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:


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


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!

McGonagall Supper in Angus

Filed under: Events; in the year 2016, on the 21st day of September at 11:04 am

Liz Gordon writes with news of an upcoming social event in the village of Eassie, about ten miles North of Dundee:


There will be a McGONAGALL SUPPER at Eassie Hall (on the Glamis to Newtyle Road at Balkeerie, Angus DD8 1SQ) on Saturday 15 October at 7.30 for 7.00pm. (No, not a mis-print in the start time but just part of the topsy turvy nature of this fun event which includes a reverse-order three course meal to fulfil and fill full!)  All very welcome!

Most folk around here will have heard of William McGonagall – and may groan at what many consider his truly awful poetry – but this event aims to put the best possible spin on a man who could be regarded as the best-known Dundonian (although unfortunately not for the best reasons).

Our guest speakers include two Dundee authors, Eddie Small and Norman Watson, both of whom have wide knowledge of William McGonagall.  There will of course be some memorable poetry (performed by those who can!).  Other entertainment on the night includes a ‘best dressed Bunnet competition’ – so, bring or wear a mad hat if you will!

Tickets for this event cost £15.00 and are for sale at Newtyle Post Office and The Pot and Pantry, Meigle.  For more information about the event and enquiries about tickets, please phone Jane on 01307 840313 or Liz on 01828 640027.

Norman Watson, one of the guest speakers, is the author of Poet McGonagall: The Biography of William McGonagall and a fund of information about our favourite doyen of doggerel. Here’s hoping the evening goes well!

McGonagall Interviewed by Oscar Wilde!

Filed under: Events; in the year 2016, on the 28th day of July at 1:09 pm

The latest theatrical production by Victorian funsters Don’t Go Into the Cellar is a chat show hosted by Oscar Wilde. The Graham Norton of his day talks to such celebrities as Lily Langtry, the Prince of Wales and… William McGonagall!

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Johnathan Goodwin, the show’s writer and star, says:

McGonagall has stayed in print ever since he was first published. He took himself very seriously, but his work was comical. He was addicted to rhyme, and his lines went to extraordinary lengths just so he could fit in the rhyme. He was, of course, oblivious to the joke.

He was a handloom weaver in the Highlands until he was 55, when he decided to be a poet. His wife would have been horrified; they had seven children!

These characters are chosen for their comedy potential – the eccentrics are who I like. William McGonagall: you couldn’t make him up. They are all Victorian celebs – even back in the 1890s there were people famous for being famous

There are currently three upcoming performances, in Buxton on August 4th, Sudbury on August 7th and Leyburn on September 17th. You can also read a review of the show from a performance last year.

Older Posts »