For the quarter-century following the arrival of the “gift of poetry”, William McGonagall was probably the world’s best documented unemployed hand loom weaver. His exploits were a regular feature in the local newspapers, giving a vivid picture of his career as a would-be poet.
But before 1877, his life is shrouded in a darkness pierced only by the odd official document, a couple of press mentions, and McGonagall’s own unreliable autobiographies. So anything that casts light on any part of the “McGonagall Dark Ages” is to be welcomed – and I’m glad to be able to light a couple of candles to that affect today.
Professor Kirstie Blair of Stirling University is a well-known scholar in the field of Victorian poetry with particular interests in working-class poets. She’s currently engaged in research for a project on Victorian Scottish poets,particularly the poetry columns in the newspapers. That means poring through mountains of old newspapers – 20 years worth of the People’s Journal, for example – in the course of which she has uncovered a couple of hitherto undiscovered mentions (one possible, one definite) of our favourite bard. As a result, she’s kindly contributed two articles to the site:
My thanks go to Kirstie for taking the time and trouble to share her discoveries like this.