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:

A McGONAGALL SUPPER

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.

A Tribute to William Topaz McGonagall

Filed under: Readers’ Gems; in the year 2015, on the 27th day of October at 7:39 pm

Reader Ian Colville sends in this gem which, he tells me, he has “recited at several open mic events and suchlike, including at an alternative to Burns’ Night”. I hope he got a better reception from his audience than William did! As you’ll see, it’s both a tribute and a biography…

A Tribute to William Topaz McGonagall

All hail to William T. McGonagall,
Who shall be remember’d as a poet, above all.
Alas! we should be very sorry to say
That his life was taken when he passed away
On the last but one day of September, 1902,
Poor and forlorn, with a hole in his shoe.

He will be recalled for a very long time
In the land of his birth where poets can still shine,
A man of genius, whose raw poetry
Contained verses and rhymes so silvery.
Two hundred poems from the Jewel of Dundee,
That marvellous man, steeped in gallantry.

A weaver by trade our man of the loom,
He turned to the stage, where his talent he’d groom
When he paid for to play the role of Macbeth
And his strong manly style was a lisping success,
And Grocer’s Hall, down in old Castle Street,
Saw his Richard the Third give Dundee a treat.

He worked as a poet and performing artiste,
Never straying too far from the coast on the east,
Except for a jaunt to visit the Queen,
Whom sadly he never got to have seen,
And a trip to the south, and a ship to New York
In the eighteen eighties, to try and find work.

’Twas on a fine day back in beautiful Dundee
Our Topaz received the spirit of poetry,
As he wrote of his muse in old Paton’s Lane,
When all of a sudden his body was aflame,
A voice in his ears crying, “Write, Topaz, write!”
And he penned an Address to a Reverend’s delight.

In eighteen hundred and seventy-eight,
He got up a volume of verse that was great.
Those ‘Gems’ in its pages would fill your heart with delight
While seated round the fireside on a cold winter’s night.
He wrote about Burns and the Silv’ry Tay,
And the loss of men’s lives on the last Sabbath day.

He found lucrative work in the town’s circus troupe,
You’d think that a sign of how low he would stoop,
Reciting his poems whilst the raucous crowd threw
Stale bread at the stage, and raw eggs and flour, too,
But imagine his horror at the banning decree,
He made so much a night; nigh on a Pound, nearly!

Though born in Auld Reekie, he’s a son of Dundee
Where citizens formed an Appreciation Society
To the cult of McGonagall; to the man and the myth,
To Scotland’s worst poet, its awesome wordsmith
Who died as a pauper, it’s said with such sorrow,
And rests with no headstone, in Greyfriars, Edinburgh.

Though he claimed at the time to have “heretical detractors”
I’m sure you’ll agree, there are mitigating factors.
The most popular ‘worst poet’ who’s so bad he’s good,
Has given so much enjoyment from poetry so crude.
So please, one and all, raise a glass and let’s call
For a toast in remembrance of dear McGonagall!

Another Kind of Bad Poetry

Filed under: Web Links; in the year 2015, on the 3rd day of May at 6:12 pm

An interesting article on the BBC News website on Friday profiled Jessie Pope, a poet today’s schoolchildren (apparently) love to hate.

Ms Pope’s verse is not quite in the McGonagall class – it’s quite competent in fact – but the sentiments she expresses aren’t quite what we’ve come to feel about the first world war:

Who knows it won’t be a picnic – not much-
Yet eagerly shoulders a gun?
Who would much rather come back with a crutch
Than lie low and be out of the fun?

The above being typical of the jingoistic verses she published in the Daily Mail and in three wartime anthologies between 1916 and 1917. Poor Jessie suffers rather by comparison with the likes of  Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, the latter being inspired to pen Dulce et Decorum Est in response to her work.

One shudders to think what a certain poet and tragedian would have made of the Great War had he lived to see it.

A McGonagall Christmas Card

Filed under: Readers’ Gems; in the year 2014, on the 24th day of December at 11:15 am

Reader Eric Sangwine sends in a Christmas card design that he’s used amongst family and friends. Inspired by a certain seasonal work of genius, it should help you get into the festive spirit:

You can see a couple more of Eric’s wonderful illustrations (though not McGoangall-related) here.

My I take this opportunity to wish everybody a wonderful Christmas and a disaster-free new year!

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