Dr. Fred Freeman, Hon. Fellow in English at the University of Edinburgh- The Irish In Scotland : Robert Tannahill

The Moore Institute Seminar Room

Date & Time
6th June, 2013 @ 16:00:00


After releasing THE COMPLETE SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS (12 vols, Linn Records 1996-2003) I turned my attention to a sadly neglected artist: Robert Tannahill of Paisley (1774-1810). Tannahill was a weaver, a song-writer and poet who wrote over 100 songs of a quality comparable to Burns.

This illustrated lecture, drawing musical examples from my COMPLETE SONGS OF ROBERT TANNAHILL, concentrates on a unique collection of songs - with their Irish melodies and subject matter written in defence of the early 19th-century Irish emigrants to Scotland. A total non-sectarian, Tannahill, in his own way, contributed a great deal to changing perceptions of the downtrodden Irish as they settled into their new country; and, at the same time, he left us with a lovely body of Irish song.

Moreover, as an early Romantic artist, he was far ahead of his time. His unique, urban Paisley songs movingly provide a critical insight into both the despair and the dynamism of early industrialisation. And his use of the comic and the grotesque certainly does look forward to Blake with its mixed message in relation to the working classes: figures both corrupted and enervated by urban life and, simultaneously, morally and socially liberated from the constraints of their ‘betters'.

The McPeake family of Northern Ireland based their famous folk song, ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme', directly upon the Paisley poet's ‘The Braes o Balquhidder'; and, over the past 200 years, his works have been published in various Irish and Northern Irish editions.

Dr. Fred Freeman, a short biography

Sometime Fellow in English at University of Edinburgh, I am a graduate of Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities (Ph.D. Edinburgh). I have taught Scottish literature at The School of Scottish Studies and in the English Department of Edinburgh; held postdoctoral posts (several times over) at The Advanced Studies Institute, The School of Scottish Studies, the English Department, University of Edinburgh. I had a postdoctoral appointment at St Antony's College, University of Oxford for two years in the late ‘80s, concentrating on ethnic minority writers in Scotland.

I am author of a book on the 18th-century Edinburgh poet, Robert Fergusson (EUP 1984) and a children's book on the Paisley poet, Robert Tannahill (2009); have published over 100 articles on Scottish literature, folk music and history. I am on the official Live Literature Scotland authors' list for grants.

Over the past decade I have drawn upon my extensive musical background, producing over 42 (internationally acclaimed) CDs - amongst them: "THE COMPLETE SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS" (13 Cds, 12 vols, Linn Records 1996-2003); (for Scottish Borders Region) "BORDERS FIDDLES", "BORDERS SANGSTERS", "BORDERS BOXES", "BORDERS PIPES"; "BORDERS YOUNG PIPERS" (1999-2012); "A'THE BAIRNS O' ADAM - A TRIBUTE TO HAMISH HENDERSON" (Greentrax 2004); "A' ADAM'S BAIRNS" National Library of Scotland, 2008); numerous solo CDs - "YONT THE TAY" (Jim Reid) which won BBC's ‘Best Singer of the Year 2005'; "THE COMPLETE SONGS OF ROBERT TANNAHILL" - Vols I, II & III (with 2 vols still to come).