City Gossip

This is how a Glasgow scribe writes of our City Poet:- “McGonagall, the Juteopolitan rhyme jerker, says he intends to shake its dust off his shoes because it doesn’t appreciate him. He ought to think over it. Seeing 1893 rhymes with Dundee, he has material for a twelvemonth’s new effort quite handy.”

Weekly News, 7th January 1893

There is still a hope of saving the honour of the city. Since it was announced in these columns that the poet of the “silvery Tay” was to leave the scene of his former triumphs many have sought to dissuade him from his purpose, especially in view of his application for the vacant office of Poet Laureate. And the poet is willing to come to terms. He has no desire to leave the home of his youth and the friends of his maturer years just as his genius is about to be recognised. But unless the Magistrates can secure him from the attacks of the erring youth of the city he shall be forced to go.

The poet has been assaulted on the streets even by an old offender whose “dimensions,” he says, “are well known to the police.” He explained that he did not wish to be accompanied by two policemen; that would be inconvenient. What the Magistrates should do, he thought, was to cause bills to be posted through the city, offering a reward of £1 to anyone giving information of his being interfered with. This, he argued, would be an excellent means for the Magistrates to show their respect for him, and would put an end to his thoughts of leaving the familiar scenes once for all.”

“There is one thing in particular that they cry which I do not like,” said the Poet to me, “and; mind you, there are married men who cry it as well as boys.” Curious to know what species of contumely was so specially irritating to McGonagall, but not venturing to interrupt the flow of his eloquence, I listened sympathetically. “You know what it is? – ‘Get your hair cut.’ My, I don’t like that. But I gave one fellow a sharp reply today — it is not often that I take notice of such remarks — but I said to him – ‘Yes; then I would be more like Jack Sheppard.'”

Thereupon the Poet began to discourse most learnedly on the subject of haircutting — truly he is a versatile genius – and he told me that in ancient times only thieves wore their hair cut short. From which I would imply that Dundee is infested with a most dishonest community. For myself, fresh from the hands of a tonsorial artist, I own I did not feel quite comfortable, for it seemed something like a home-thrust.

Some of our great poets have not disdained to make the hair the subject of their muse. Did not Pope incidentally notice haircutting in the “Rape of the Lock?” and Peter Pinder even wrote an epic to the glory of “a little creeping thing” that loveth to dwell in the hair. Perhaps, then, we may see a vigorous poem by Poet McGonagall embodying those lofty expressions on haircutting to which he was pleased to treat me. I think it would sell, unless the barbers applied the boycott.

Weekly News, 14th January 1893

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