It seems that every year I stand up here to give the Club’s annual greeting I am celebrating the birth or recognising the death of someone and this year is no different.
2010 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of our Club’s founding secretary, the Paisley poet and songwriter Robert Tannahill. As well as founding the world’s first formally constituted Burns Club, and choosing to properly record that constitution, Tannahill’s prolific output of songs placed him second only to Burns and the club still meets monthly in Tannahill’s family home in Queen Street.
This means that as a club, we have a true affinity with Tannahill – an affinity that is sorely tested every Burns Night as here in Paisley Town Hall, every year, we let our current club secretary loose to give there own personal, and usually highly individual musical interpretation of one of Tannahill’s best-loved songs ‘Bonnie Wood of Craigielea.’
Tannahill’s statue, which stands only yards from here at the Abbey, was funded and erected following a series of hugely successful open-air concerts of Tannahill songs held on Glennifer Braes. Had Paisley Burns Club’s Three Tenors – Messrs Skinner, Livingstone and Martin –been on the Bill that day on Glennifer Braes then I would suggest that perhaps three tenners might have been all that ended up in the kitty.
I have truly enjoyed in recent months looking back at Tannahill’s life and work, listening to his songs and the synergy between his life and that of Burns is stark. Both were prolific and talented, and both shuffled off this mortal coil too soon. Assuming life after death, this year’s greeting is a whimsical, romantic, two-part take on what would be said were their paths to have crossed.
And, for the hard of thinking, I have some props to assist me. In recognition of his Kilmarnock edition, the big Kilmarnock bunnet shall represent Burns while in recognition of his skill with loom and shuttle, the Paisley Pattern scarf shall represent our founding secretary Robert Tannahill
When the Plooman met the Weaver – A Heaven-sent Conversation
Wan day, when roamin’ Heaven’s braes
Did Burns upon a fellow gaze
An’ stop tae tak the time tae praise
An’ dreams fulfil
Tae greet a bard o’ Paisley’s
Good sir, accept my veneration
An’ gracious, heart felt admiration
Fur thy words merit recognition
Baith verse and sang
Aw men should hear sic inspiration
My bard, the pleesure is my ain
Fur I have marvelled at thy fame
An’ in my humble Queen Street hame
Yer words were king
That thee wid even ken my name
Mak’s ma heart sing.
But sir, ma fame, in part is thine
An’ those who sat lang efter dine
In Paisley taverns quoting rhyme
Tae honour me
Ma simple writings tae enshrine
T’was doon tae thee.
But while ma shuttles loodly clang
Yer wurds wrapped nature in a sang
And oot across the fields I’d gang
Tae fire ma muse
An whether woods or dale amang
Pay thee ma dues
The world should hear thy own sweet air
Aroon Gleniffer braes sae fair
The woods o’ Craigielee to share
In verse an’ tune
A hunner canty sangs or mair
Then gone tae soon
Like me, you tae wur gay and jolly
But oor façade wis but life’s folly
As smiles aft hid oor melancholy
During earth-born days
But here in heaven, let us brawly
Tak gladsome ways
Wae that, the pair shook hands and syne
Bin freends forever, brithers in rhyme.
As aff ower heaven’s braes they climb
We tak an oath
In Paisley we’ll aye tak the time
Tae honour both