Tribute to Dundee’s V&A

Filed under: Media,News; in the year 2018, on the 16th day of September at 10:19 am

A new edifice has appeared on the banks of the silvery Tay, and one named after William’s favourite monarch to boot! The Dundee V&A opened to general acclaim yesterday, but one notable worthy was missing from the festivities on account of having died in 1902.

According to the Dundee Courier, local writer and longstanding McGonagallite Eddie Cairney has sought to correct this omission by penning an ode in suitable poetic style. I’m sure the shade of the Poet and Tragedian is suitably impressed.

Poetic Farewell to West Calder High School

Filed under: Readers’ Gems; in the year 2018, on the 2nd day of July at 1:55 pm

Readers of the great poet and tragedian will be aware that William did not restrict himself to the great public figures and disasters of the day, Occasionally events from his own life would inspire a gem.

As it was with the master, so too with the disciple. Our own Stephen Midgley has penned this epic to mark the relocation of the West Calder High School where, he tells me, he taught for most of his working life. I think you’ll agree that it’s a splendid send off for the old building…

Lines in Memoriam Regarding the Great Farewell Event at West Calder High School

’Twas in the year of 2018, on the 23rd of June,
When the flowers and shrubberies were in full bloom,
That the great West Calder High School did hold its Final Farewell event
To which many pupils, teachers and friends with eager anticipation went.

To see it once again, many a heart with excitement did race,
And former pupils flocked in their hundreds to the place,
Their beloved old school one last time for to see
And, as they approached, their hearts were filled with glee.

The reception they received was quite magnificent,
And many former teachers did also attend the event.
We were taken on guided tours round the classrooms and corridors,
As pupils, teachers and parents passed through long-remembered doors.

Many people did see the sign on the door of the famous Mr. Gruber,
Who had taught them much geography including the location and climate of Cuba,
And they recalled how in his lessons they had to stay wide awake,
So that, even to this day, seeing his name made them with fear for to quake.

There were photographs from former times upon the noticeboards,
And pictures of pupils holding aloft their many awards;
Old school magazines and notices were on display,
As well as articles, cuttings and stories all laid out in grand array.

A fine musical entertainment did continue through the day,
In which the West Calder High School Wind Bands most splendidly did play,
And the hearts of the visitors were full of glee
As the dinner ladies served most excellent food, drinks and tea.

Old friends and fellow pupils did meet again with great delight,
For some had remained close friends, while others were scattered far and wide,
And talking with long-remembered faces many an hour was spent,
Exchanging stories of old times to their hearts’ content.

Many former pupils greeted their teachers as long-lost friends
Even if at school they had sometimes driven them round the bend.
‘You were a brilliant teacher, miss or sir’, they did chime,
Although, strange for to tell, ’twas rarely mentioned at the time.

And ’twas a great delight to see old pupils present,
Who in their teenage years had varied from delightful to truculent,
But now are upstanding citizens most kind and sensible,
Many with families of their own, and in occupations worthy and respectable.

The school building at Limefield had first opened in the year 1965,
When many pupils and staff, past and present, were not yet even alive.
Since that time, thousands of young people had approached its portals with trepidation,
But once they entered in they did receive an excellent education.

And so the great school stood for fifty-three years until this day,
But alas! I am very sorry to say
That new safety regulations did finally come into play
Which filled the hearts of West Lothian Council officials with dismay.

For an underground gas pipeline close to the school had long ago been laid,
Which now did cause the authorities to be sore afraid,
For the further away from pipelines we our schools do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

Oh heaven, ‘twould have been a dreadful sight
To witness by day or in the dusky moonlight,
If the gas pipeline had exploded, and into pieces the building would blast,
At which the pupils and teachers would feel very downcast.

Therefore to replace the old school with a new one is no crime,
And let us hope that it will stand the test of time,
For the splendid new West Calder High School is now completed,
And its location closer to the town by many local people has been greeted.

Its classroom walls are strongly built of concrete, glass and steel
And the car park is big enough to accommodate many a wheel.
The new dark grey building is most handsome to be seen,
And ’tis to be opened on the 20th day of August in the year 2018.

I hope the boys and girls of the new school will work hard on their education
Whether they be from West Calder or its surrounding conurbation,
Because knowledge is sweeter than honey or jam,
Therefore let them try for to gain knowledge as quick as they can.

To the new West Calder High School let us wish happiness and long life,
May you always be prosperous and free from strife,
And success to all your pupils, be they of high or low degree,
In your brand new building which is a most magnificent sight to see.

But I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That the Final Farewell event on the 23rd of June
Was a day of great delight which chased away all gloom.

For this great occasion did mark the end of an era,
’Twas both a fond farewell and the start of a new and glorious chapter
In the history of an institution most sublime,
On a day which will be remember’d for a very long time.

Williepedia!

Filed under: Site News; in the year 2018, on the 1st day of May at 12:53 pm

When I started writing this site, back in the mists of time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, it was often difficult to find sites to link to which dealt with the subjects of McGonagall poems. Pick any battle, place or Victorian celebrity – who would bother to build a web page about that? The answer, in the early noughties, was all too often “nobody.”

Well, that was then and this is now. We now have Wikipedia to give us a page of (mostly true) information about any subject under the sun, including many of the subjects of William’s poetic gems. As an indication of the factual nature of William’s oeuvre, almost exactly 60% of the gems can be tied to a Wikipedia article.

So, I have added a new section to poem pages linking to the wikipedia article(s) most closely associated with the poem in question. This is not intended to take the place of the background notes I add to some poems (and, one day, will have added to all of them), but acts as a useful supplement and/or stand in.

The Great American Election Disaster of 2016

Filed under: Readers’ Gems; in the year 2018, on the 30th day of April at 10:48 am

We’re nothing if not topical here on McGonagall Online, so here’s a gem that reader Tom Kinghorn has just sent to me about happenings eighteen months ago (how time flies when you’re having fun). Since the usual political coverage here concerns such hot topics as women’s suffrage or the death of Gladstone, I think it’s pretty up-to-date.

Tom writes: “In an idle moment I composed this some time ago and forgot about it. Perhaps it may be of some interest/amusement.”

The Great American Election Disaster of 2016

Oh beautiful country of the USA
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That it seems that all sanity has been taken away
To elect a President you did try, on the 8th of November
A day, for a very long time, we surely will remember.

At start of day folk from as far as West Linton
Said “please have good sense and elect Hilary Clinton”
In your masses to the polls you went to vote
Even on the Silv’ry Tay they were sure you’d not elect that other goat.

The whole world would watch, without fail
At home, in bars and possibly in jail
Votes were cast with the greatest of elation
To find out which numpty would govern your great nation
Some remained awake and vigilant throughout
To see who would triumph in each and every bout

But alas, it soon became evident that, with great sorrow
That the wrong winner might emerge, on the morrow
And indeed it was, in the middle of that fateful night
The final result began to hove into sight
In great numbers votes had come down
It looked more and more like you would elect that bloody clown

Some viewer’s hearts were sad, some full of glee
As they watched the horror unfold, on their TV
Soon the catastrophic result was known
And alarm and panic from country to country was blown
This would be a terrible night we would always remember
The night you voted in Donald Trump on 8th November

Hilary’s supporters, who once had hearts that were glad
Were now sorely downcast after their loss and woefully sad
They all wondered how this terrible result could have been
On the day they’d remember for ever, in November 2016

After this catastrophic electoral disaster
A day that would be remembered for ever after
We’d wonder how this mouthy orange haired figure
Could ever have got his small hands on the nuclear trigger

I must now conclude my lay
But at their next election, it is safe to say
The strongest case against his re-election America can build
The less chance there is of us all getting killed.

Thomas Opal McKinghorn

Help Required!

Filed under: News; in the year 2018, on the 17th day of April at 8:40 am

Fans of McGonagall should be well attuned to the problems of the struggling artist, so should be well disposed to lend a helping hand to Andy Crichton. Fortunately, Mr Crichton does not have to contend with showers of potatoes and rotten fish, nor even a shortage of filthy lucre, but a lack of inspiration in producing an artwork dedicated to our favourite poet and tragedian.

I’ll let him speak for himself:

Hi,

I’m an art student and looking for ideas for a painting about McGonagall. This would be my final piece for my course and I’d be interested in hearing any suggestions from other admirers of the man himself.

Put simply, if you were in a position to commission a painting that celebrated his life and/or his work, what would you be looking for? Would it be about scenes from his work or aspects of what we know about his life story.
Any suggestions or ideas gratefully received

Many thanks

Andy

So, give the muse of artistic inspiration full rein, and offer your suggestions in the comments section below…

What’s New? What’s New!

Filed under: Site News; in the year 2017, on the 20th day of November at 6:51 pm

This site is a work in progress. I am steadily adding more snippets of McGonagalia as I find them – an article here, a press cutting there, even the occasional newly discovered gem. But there’s no way to highlight the new content unless I write a blog post to announce every addition I make (which I think we’d all get pretty bored with very soon).

That’s changed today with the addition of a “What’s New?” box to the home page, replacing one which simply identified the latest posts to this blog. You can now see at a glance what the latest additions are. I hope this helps you find some new McGonagall-related texts to enjoy.

The Second Battle of Glencoe

Filed under: Readers’ Gems; in the year 2017, on the 7th day of October at 4:48 pm

A recent Scottish news story has inspired a new gem by regular contributor Stephen Midgley:

’Twas on the 5th day of August in the year 2017
That a letter was delivered in Aboyne, not far from Aberdeen,
Addressed to the director of Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing, David Shand,
And sent by solicitors acting for the National Trust for Scotland.

‘You must cease’, it read, ‘to call your waterproof jacket by the name ‘Glencoe’,
As this name belongs to us now, and if you use it you will be our foe.
For the National Trust doth own Glencoe, and we are very sorry to say
That henceforth he who dares to utter its name will rue the day.

‘And furthermore, you must remove the name Glencoe from your website,
For if not, we will attack Hilltrek with all our might.
The same doth apply to all your future products and packaging,
And if you disobey, the consequences for you will be most damaging’.

Upon reading the Trust’s letter, David’s heart was filled with dismay,
But he called together his small band of workers, and boldly he did say:
‘We may be few in number, but we will stand up to these bullies
And, what is more, the press and public will be our allies.’

Meanwhile the mighty hordes of the NTS drew up in grand array,
And prepared for the dreadful battle of Glencoe without delay,
But the courageous Hilltrek band did show no fear
For by now many thousands of supporters for them did clap and cheer.

To witness the spectacle, the press and public had assembled
And, upon seeing this, the NTS forces with fear they trembled.
‘Come, my brave lads’, cried David, ‘let us assail them right manfully,
And we will make these bullying tyrants for to flee.’

At the charge of the bayonet, the hearts of the enemy were filled with fear
And so they did turn tail and run from the field, I do declare.
Soon the National Trust saw that further resistance was no use
And hastily their leaders did with David seek a truce.

And so a meeting was arranged ‘twixt Hilltrek and the NTS
At which the dispute was settled without further bitterness,
For the National Trust for Scotland did humbly withdraw their demands,
Whereupon the two sides did finally shake hands.

‘We are sorry’, said the NTS, ‘for acting like dictators,
Although ’twas not entirely our fault, but that of our solicitors,
Who also take instructions from Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump,
And, in the present case, to the wrong conclusion they did jump.’

Thus was the Battle of Glencoe decided without delay
And the hearts of the Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing band were light and gay,
As victory was declared for common sense and reason,
And they could continue to supply outdoor clothes for every season.

So they did soon return to a heroes’ welcome in Aboyne
Which doth Aberdeenshire’s beautiful River Dee adjoin,
For now the world knows that supplying the Glencoe jacket is no crime
And all because of a battle which will be remember’d for a very long time.

McGonagall the Critic

Filed under: Site News; in the year 2017, on the 30th day of May at 7:06 pm

McGonagall wasn’t just a poet (unkind people would say that he wasn’t even a poet), he turned has hand to prose once in a while. His autobiographical writings are well known, but he could turn his hand to other things too. One such is a short essay in appreciation of the one writer to whom McGonagall always bent his knee– William Shakespeare.

Thanks to the good people at the Dundee Library, I’ve obtained a copy of this venture into literary criticism and published it on the site. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

Shakspeare Reviewed

McGonagall Link in People’s Journal Collection

Filed under: News; in the year 2017, on the 29th day of January at 6:30 pm

The Dundee Courier had a story last week about a new collection of poetry from her former sister publication the People’s Journal. Edited by Professor Kirstie Blair, author of two articles on this website, the book explores the range of working class poets writing in Victorian Scotland, from whose ranks McGonagall is just the most notorious example. According to the article:

The collection also illustrates how the infamous poet William McGonagall, represented by An Address to The Tay Bridge from September 15 1877,  was part of a wider culture of “bad” verse in papers. […] The book includes poems by and about William McGonagall, who has become known as ‘the world’s worst poet’, though I show here that he was actually part of an established culture of deliberately bad newspaper poetry and became a major comic poet through it.

It sounds like a fascinating read, and can be bought from Amazon by clicking the following link:

Poets of the People’s Journal: Newspaper Poetry in Victorian Scotland

McGonagall the Musical

Filed under: Events,Media; in the year 2017, on the 13th day of January at 12:16 pm

The inhabitants of Port Townsend in Washington have a theatrical treat in store over the next couple of weeks: The Disaster in Verse is a musical about the great man written, produced and directed by evidently multi-talented high school senior Ian Coates. You read more about the play and its author in this story from the PT Leader.

McGonagall himself felt that his work was too deep for music. Let’s hope Mr Coates is able to prove him wrong!

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