Dramatic Recital by McGonagall

A Rival in the Field

Horseplay by the Rowdies

As our readers may remember, the great Dundee poet was lately made an associate of the Dundee, Lochee, and East of Scotland Poetical and Dramatical Society at a meeting of the members in their private chambers. The entertainments with which he had favoured the Society had been so successful that it was arranged to bring the “poet” more prominently before the public under the wing of the Association. The hall in connection with the Imperial Hotel, Commercial Street, was accordingly secured. The entertainment came off last night, and the hall was well filled by the members and their friends. As a set-off to the genius of the “poet,” and by way of contrast, Sandy Paice, the poet-bellman of the Ferry, was invited to be present. McGonagall took the largest share of the programme, and opened the ball by reading a new poem specially composed for the entertainment, in defiance of “doctor’s orders.” The new effort of the poet’s genius is quite up to the mark, notwithstanding the ringing in his ears. The subject was the death of a pirate, and the reading was received with loud and appreciative cheers. The name of the terrible picate sounded something like “Black Beer.” As the poet read on, however, the sound became more distinct, and we discovered we had made a grand mistake. “Black Beard” was the name. Perhaps he was a cousin of the famous Blue Beard. At any rate, the poem informed the audience, the pirate had “terrified America more than any comet that ever appeared.” Sandy Paice was called on to give the poet a rest, and he sang an original song about a “cup of tea.” A drouthy auditor audibly remarked that he could tak’ a glass o’ whisky better. Sandy’s cup was well received, and he had to respond to an encore. The programme was going on swimmingly, when a gentleman at the back near the door started to sing a doggerel ditty all about a misadventure that befell McGonagall “that day he landed in New York.” The ditty told how McGonagall fell into a tub of lime, and burnt his nose. The audience laughed, and seemed to relish the joke, but the “poet” could not see the fun. In the middle of the song he sprang to his feet, and in a loud, stern voice denounced the vocalist as an enemy. It was not true, and the author of the song ought to be ejected. A storm of indignation arose amongst the audience, and the ribald ballad-monger made a dash for the door in time to escape being lynched on the spot. This unfortunate interlude ruffled the poet’s feathers and damped his ardour. He threatened to resign from the Society, but was mollified, and came to the front with “The Battle of Tel-el-Teb,” which roused the patriotic fire in the breasts of his admirers. Sandy Paice was very obliging, and though he could only play second fiddle to McGonagall, he was ever ready to take the floor to give him a breath. One peculiar feature of the meeting was the number of telegrams that were continually arriving. The first that was read was from Wilson Barrett. Then came one from Dion Boucicault, who regretted that distance prevented him from being present. This was too much for the poet’s credibility. “That man’s dead,” he cried; “it’s an undeniable fact.” The Chairman came to the rescue, and assured McGonagall that he had made a mistake in the name. As the evening went on the audience began to show themselves rather too lively. Peas came rattling over the floor, but the poet went on to the end of the programme, reciting Tel-el-Kebir, Bannockburn, and reciting the well-known comic song, “The Rattling Boy from Dublin Town.” But the poet had got disgusted at the business, and at the close he loudly announced that he would never give another entertainment in Dundee. The Philistines had been set upon him, he believed, and he was not far wrong. The greater portion of the audience dispersed, bat a knot of too ardent admirers remained behind. They made an effort to carry the poet shoulder high, but he had no ambition for the honour. On the stair an attempt was made to seize him, but he struck out with his stick. The roughs got desperate, and in the scuffle the poet was dragged down the stair in a rough and reckless fashion. He rushed to the street, complaining that he had been thrown downstairs and his head bumped against the steps. A crowd gathered on the High Street, some shouting “It’s McGonagall.” A sergeant of police made his appearance, and under his escort the poet was conveyed to the Nethergate and sent home on the car.

Dundee Courier, 2nd April 1892

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