Prepared for the 1875 Edition.

About this time the Poet's eldest brother, Thomas Tannahill, the tallest in the family, was in the heyday of his youth, and considered one of the greatest beaus among the young Paisley Weavers, while his sister Janet Tannahill was looked upon as the chief of belles. They dressed each other on the Sundays for the church. The High Church in these days was the most popular place of worship, and the seats were let by public roup. The dress of Thomas on Sundays was a three-cornered cocked hat, powdered hair with a queue tied behind, the coat of blue cloth mounted with yellow gilt buttons. The coat had a low collar, so that the stoned silver buckle which bound his neck-tie behind might be seen. A silk vest with black and yellow stripes across with a row of small buttons on each side ; two large flaps were folded over to allow his shirt of 1700 linen, pure as the snow, to be seen, with large projecting ruffles down its breast. The knee breeches were of nankeen cloth, with silver buckles at the knees. Silk stockings and cordovan leather shoes with large silver buckles. Such was the dress of a Paisley Weaver in those days, and many such were to be seen in the area and front of the gallery of the High Church on Sundays.

Janet Tannahill dressed equally grandly on Sundays. A satin bonnet gaudily got up, white muslin dress or silk gown according to the state of the weather, red silk quilted petticoat, silk stockings, cloth shoes, and pattens in wet weather. In winter, cloth gown, muff and cloak. In all seasons, an umbrella, an article which had then been recently introduced into Paisley, and was sold by Mr. Alexander Weir, cloth merchant, at`the Cross. Miss Tannahill, being a dressmaker, came out pretty strong in the fashions of the day to show her ability for the business. On the 27th of January, 1792, Janet Tannahill, then 23 years of age, was married to James Smith, weaver in Paisley, after two days' proclamation of banns, thereby showing that they belonged to the middle class of society. James Smith was a native of the neighbouring parish of Inchinnan, and was a very quiet, inoffensive person, respected by all his acquaintances.

The apprenticeship of TANNAHILL had expired in 1791, and in that year the tale of “Tam o' Shanter” was published in “Captain Grose's Antiquities,” a very expensive book ; but in 1794 it was published in a cheaper form, and could even be bought for a penny. “Alloway's auld haunted Kirk” was the resort of tourists in those days, and became more interesting to Paisley bodies from Burns introducing the heroine of the tale, Wee Nannie, as dressed in

“Her cutty sark o' Paisley harn.

TANNAHILL, with a few companions, walked from Paisley to Alloway Kirk. He remained there six weeks admiring the scenery of the land of Burns, and storing his mind with the beauties of Coila. On reaching Ayr, the Paisley Lyrist wrote the song of “My ain kind Dearie.”

Persons like TANNAHILL, desirous of acquiring knowledge, sought to improve their minds by reading and study. The qualifications to which he directed his attention were those treating of poetry and music. The songs of the bards were his delight, and his favourite musical instrument a German flute. He insensibly became an antiquarian in the pursuit of old airs which had been favourites in their day, and by writing appropriate verses to these airs which he hoped would again become as great favourites in their new dress as they had been formerly. He became known among his companions for the gift of song. The old airs which he recovered he hummed over at his loom, and tried to fit them with words. To catch every fugitive thought, he hung an inkbottle to his loompost, and fixed up a coarse shelf which served as a desk that he might jot down his ideas without rising from his seat tree, (e.g., seat while weaving). Thus was his mind elevated above the commonplace dullness of weaving, although in driving the shuttle forwards from right to left, and backwards from left to right, and knocking up the weft with the lay to, form the cloth, he could only produce a whirring, humming sound, like the monotonous ditty of

Fing at him,
Fung at him.


Dancing and convivial meetings have generally the effect of brushing up young folks to greater forwardness and self-possession, but they had not this effect upon TANNAHILL, whose bashfulness and diffidence still continued. In 1795, TANNAHILL became acquainted with Jenny Tennant, who then resided in the neighbourhood of Queen Street. She was born in Dunblane in 1770, and came to Paisley with her mother to obtain employment in one or other of the subsidiary operations necessary in finishing the productions of the loom. They kept company for nearly three years, walking out in quiet roads in the vicinity on summer evenings, and extending their walks on Saturday afternoons. In dancing together, particularly in the Mason Lodge, New Street, and meeting occasionally with the members of the core in the evening for a night's enjoyment, the life of the poet passed quietly and happily on ; but, as of old, the course of true love did not always run smooth. A rupture occurred between the betrothed. Jenny Tennant was married to another person in 1798. Two causes have been assigned for the estrangement between TANNAHILL and Jenny. The Poet tells his version in the. “Fareweel” (No. 77). Two versions have been given for Jenny—one by herself, and the other by her female companion, Jean Crawford (who married Andrew Smith, Killer, Paisley). These form the feminine side of the story, and will be found fully detailed in the notes to the song of “Jessie the Flower o' Dunblane” (No. 75), to which our readers are referred. Like other lovers' quarrels, there may have been faults on both sides. The versions of TANNAHILL and Crawford, when compared with each other, explain the true reason.


Thomas Tannahill, the Poet's eldest brother, died in 1795, in the 29th year of his age. His brother, James Tannahill, was married in December, 1796, when in the 27th year of his age, to Mary Barr ; and in the same month and year his brother, Matthew Tannahill, in the 21st year of his age, was married to Margaret Cochran. The Poet was bridegroom's man to his cousin and name­sake, Robert Tannahill (born in 1764, son of his uncle, Thomas Tannahill), married to Jean Barclay on 16th April, 1797.

We have prepared a table of the yearly population of Paisley from the year 1756 (when the Poet's father arrived in town from Kilmarnock) up to 1800, to show the rapidity of the annual increase.

During the period embraced in this table, 42 additional streets had been laid off in Paisley, and house after house had been erected to accommodate the increasing population. In 1799 the failure of the crops occurred, and that calamity created a stagnation of trade through­out the United Kingdom, and the town of Paisley suffered severely. Provisions rose to famine prices, and the privation of the poor becoming severe, a meeting of the inhabitants of Paisley was called in January, 1800, for devising means to alleviate the distress. At that meeting it was resolved to raise a subscription and open soup kitchens. A thousand guineas were collected, and four kitchens for making soup and broth, one in each parish, were put into operation, furnishing excellent soup and broth, which, on an average, only cost one penny per quart. During the distress one hundred and twenty thousand quarts of soup and broth were supplied to the necessitous poor. Mr. John Love,* a philanthropic gentleman, besides his subscription, delivered the produce of four acres of potatoes, free of expense, in quantities corresponding to the number receiving relief at each kitchen.


The Poet, now in the 26th year of his age, and his brother, Hugh Tannahill, then in the l0th year of his age, left Paisley for England about the end of the year 1799. The real cause of his leaving town has not been mentioned; but Mr. M'Laren, one of the two original biographers of the Bard, merely conjectured two reasons: either on account of slighted love, or the distress in the town at that period. It may have been partly both. The two brothers on their arrival in England found the distress as severe there as in the place of their nativity, and every day matters looked gloomier and darker. They took up their residence in the manufacturing town of Bolton, in Lancashire, and tried to procure employmerit unsuccessfully. The price of provisions was rising every day, and the small stock of cash they had taken with them diminished rapidly. They resolved to try other places, and even accept a different employment before returning to Paisley. Previous or subsequent to starting, they met a cheerful-looking person, who observed them with sympathy, no doubt, thinking from the appearance of their dress they were Paisley weavers on the tramp. He spoke to them in a friendly manner, inquiring where they had come from, and where they intended going. The new companion, on hearing their pitiful story, stated that he also had been a Paisley weaver, and that his name was William Kibble. The three became friends at once; and the Bolton weaver offered the Paisley weavers accommodation for the evening, and promised to find employment for them the following day. The Tannahills accepted the proffered hospitality of their new friend, enjoyed a good night's rest, partook of an excellent breakfast the following morning, and obtained employment that day. This at once raised their spirits, and drove despondency from their minds. TANNAHILL remained in Bolton, and his brother Hugh returned to Preston. The Poet, from the simplicity of his manners, modesty of his nature, and sympathetic disposition, became a favourite among his class of society in his adopted town, and was much respected by them.

*John Love, merchant in New Street, Paisley. Born, April, 1747 ; died, 1st December, 1827.