were subsequently published in collections such as the Scottish Minstrel, and the Harp of Renfrewshire.
In 1836, long after Tannahill's death, a book of Robert Allan's poetry was published. This proved a popular success, making his name much more widely known among the musical community in Scotland. But it did not prove to be a commercial success, and Allan did not publish a second volume.
In later life, Allan decided that he was under-appreciated in his home country and on 28 April 1841 he sailed to join his youngest son in the United States and start a new life in the New World. He arrived in New York on 25 May, and died there six days later on 1 June 1841, at the age of 61. His funeral was attended by many Scots resident in New York and by the city's literary establishment. Robert Allan's legacy included a large number of unpublished songs and poems left with his family. He is remembered in his native Kilbarchan by a plaque on a memorial fountain erected in his honour.