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

Lights! Camera! McGonagall!

Filed under: News; in the year 2014, on the 26th day of February at 12:40 am

It’s been over a year since I mentioned the plan to make a McGonagall movie. Well, not only has the project not been forgotten, but I’m going to be in it!

This weekend, Erin and Scott – the creative team behind the venture – made the long drive down from Scotland to McGonagall Online’s headquarters in Leicester to record an interview with yours truly.

The end result will form part of a short film used to pitch the idea of making a full-length documentary to the likes of BBC Scotland. If that doesn’t come off, they’ll look for funding to make the film themselves. You can see some of Scott’s previous films via his website.

We had a great time talking about the Poet & Tragedian, and I look forward to further involvement with the project. I’ll be sure to keep readers of this site up-to-date with any developments. You can also keep an eye on their Facebook page.

Tay Bridge Disaster Remembered

Filed under: News; in the year 2013, on the 29th day of December at 10:32 am

Here’s a good story for the last Sabbath day of 2013 – BBC News reports that yesterday two granite memorials were unveiled to remember the victims of the Tay bridge disaster. The memorials stand close to the bridge on either side of the river, and are inscribed with the names of the 59 people known to have been killed.

Whatever the comic overtones of McGonagall’s poem, it’s important to remember the terrible tragedy that occurred to those people, their friends and relatives. I’m glad something has been done to preserve their memory – probably for a very long tine…

William McGonagall Rapping Masterclass

Filed under: Media,Music,News; in the year 2013, on the 17th day of December at 7:50 pm

At a time of year when we’re generally occupied with wrapping of a different sort, reader Tom Taylor writes with a little history and some exciting news:

What ho! fellow McGonagall fans of high and low degree

On the 3rd of April 1997, a number of journals including The Times and the Scottish Herald picked up a story from Associated Press that claimed “dim-witted” American rappers on the Santaphobia label had a huge hit rapping William McGonagall poems. While there is a grain of truth here, the piece had nevertheless been heavily salted with lazy journalism and urban myth. I can now reveal the naked truth as one of the dim wits who dared to tread on the memory of McGonagall.

The story starts in 1993 at the birth of the All New Lucky Boys, a musical collective that a few friends and I started in Huddersfield (the heart of hand loom weaving in England), bringing together members of several ‘bedroom’ or ‘doss’ bands. During one of the early recording sessions, we were at a loss for lyrical inspiration until salvation presented itself in the form of a semi-randomly chosen book; The Folio Society’s Poetic Gems. In William McGonagall we instantly recognised a fellow ‘unwitting’ genius and rapidly recorded The Tay Bridge Disaster and Oban. Completely untutored in the arts of rap and hip hop, it was a mistake to think that they would be anything other than a dog’s breakfast, but we lived in a throwaway culture and this was reflected in our DIY, ‘do it and ditch it’ ethos.

The notoriety of what became known as The William McGonagall Rapping Masterclass was thanks to the blossoming internet career of one of our number. He created a personal website which told of our bedroom recording projects and the Santaphobia “label” under which we made them available, and offered Rapping Masterclass free to anyone willing to send a blank tape and a return envelope. No one ever did that, but in 1997 the website was used as the basis of the mangled story that Associated Press put on the wires. The Times picked it up and additionally contacted an English professor at Chicago North Park University for comment. Other journalists contacted The WTMcG Appreciation Society who also seemed nonplussed but rather pleased and so the mythmaking continued. What is plain through all of this is that no one, not the AP, the various journalists or academics had ever heard any of the All New Lucky Boys music.

It has always been in the back of my mind to do more McGonagall raps and after 20 years, I’ve found the bottle to try it all again. Radio Bingo vs Mile High Henry presents their new collection “McGonagall: Poeticrap” free to anyone willing to send a return envelope. Poems include Sunlight Soap, A Tale of the Sea, The Famous Tay Whale, Saved by Music and others. Listen and discover the truth for yourselves.

Tom tells me he’s also setting up a more 21st century approach to sharing the fruits of his labours than sending cassette tapes through the mail. When I have more information, I’ll be sure to pass it on.

Topaz – McGonagall on Radio 4

Filed under: Media,News; in the year 2013, on the 30th day of October at 12:25 am

A radio play based on an episode of the poet’s life was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday. Written by Lucy Gannon, and starring Dundee-born actor and film star Brian Cox as the great man, Topaz was a dramatic recreation of the famous trip to Balmoral.

The play is pretty free in mixing up elements of McGonagall’s life, and in inventing entirely new ones, in order to make a more engaging story. Most notably, in this version of events, he actually gets to meet Queen Victoria at the end of his journey! I suppose McGonagall purists (if such people exist) might take umbrage at this, but as evidence suggests that William wasn’t above embellishing his life story for dramatic effect, we can hardly chide Ms Gannon for doing the same.

If you’re quick, you can still listen to the play on the BBC iPlayer – it’s available until Saturday 2nd November. You can also read a review of it in The Stage.

Obey McGonagall

Filed under: Events,News; in the year 2013, on the 8th day of August at 7:58 pm

Now playing at the Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh is a one-man show by American comedian Harmon Leon celebrating the career of our favourite bad bard.

Obey McGonagall is on every night between now and 24th August starting at 8:50pm. It’s part of the Free Fringe, which means tickets are free – but you’re invited to make a donation after the show. If you’re lucky enough to be in Edinburgh this month, I hope you’ll give this show your support.

Animated McGonagall

Filed under: News; in the year 2013, on the 25th day of June at 12:00 am

While we wait for the McGonagall Movie, reader “Eugene Cheese” has been working on an animated version of the great man. I don’t think Pixar will be quaking in their boots just yet, but feast your eyes on the pixelated poet narrating the opening passage to his autobiography:

Lieder Article

Filed under: Media,News; in the year 2013, on the 24th day of June at 11:53 am

A recording of Robert Zuidam’s McGonagall-Lieder, mentioned on this site a couple of months ago, has received a short review in The Independent. The reviewer is impressed with

the success of his setting of McGonagall’s two signature works, without stooping to ridicule beyond a subtly bathetic momentum of marimba […] The coloratura soprano Katrien Baerts conveys the hysterical jubilation with which the poet first acclaims the new Tay Bridge, then laments its collapse

You can read the full review here.

STOP PRESS: A rather longer review has appeared in The Guardian.

Exhibition Marks 200th Anniversary of McGonagall Disaster

Filed under: News; in the year 2013, on the 12th day of April at 12:01 pm

’Twas on the 1st of April, and in the year of Eighteen thirteen,
That the whaler “Oscar” was wrecked not far from Aberdeen;
’Twas all on a sudden the wind arose, and a terrific blast it blew,
And the “Oscar” was lost, and forty-two of a gallant crew.

So begins The Wreck of the Whaler Oscar, a typical McGonagall gem commemorating this maritime disaster. Now, Aberdeen Maritime Museum has opened a new exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the event .

The whaling industry was no stranger to casualties at sea, but this particular wreck happened so close inshore as to be visible to many of the unfortunate sailors’ friends and relatives. It had a huge impact locally and led to the construction of a local lighthouse.  And to a rotten poem, of course.

Manuscript For Sale

Filed under: Media,News; in the year 2013, on the 18th day of February at 7:07 pm

Time for all true McGonagall fans to raid their piggy banks – The Guardian reports that an unpublished McGonagall manuscript is coming up for sale.

The poem, Lines in Praise of the Royal Marriage, was written in 1893 to mark the wedding of the Duke of York (later George V) and Princess May of Teck. Though short, it displays many of the great man’s distinguishing touches.

The manuscript comes up for sale at Bonhams on 8th May, where it is expected to fetch £3000 – so start saving those pennies!

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