Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Friday, 1 January 2010

Events planned to mark death of poet Tannahill

By Denise Glass
Digging Up Your Roots

Robert Tannahill was found drowned in a culvert in 1810

A Scottish poet who killed himself after being rejected by a publisher is to be remembered on the 200th anniversary of his death.

Robert Tannahill, also known as the Weaver Poet, was once viewed as being almost comparable to Burns.

The centenary of his death saw 15,000 people head to Paisley's Gleniffer Braes, one of his favourite spots, to listen to his songs. It is hoped that Paisley buddies and poetry lovers will again turn out in force to pay tribute to the poet.

New CDs of Tannahill's work are being released, concerts are being put on and a series of events will take place in May, including walks, talks and a play.

Tannahill was born in 1774 to a weaving family but showed a talent for writing poetry. His song Braes o' Balquhidder is thought to be the basis for the famous folk song Wild Mountain Thyme.

Valerie Reilly, from Paisley Museum, said Tannahill was inspired by the beauty of nature.

Tannahill's Cottage
A cottage in Paisley where Tannahill lived still survives

"Right from being a child, he walked in the woods," she told BBC Radio Scotland's family history programme Digging Up Your Roots.

"We're only a few hundred yards away from what used to be Thou Bonnie Wood O' Craigielea, which later became the notorious Ferguslie Park housing estate and he loved walking among nature and observing and then putting his thoughts down on paper.

"He kind of considered himself to be the second Robert Burns. He's not quite up there with Burns but he's not far behind and his work is still very much appreciated and some of his songs are still sung."

Tannahill was so taken by Burns that, even though he had a limp, he walked all the way to Alloway to see where the bard was born.

He also started the Paisley Burns Club, which claims to be the oldest Burns club in existence.

Tannahill had a book of his poems published, but a later volume was turned down by publishers and he became depressed.

On 17 May 1810 his body was found in a culvert at the Candren Burn in Paisley - he had killed himself.

Maggie Craig
Writer Maggie Craig believes she has a genetic link to Tannahill

Tannahill died without leaving any children, but there are many out there who believe they are related to him.

Huntly writer Maggie Craig believes Tannahill could be her several times great uncle.

Although she admits he is "not a terribly good role-model for a writer", Maggie is proud of her possible connection.

"My dad was a railwayman, my grandfather was a coalminer, but they've all written. It must be in the genes," she said.

"It's a very sad tale, but although he only lived until his early 30s, if you Google him he's on the internet, lots of people admire him, somebody's just produced a CD of his songs.

"Our family has never been well-off, but we've always been a family that went for education and did this writing of poetry and so on and I think Tannahill has been like a beacon who's been saying, 'It doesn't matter if you're not well off, you can still feed your brain, you can still be rich in your brain'."

You can hear more about Robert Tannahill and find out if Maggie could be related to the poet by listening to Digging Up Your Roots, BBC Radio Scotland's family history programme, at 1200 GMT on 3 January.

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