An Extraordinary Poet

While thus talking of the contemporary whaling port of Peterhead, we are naturally brought to speak of another great man it contains, who has been recently brought before its public in his return from across the “herring pond.”— we refer to McGonagall “the poet of the silvery Tay.” This individual is not unknown in the north as we have a vivid recollection of a histrionic (sic!) performance he once gave in Prince Street Hall, Peterhead, some eight years ago. McGonagall relates his experiences in America with characteristic modesty and good taste. The New Yorkers did not appreciate his genius which he attributed to their selfishness and fear. He tried several managers of theatres to give him an opportunity to display his dramatic talents—among them Mr Dion Boucicault—but he says they dared to laugh at him. Like many other great geniuses had he not got help from friends he would have starved. He wrote a diary of his voyage home in the Circaasia in rhyme which is enough to make all living poets, from the local author of “My heart’s at Downiehills, &c.” up to Tennyson, green with envy, not to speak of causing Shakespeare or Burns to turn in their graves! Space prevents extensive quotation, but a few chaste extracts must be given:—

1 o’clock—l have partaken of a good dinner of soup, potatoes, and beef.

And the god of day still shines bright
And the Circassia’s sails are all set,
Which is a most beautiful sight.

Tis now 6 o’clock—Supper over. Weather still very fine, the sun shining bright above and the blue Atlantic Ocean below, while swiftly the vessel onward does go. Tis now 8 o’clock, and all is well, which I am happy for to tell l am now going to bed.

And may good Angels hover o’er my head, and watch me all night,
And may God permit me to see again the morning’s light.

Monday morning, May the 2d—We breakfast at 8 o’clock, coffee, bread and butter.

And the wind still blows fair
And the Circassia sails o’er the mighty deep like a bird of the air
I hope God will speed her on her way
To the beautiful City of Glasgow without delay
For I am longing to see the banks of the Tay.

Tis now 6 o’clock and tea is over.

And I will be going to my bed shortly to try and sleep
On the broad Atlantic, about five miles deep;
Oh! what a depth and expanse of water is there,
And how wonderful is the works of the Almighty, I do declare

P.S.— ’Twas very rough during the night,
And the Circassia was tossed to and fro
And many of the passengers were sick,
And their hearts full of woe.

After this who says there is no successor to the prospective vacancy in the Laureate’s chair?



Buchan Observer and East Aberdeenshire Advertiser, 27th May 1887

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