The Autobiography of Sir William Topaz McGonagall
A long and detailed account of McGonagall’s life and adventures which has been divided into more manageable sections…
Early days, his inspiration to become a poet and his first appearance on the stage.
The famous journey to Balmoral and the reception he got there.
A concert in the village of Fowlis and his adventures on the way home.
McGonagall’s trip to New York and the things he saw there.
He leaves Dundee for Perth, and receives a hearty highland welcome in Inverness.
A practical joke results in his visiting London.
Perth proves too small for a member of the Order of the White Elephant.
Other Autobiographical Accounts
|A Summary History of Poet McGonagall|
What appears to be an early account by McGonagall which concentrates on his family and his childhood in the Orkney islands.
A short account principally taken up with the epic trip to Balmoral.
A tirade against publicans – one of whom was “the first man to throw peas at me”, with some insights into the economics of being a working poet.
|The Book of the Lamentations of the Poet Macgonagall|
A false – almost libellous – autobiography, written by one John Willocks in 1885 that may nonetheless have some basis in truth.
The record of William’s marriage in 1846.
|McGonagall in the Census|
Every ten years the population was recorded in an official census. The entries provide a fascinating series of snapshots of the changes in the poet’s life and circumstances.
The record of William’s death on 26th September 1902.
News of the Poet’s doings in and around the city was a regular feature of the Dundee newspapers. Often focussing on the near riotous disorder that generally ensued when the Poet attempted to display his talents in public, the following articles offer a vivid picture of his career:
|The First Poem||McGonagall's first ever poem, as it appeared in the Weekly News.||July 1877|
|Job’s Reflections on the “Great McGonagall”||A rave review of his first publication, where the writer has "no hesitation in declaring that Shakespeare never wrote, poetry like Mr McGonagall's"||May 1878|
|“Her Majesty’s Poet” and his Grocer||Hard times for the poet, but his fame has spread as far as Leeds!||June 1878|
|Rivals in Renown||McGonagall's fortunes are compared to Tennyson's||June 1878|
|Extraordinary Freak of a Dundee “Poet”||A report of the famous trip to Balmoral||June 1878|
|Rev. G Gilfillan and Poet McGonagall||A thank-you letter for his book of poems||July 1878|
|Poet McGonagall’s Holiday Tour||An unsuccessful tramp out to Coupar Angus||June 1879|
|Grand Entertainment by Mr McGonagall||The poet is the subject of a poem, for once||July 1879|
|Entertainment by Mr McGonagall at Lochee||Another show, another riot||July 1879|
|A Night with the “Poet” McGonagall||A brief report of another performance||October 1879|
|Poet McGonagall’s Tour Through Fife||An account, written by the poet himself, of a typically frustrating reading tour.||October 1879|
|Grand Entertainment by Poet McGonagall||A few new poems are added to his usual repetoire||December 1879|
|The Poet McGonagall Interviewed||A few words with the poet, before his going on stage in Newport.||April 1880|
|A Bogus Boucicault||A meeting with a famous dramatist turns out to be a hoax||June 1880|
|McGonagall’s Return from London||The Poet's friends seek to cheer him up after his misadventures in the capital.||July 1880|
|Accident to McGonagall||McGonagall falls victim to the crowd's "enthusiasm"||August 1880|
|McGonagall in the Thistle Hall||A typically riotous and unprofitable stage appearance.||October 1880|
|McGonagall in Excelsis||A slightly more successful performance, financially if not artistically.||November 1880|
|McGonagall at Arbroath||For once it is the audience that is at risk of injury in this account.||February 1881|
|A Dundee “Bard” at Brechin||Guess which one.||April 1881|
|Montrose||Another venture into the surrounding towns for "The McGonagall".||May 1881|
|McGonagall on the Tour||This time he's in Coupar Angus||June 1881|
|Assault on the Police – The “Poet’s” Son in Trouble||Charles is in trouble after an affray at Step Row||August 1881|
|A Specimen “Poem”||They're not impressed by McGonagall's gifts down in Liverpool||June 1884|
|School Board Prosecutions in Dundee||William's granddaughter has been skipping school||February 1885|
|Local Jottings||The first inkling of the trip to New York||February 1887|
|Poet McGonagall on the Atlantic||A poem-strewn diary of his journey to New York. He seems to spend most of the time eating!||April 1887|
|A Letter to the Editor||An anonymous correspondent seeks to defend the great man from snowballs||March 1888|
|McGonagall Assaulted||When the poet loses a tooth in a scuffle, it makes the news as far south as Sheffield||May 1888|
|Magnificent Gift to Poet McGonagall||McGonagall's American admirers send him some dubious shares.||August 1888|
|The Great McGonagall||A performance in Arbroath leads to the usual chaos||December 1888|
|McGonagall at the Circus||A plot among the city's publicans ruins his debut under the big top||December 1888|
|McGonagal at the Nethergate Circus||McGonagall appears in the big top in this hair-raising account.||December 1888|
|McGonagall in the Circus Again||A return visit to the big top is marginally more successful||December 1888|
|McGonagall as Macbeth||The tragedian gets the same rough reception as the poet did from the circus crowd.||January 1889|
|McGonagall in Glasgow||Where a local journalist compares him with Walt Whitman!||April 1889|
|Licence for Cooke’s Circus||McGonagall's removal from the bill was one of the conditions||August 1889|
|McGonagall, Poet and Tragedian||The Piper o'Dundee greets the publication of William's first book.||May 1890|
|Music and The Drama||A passing reference to the great man in a Manchester diary column||February 1892|
|A Night with McGonagall||A night of poetry, tragedy and even literary criticism from the great man||February 1892|
|The Bold McGonagall||Son John is in trouble with the law again||February 1892|
|Dramatic Recital by McGonagall||A less successful return visit to the "Dundee, Lochee, and East of Scotland Poetical and Dramatical Society"||April 1892|
|All Sorts and Conditions||He pays tribute to the late Lord Tennyson||October 1892|
|Gossip from Truth||He might have a chance at the Laureateship, if only he can keep writing like Walt Whitman!||October 1892|
|Gossip From Truth||The Marquis of Lorne does not appreciate the Poet's gifts||November 1892|
|City Gossip||One of many appearances in the Weekly News' diary column, here the Poet tells us why he may leave Dundee, and how he could be persuaded to stay.||January 1893|
|All Sorts and Conditions||News of the tweed suit, and the poets thanks for it||January 1893|
|City Gossip||A rival greets the news of McGonagall's threatened departure.||January 1893|
|City Gossip||McGonagall replies to his rival's poetic assault.||January 1893|
|McGonagall and the Basket||A case for CSI Dundee||February 1893|
|All Sorts and Conditions||The tweed suit is almost ready||February 1893|
|All Sorts and Conditions||The tweed suit arrives, but not at Step Row||February 1893|
|McGonagall’s New Tweed Suit||The much-awaited tweed suit arrives||March 1893|
|A Correspondent Writes||A fund is being got up to help McGonagall||March 1893|
|Presentations to Poet McGonagall||More backhanded gifts for the Poet, this time including a ridiculous hat.||March 1893|
|Honour to McGonagall||A piano almost becomes a casualty of the battle of Bannockburn||April 1893|
|The McGonagall Family in Trouble||The poet's son and daughter are accused of a serious assault||April 1893|
|The Poet McGonagall In Court||McGonagall comes to the defence of his children||April 1893|
|Poet McGonagall Disgusted with Dundee||McGonagall takes another step towards leaving Dundee||May 1893|
|McGonagall in Arbroath||McGonagall is there to present the prizes at a football match||May 1893|
|All Sorts and Conditions||The poet is advised to put in a claim for the Laureateship||July 1894|
|All Sorts and Conditions||McGonagall is introduced to Lord Grey. Next stop the Queen!||August 1894|
|All Sorts and Conditions||Tayport is honoured with a visit and a poem||August 1894|
|McGonagall and the Laureateship||McGonagall is ready, should Her Majesty require his services||August 1894|
|Poet McGonagall’s “Modest Request”||The poet tries to get free transport across the silvery Tay||September 1894|
|“Too Deep for Music”||The reason why there'll never be a McGonagall musical, apparently.||September 1894|
|Poet McGonagall Evicted||An ignominious end to McGonagall's long residence in Dundee||October 1894|
|City Gossip||McGonagall finally makes good his threat to leave Dundee.||October 1894|
|All Sorts and Conditions||Can Sir Henry Irving compete with McGonagall? The reporter thinks not||November 1894|
|All Sorts and Conditions||Four giants of nineteenth century literature and drama meet up in Edinburgh||November 1894|
|Sons of the Great McGonagall||Two of the poet's sons are in court for fighting each other||December 1894|
|A “Knighthood” for Poet McGonagall||The first news of his Burmese knighthood||February 1895|
|Honours to Poet McGonagall||The poet is simultaneously honoured in Burma and Canada||February 1895|
|Poet McGonagall as Judge Colston’s Rival||McGonagall shows a rival how it's done.||October 1895|
|All Sorts and Conditions||There's no chance of McGonagall coming back to Dundee||October 1895|
|All Sorts and Conditions||This time he's entertaining the Edinburgh Volunteers||November 1895|
|All Sorts and Conditions||Glasgow readies itself for an appearance by Sir William||February 1896|
|All Sorts and Conditions||The sole surviving fragment of a missing "gem"||June 1896|
|All Sorts and Conditions||A diary column entry admires his "Address to the Moon"||April 1897|
|Here and There||A London publisher produces a jubilee edition of his works||June 1897|
|“Poet” McGonagall On Bennet And His Bauble||An affront to Queen Victoria supposedly raises the poet's ire||October 1897|
|Sir William Topaz McGonagall’s Poetic Recital||The pianist doesn't show up, but the show must go on!||December 1898|
|Poet McGonagall at Crieff||Another boisterous McGonagall concert, but this time he's got police protection.||May 1899|
|Poet McGonagall in Perth||A return visit, for one night only, to the Fair City||December 1901|
|Poet’s Son in Trouble||One of William's sons gets 20 days in jail for theft.||September 1902|
|Death of McGonagall, “The Poet”||The Edinburgh Evening News carries the sad tidings||September 1902|
The passing of the great Poet and tragedian was marked in the following Dundee newspapers after his death on the 29th September 1902: