William Topaz McGonagall, poet and tragedian of Dundee, has been widely hailed as the writer of the worst poetry in the English language. A self-educated hand loom weaver of Irish descent, he discovered his discordant muse in 1877 and embarked upon a 25 year career as a working poet, delighting and appalling audiences across Scotland and beyond.

His audiences threw rotten fish at him, the authorities banned his performances, and he died a pauper over a century ago. But his books remain in print to this day, and he’s remembered and quoted long after more talented contemporaries have been forgotten.

This site provides a comprehensive guide to the life and works of William McGonagall, including 243 of his best(?) poems and his remarkable (and unintentionally hilarious) autobiography. Please click on one of the headings below to begin your visit.

Gem of the Day

An Ode to the Queen on her Jubilee Year

A glimpse of what Victoria missed by not appointing McGonagall to be her Poet Laureate

Register to receive the “Gem of the Day” by email


Works

Though he’s best known today for The Tay Bridge Disaster, McGonagall actually published well over 200 poems in his lifetime. Explore this collection of his work, or try the “Gem of the Day” (above).

Life

McGonagall left us several accounts of his eventful life, all of which are presented here. These accounts are supplemented with contemporary press reports of the Poet’s activities.

Articles

More recent articles written about all aspects of McGonagall’s life and work.

News

News, reviews and readers’ own gems about the great man.

Shop

Support this site by buying your McGonagall merchandise here.

Today’s Quote:

“Poor souls,’twas enough to have driven them frantic,
To be drifting about water-logged in the Atlantic.”

The Wreck of the Barque “Wm. Paterson” of Liverpool

Dundee, 30th May 1865

I certify that William McGonagall has for some time been known to me. I have heard him speak, he has a strong proclivity for the elocutionary department, a strong voice, and great enthusiasm. He has had a great deal of experience too, having addressed audiences and enacted parts here and elsewhere.

George Gilfillan