A tweet about Robert Tannahill was the catalyst that helped a woman living in south-east England to
learn that she is a descendant of Scotland’s ‘Weaver Poet’.
Caroline Shelley, a scenic artist from Waterlooville, made the chance discovery through reading a
tweet on the ScotlandsPeople Twitter page.
Caroline was researching her family history on the ScotlandsPeople website and had found that her
4xgreat grandmother was a Tannahill from Paisley. She then visited ScotlandsPeople on Twitter and
saw a tweet about the famous poet, who came a generation after Robert Burns.
“It was fate!” Caroline said. “I’d just learned that my Scottish ancestors were called Tannahill,
but I’d never heard of Robert Tannahill, so the surname didn’t mean anything to me. But then I
visited the ScotlandsPeople Twitter page and the first tweet was about Robert Tannahill! I did some
more digging using parish records and found that my 4xgreat grandmother’s father, also called
Robert, was the poet’s cousin. I’m thrilled – connecting the dots like this is amazing! I’m hoping
to visit Robert Tannahill’s cottage in Paisley on a future visit to Scotland.”
Dee Williams, Head of the ScotlandsPeople Centre, said: “We’re delighted that Caroline has made this
connection with such an important figure in Scottish history and literature. Caroline’s online
journey to reach Robert Tannahill used BMD certificates, census papers and then parish records. So
it’s great to know that these documents helped Caroline with her ancestral jigsaw.”
With one poet now residing in “Poets’ Corner” of Caroline’s family tree, Ms Shelley is now hoping
that she might be related to other famous poets. “I haven’t found a connection to Percy Bysshe
Shelley yet”, Caroline said, “but would love to be related to both poets!”