The Autobiography of Sir William Topaz McGonagall – Part 5

Farewell to Dundee

Well, my dear friends, the next event in my life that I am going to relate is regarding me and my Mistress McGonagall leaving Dundee in the year 1894, resolving to return no more owing to the harsh treatment I had received in the city as is well known for a truth without me recording it. Well, I went to the Fair City of Perth, one of the finest upon the earth, intending to remain there altogether. So I secured a small garret in the South Street, and me and my mistress lived there for eight months, and the inhabitants were very kind to us in many respects. But I remember receiving a letter from an Inverness gentleman requesting me to come through on the 16th October and give him and his friends an entertainment, and that all arrangements had been made with the directors of the Inverness Railway Company, and that I had only to show the letter. I went down to the Railway Station and showed the official the letter from Inverness inviting me through, and when they read it they said it was all right. They had received a telegram regarding it, and they told me to come down in the morning a little before ten o’clock, so as I could leave Perth with the ten o’clock train, and they would give me a certificate that would make me all right for the return journey to Perth. So I thanked them, telling them I would be down in the morning, God willing, in good time. When I went home I told my wife that I had made all right for my railway trip to Inverness, and she was glad to hear that it was all right. When I had got my supper I went to bed, but I didn’t sleep well, for I was thinking too much about venturing so far away entirely amongst strangers, but as I had been assured of a hearty highland welcome I considered I was safe in making the venture. So I screwed up my courage and all danger regarding my trip to Inverness vanished from my mind. In the morning I arose and donned my clothes, and partook of a hearty meal along with my good lady, and then made myself ready for going to Inverness. When ready I bade my mistress good-bye, and away I went to the railway station and saw the officials. When the train for Inverness was nearly ready to start they showed me into one of the carriages, and bade me good-bye.

The train steamed off with its long white curling cloud of steam which was most beautiful to be seen. The train passed rocky mountains and woodland scenery, and lochs and rivers, and clear crystal fountains gushing from the mountains, and the bleak, heathery hills made the scenery very romantic to the appearance I remember. But it was only a bird’s eye view I had, the train passed on so quickly, but in the summer season I thought it would be delightful to be roaming at ease, and to be viewing the mountain scenery and the beautiful villas by the way near to the riverside, surrounded by trees and shrubberies. As for the angler, he could have excellent sport fishing in the lochs and the river in that Highland region near to Dalwhinnie and other beautiful places I noticed by the way. And while thinking so in my mind I was astonished to think that the train had arrived, before I knew, and there I was met at the station by the gentleman who had written to me. He asked me if I was the Poet McGonagall, and I said I was, and he grasped me by the hand kindly, and told me to follow him. I did so without fear, and he took me to a hotel. And as we entered it we were met by the landlord, to whom I was introduced. And the proprietor told me there and then not to be ashamed to ask for anything I liked that was in the house, and I would get it, because the gentleman that had fetched me through from Perth had told him so, and with that my friend left me to my own meditations. Then I told the hotel proprietor I would have for dinner some coffee, bread, and a beefsteak, so in a very short space of time my dinner was ready and served out to me by a servant girl, and I did ample justice to it because I felt hungry. By this time it was about five o’clock in the afternoon, so I went out to have a walk and view the beautiful scenery along the riverside, and after I did so it was within an hour for me to entertain the gentleman who had brought me from Perth, so I had some tea made ready, and ate heartily, and when finished my friend came in and asked me if I had been enjoying myself, and I told him I had. Then he said the gentlemen I was to entertain would soon drop in. So they began to drop in by twos and threes until the room was well filled. The large table in the room was well spread with costly viands. When we had all partaken of the good spread on the table a chairman was elected, a gentlemen of the name of Mr Gossip, and a very nice gentlemen he was. He began by saying– ” Gentlemen! I feel proud to-night to be elected at this meeting of friends and acquaintances to hear the great poet, Mr McGonagall, displaying his poetic abilities from his own works and from other poets also, and I request, gentlemen, that we will give him a patient hearing, and I am sure if ye do ye will get a poetic treat, for his name is a household word at the present day. Therefore, gentlemen, with these few remarks I will call upon our distinguished guest, Mr McGonagall, to favour the company with a recital of his famous poem, ‘Bannockburn.'”

I arose and said– “Gentlemen, I feel proud to-night to be amongst such a select company of gentlemen, and as far as my abilities will permit me I’ll endeavour to please ye, and by your kind permission I will now begin to recite my Bannockburn poem.”

Before I was halfway through, the cheering from the company was really deafening to my ears, so much so that I had to halt until the cheering subsided, and when I finished the company shook hands with me all round. After I sat down one of the gentlemen said he would sing a song on my behalf while I was resting, but he said he would need to get a glass of wine first. So when he got the glass of wine and drank to my health he began to sing that song of Burns’, “Gae bring tae me a pint of wine.” I can assure ye, my readers, he sang the song very well, and with so much vehemence that when he had finished he was fairly exhausted and all for my sake. And when done his head fell upon his shoulder, and he seemed to be in the arms of Morpheus. Then other gentlemen sang songs, and the night passed by pleasantly, and all went well. Then the chairman said– “Gentlemen, as the night is far advanced I will now call upon our guest of the evening, Mr McGonagall, to give us a song– ‘The Rattling Boy from Dublin,’ of which he is the author.” Then I said– “Mr chairman and gentlemen, I am quite willing to do so, owing to the kind treatment I have met with, and the hearty Highland welcome ye have bestowed upon me, which I will not forget in a hurry. So I will begin to sing my song.” Before I was halfway through, the gentleman who had fallen asleep in the chair awoke, and leapt on to the floor, and began to dance, until the chairman had to stop him from dancing, and when order was restored I went on with my song without any further interruption. And when I finished my song I recited “The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir,” also a scene from Macbeth, which seemed to please the company very well. That was owing, I think, to Macbeth living in Inverness at one time.

Well, my dear friends, that concluded the evening’s entertainment. Then the gentleman who had sent me the letter to come through to Inverness to give his friends an entertainment arose and said– “Mr chairman and friends,– It now falls to my lot to present to the great poet, McGonagall, this purse of silver, of which it is the desire of my friends and myself never to make known the contents.” So saying, he handed me the purse and its contents, which I thanked him for and the company, telling them that I would never forget their kindness, and that in all my travels I had never met with such good treatment. Then the gentlemen all round shook hands with me, declaring they were well pleased with the entertainment I had given them. Wishing me good night and a sound sleep, they left me to my own meditations; but my friend, before leaving me, conducted me to my bed in the hotel, and wishing me good-night, he said he would see me in the morning, and see me off in the train for Perth. So I went to bed, quite delighted with the treatment I had received from the gentlemen I had entertained in Inverness, and in the morning I was up with the lark, and had a good breakfast, and put a good luncheon piece in my pocket to eat by the way returning to Perth. My friend called on me in the morning, and accompanied me to the Railway Station, and saw me off by the ten o’clock train for Perth, and I arrived safe in Perth about half-past four o’clock on the afternoon of the 17th day of October, 1894.

Two days after my arrival from Inverness I composed a poem in praise of the Heather Blend Club banquet at Inverness, which is as follows :-

’Twas on the 16th of October, in the year 1894,
I was invited to Inverness, not far from the sea shore,
To partake of a banquet prepared by the Heather Blend Club,
Gentlemen who honoured me without any hubbub.

The banquet was held in the Gellion Hotel,
And the landlord, Mr Macpherson, treated me right well;
Also the servant maids were very kind to me,
Especially the girl that polished my boots, most beautiful to see.

The banquet consisted of roast beef, potatoes, and red wine;
Also hare soup and sherry and grapes most fine,
And baked pudding and apples lovely to be seen;
Also rich sweet milk and delicious cream.

Mr Gossip, a noble Highlander, acted as chairman,
And when the banquet was finished the fun began;
And I was requested to give a poetic entertainment,
Which I gave, and which pleased them to their hearts’ content.

And for my entertainment they did me well reward
By titling me there the Heather Blend Club bard;
Likewise I received an illuminated address,
Also a purse of silver, I honestly confess.

Oh, magnificent city of Inverness,
And your beautiful river, I must confess,
With its lovely scenery on each side,
Would be good for one’s health there to reside.

There the blackbird and mavis together doth sing,
Making the woodlands with their echoes to ring
During the months of July, May, and June,
When the trees and the shrubberies are in full bloom.

And to see the River Ness rolling smoothly along,
Together with the blackbird’s musical song,
While the sun shines bright in the month of May,
Will help to drive dull care away.

And Macbeth’s Castle is grand to be seen,
Situated on Castle Hill, which is beautiful and green.
’Twas there Macbeth lived in days of old,
And a very great tyrant he was be it told.

I wish the members of the Heather Blend Club every success,
Hoping God will prosper them and bless;
Long may Dame Fortune smile upon them,
For all of them I’ve met are kind gentlemen.

And in praise of them I must say
I never received better treatment in my day,
Than I received from my admirers in Bonnie Inverness.
This, upon my soul and conscience, I do confess.

My dear readers, I must now give you a brief account of my trip to the mighty city of London.

Comments (2) »

  1. A Thorne
    In the year 2013, on the 12th day of October at 8:36 pm

    How lovely to see this report of a group of people who actually appreciated McGonagall’s work. Although I do wonder if their applause was all a bit tongue-in-cheek. Or maybe they just thought he was always being mocked and needed a bit of innocent cheering up?
    Isn’t it typical of the man that the paragraph starting “The train steamed off” has a McGonagall rhyme in it!

  2. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 31st day of March at 2:22 pm

    If only William had received more treatment like this I think his life would have been less stressful. If indeed their appreciation was only tongue in cheek they seemed to have done it in the nices possible way.
    As you may realise I’m a person who is on Williams side, hate to see anyone being deliberately made a fool of when in fact all he was was a Eccentric trying to live the Lot he was dealt.

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