Death of McGonagall

Dundee’s Illustrious “Poet”

A Chequered Career

McGonagall, the poet laureate of the Silvery Tay, has departed this life. The sad event took place yesterday at his residence, 5 South College Street, Edinburgh. The poet had passed the allotted span of three score years and ten; and, in fact, had nearly reached the four score years of human existence. For nearly thirty years his name has been prominently before the public, according to his own opinion, as a poet, and from his pen have flowed abundance of efforts of various merits on almost every subject under the heavens, but more particularly of the heroic deeds of the British navy and army.

His Early Days

William McGonagall was born in Edinburgh, of Irish parentage. In early life he came to Dundee, and learned the trade of a handloom weaver. For years he lived in a humble capacity in the west end of the city, plying industriously his occupation. He had a numerous family. In many respects he was an honest, earnest, and enthusiastic disciple of dramatic literature. He felt a strong inclination to appear on the stage, and many years ago he first appeared in Janes’ Theatre, in the Old Quarry, where he performed Macbeth to a large audience of fellow-townsmen who had gathered together to see him acquit himself. Nearly thirty years ago he sprung on the world as a poet and dramatic reader, and for a considerable time he amused the people of Dundee with his peculiar style of “poetry” and dramatic entertainment, which drew large audiences.

He Becomes a “Knight”

Latterly, becoming dissatisfied with the patronage he received from his fellow-citizens, he shook the dust of Dundee from his feet, and removed to Perth. There he was again disapointed, and after a short stay in the Fair City he removed to Edinburgh, where he met with a great reception. During his sojourn there he received the title of Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant of Burmah, which title he assumed to the end of his days. For a considerable time the citizens of Edinburgh seemed to take largely to the poet, and he was taken out to give dramatic recitals and entertainments, comprising selections of his own “works” and the works of Shakespeare and other writers. Latterly, however, he had fallen into bad health, and from frequent communications sent to an old friend in Dundee he was always mourning his weak condition. He was suffering from “Bronchitis, deafness, ‘noises in the head’, &c.” From time to time quotations from his poems appeared in the Weekly News with occasional ballads dealing with his worth as a poet. Only a fortnight ago his last poem, and possibly the last work of the great man appeared in the News, the subject being the Coronation. At that time he was evidently in very failing health, and, considering the hard struggle he has had, his life must have been a sad one.

Many in Dundee will regret to hear of the death of the “Grand Old Man”, whose figure has now been absent from our streets for the last six or seven years. It may be added that some time ago the autobiography of the poet, written by himself, appeared in the Weekly News.

Dundee Courier, 30th September 1902

Comments (1) »

  1. Dan E
    In the year 2015, on the 14th day of December at 12:47 pm

    I often wonder if the trouble his son John McGonagall had gotten himself into just days before William died had anything to do to hasten his death.
    If so it must have been a bitter disappointment for him and makes me doublely sad that he had to leave this world with that on his mind, William didn’t deserve to have this extra bad news at his end.
    William must have had a hard time keeping a family going in those very hard times before the unique way he found to express him self to the world.
    Where others might have mocked him in the past as some even do today I think I would have liked to know him, certainly not to laugh at.

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