Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Allan, Robert

ALLAN, ROBERT (1774–1841), Scotch poet, was born on 4 Nov. 1774, at Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, where his father was a flax-dresser, and where he himself became a muslin-weaver. Early in life he began to write songs, chiefly in the Scottish dialect, often composing them at the loom, and he received with other encouragement the praise of Tannahill, like himself a Renfrewshire weaver and song-writer. R. A. Smith set to music many of his Scotch songs, published in the ‘Scottish Minstrel’ (1820), and a number of them appeared in the ‘Harp of Renfrewshire.’ A Volume of Allan's poems was printed by subscription in 1836, without success. He had reared a large family, and was poor, old, and discontented, when, in opposition to the advice of his friends, he sailed for the United States, where his youngest son was a portrait-painter of promise. He died at New York on 1 June 1841, six days after landing. Allan's Scotch lyrics are melodious and occasionally pathetic, but seldom of more than average merit. The best of them is the ‘Covenanter's Lament.’

[Memoir in Charles Rogers's Modern Scottish Minstrel (1856), and in Chambers's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen (1868).]

F. E.