A Summary History of Poet McGonagall

Poet McGonagall was born In the Month of March 1825. His parents were Irish and his Father left Ireland, shortly after His marriage and came to Scotland. And got settled down In Ayrshire In a place call’d Maybole as a Cotton Weaver, and lived there for About ten years untill the Cotton Weaving began to fail there, and Then he wee Induced to leave it owing to the very small, demand There was for Cotton weaving In that part of Scotland. Then he and his family left Maybole, and came to Edinburgh Where he got settled down again to work Cotton fabrics which there was a greater demand for, than in Maybole. and by this time they family consisted of two Sons, And three daughters. William, The Poet, was the youngest, and was born in Edinburgh. And the rest of the family was born in Maybole And Dundee. his Father lived in Edinburgh for more then eight years, untill the Cotton Weaving began to fail, then his Father and they family left Edinburgh, And travelled to the Orkney Isles, And to a house for they family to live in the Island of Southronaldsay And his father bought the Living as a Pedlar, and supported the family by selling hardware, among they peasantry In the Orkney Isles, and returning home every night to his family, when circumstances would permit him. Charles the eldest son was herding Cows to a Farmer in the Island of Southronaldsay, and his eldest Sister Nancy, was in the service of a Farmer in the same locality, and William, the Poet, and Thomas, the second eldest brother, was sent to School to be teached by Mr. James Forbes, the pariah Schoolmaster, Who was a very Strict Dominie indeed, of which our readers shall hear of as a proof of his strictness, a rather curious incident. William, the Poet, chanced to be one day in his garden behind the school, and Chanc’d to espy a live, Tortoise, that the Dominie kept in the garden. and never having seen such a curious kind of a reptile before, his Curiousity were therefore excited no doubt to see it, and he stooped down and lifted the Tortoise with both hands, thereon admiring the varied beautiful Colours of its shell. when behold it dunged upon both hands of William the poet, which was rather aggravating to William, no doubt, and he dash’d the Tortoise on the ground which almost killed it. And the Dominie Chanc’d to see him, at the time through the back window of the Schoolroom, and he rattled on the window with his Cane to William, which startled him, and as soon as William came in to the School, he Layd hold of him and began to beat him unmercifully about the body and face, untill his face was blackened in many places, with his hard Taws. and persisted in it untill some of the elder Scholars cried out to him to Stop! beating William. and when William went home to his dinner, and told his kind father all about it as it had happened his father flow into a rage and said he would be revenged upon him for beating William so unmerciful, and accordingly he went to a Magistrate, with William, and related the Case to him as it had happened. and when the Magistrate examined Williams face, and seen the marks, the Dominie had left thereon he ask’d Williams father if he was willing to put him from ever being a Schoolmaster in the parish again, but Williams Father would not consent to hear of that owing to the Kindness he had shown towards his Son, Thomas, and he simply ask’d the Magistrate, to give him a line, to certify, to Mr. Forbes, that he could put him from ever being a Schoolmaster in that parish again if he would just say the word. So Williams Father went with him to the Dominie, and showed him the line he had got from the Magistrate, to certify that he could put him from being a Schoolmaster again in the parish if he would say the word. and when the Dominie read he was very much surprised and began to make an Apology to Williams Father for what he had done, and promised he would never do the like again, so William and his Father were well satisfied for getting such a sweet revenge, upon that Dominie, and ever after that William was a great favourite of the Dominies and just acted as he pleased and was always very unwilling to go to School. Williams Father had to beat him very often before he would go to School, so that he never got a very great share of education.

William has been like the Immortal Shakspeare he had learn’d more from nature than ever he learn’d at School. William has been from his Boyhood a great admirer of every thing that is Considered to be beautiful such as beautiful Rivers and mountain Scenery and beautiful landscapes, and great men such as Shakspeare and great preachers, such as the Rev. George Gilfillan, and Great Poets such as Burns, or Tannehill, and Campbell &c. but again I must return to Williams Father he stay’d in the Island of Southronaldsay for about three years, and then left it with the Family, and came to Dundee, and settled down in it. and those of the family that were able to work were sent to the Mills and some of his Sons wrought at the handloom in the Factory along with himself, that was Thomas, and Charles, and William wrought in the Mill for a few years. and then his Father took him from the Mill, and learnd him the handloom himself and he has followed that occupation up to the present when he Can get it to do.he has always had a great liking for Theatrical representation and has made several appearances upon the Stage, In the Theatre Royal Dundee, In the Character of Macbeth, under the Management of Mr. Caple. he has also play’d the Characters of Hamlet and Othello, Macbeth, and Richard III, In the Music Hall under the Management of Forrest Knowles, to delighted and crowded audiences. and it is only recently ago that he discovered himself to be a, poet. the desire for writing Poetry came upon him In the Month of June 1877 that he could not resist the desire for writing poetry the first piece he wrote was An address to the Rev. George Gilfillan, to the Weekly News, only giving the Initials of his name, W. McG. Dundee which was received with eclat, then he turned his muse to the Tay Bridge, and sung it successfully and was pronounced by the press the Poet Laurete of The Tay Bridge then he unfolded himself to they public, and honestly gave out to them his own name. then he wrote an Address to Robert Burns. Also upon Shakspeare, which he sent printed Copies of to her Majesty, and received her Royal Patronage for so doing. he has also Composed the following effusions, the Bonnie broon haird Lassie o’ Bonnie Dundee, and A Companion to it Little Jeemie, also the Convicts return home again to Scotland and the Silvery Tay, and a host of others to numerous to mention, which will be publish’d shortly.

Comments (54) »

  1. Gareth
    In the year 2012, on the 7th day of July at 9:13 am

    This passage is printed, without attribution, at the start of the Library Omnibus edition of McGonagall’s work. Its semi-literate nature suggests that it was written by McGonagall himself, but differs in style from his Preface to “Poetic Gems”. Does anybody have a source for the above?

  2. Gareth
    In the year 2012, on the 7th day of July at 9:17 am

    Ah – I now see that this site (under ‘Life’) suggests that the passage ‘….appears to be an early account by McGonagall’ – suggesting that the source is unknown. That answers my question!

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