Grand Entertainment by Mr McGonagall

Entertainment by Poet McGonagall

Last night McGonagall, “Poet to Her Majesty,” gave entertainment in the Cutlers’ Hall, Murraygate. The hall was crowded, and Joseph Kidd occupied the chair. The programme was a very varied one, the pieces ranging from a new Irish song entitled “The Rattling Boy from Dublin Town” to Hamlet’s soliloquy, the audience at intervals during the recitation of the latter considerately tacking on the “Whack-fol-the-dare!” chorus of the former in order to give the gifted bard leisure for breath. Shakespeare was certainly at a discount, McGonagall’s own poems being by far the most popular. The recitation “The Beautiful Bridge of the Silvery Tay” created a furore of applause. On an encore McGonagall sang it, but declined to “dance it” in response to the wishes of the audience. The audience at times were a little too demonstrative, and displayed a tendency to reject McGonagall’s music in chorus-singing in favour of ”Ky-yi-yi-yi-yaw”  and “Rule Britannia,” but Mr McGonagall accepted these playful eccentricities in the most amiable spirit, and acknowledged his obligations in a couplet “made the spot” — “Gentlemen, there’s no animosity; I thank you for your generosity.” Great enthusiasm was aroused by one of the audience reading a “Poetical Tribute to McGonagall,” in which the heathen mythology were requested to take the poet under their protection, and to “crown him with camomile leaves.” The audience dispersed after overturning a chair or two in their eagerness to shake hands with the poet.

Evening Telegraph, 5th July 1879

Enthusiastic Reception for the “Poet”

As advertised in our columns, the renowned Poet McGonagall gave a select entertainment, consisting of readings and songs from his own works, and recitations of favourite passages from the British poets, in the Cutlers’ Hall, Murraygate, on Friday. Eight o’clock was the hour fixed for the entertainment to begin, but the doors were open an hour before, when the Poet attended in person to welcome his patrons and take the coppers. By eight o’clock the hall was rather more than half full, and the audience were beginning to show impatience for the proceedings to begin. But as more visitors were crowding up the stair, the Poet politely appeared in the doorway and requested the audience to grant him their forbearance for a short time, as “the cry was still they come.” The hall then rapidly filled, and a bumper house was obtained. Mr McGonagall appeared on the platform alone, and requested a gentleman in the audience to take the chair, but as the gentleman declined the honour, he appealed to the audience to propose some individual for the office. Various names were then proposed, among others Provost Brownlee and Councillor Blair, but as neither of these distinguished personages had put in an appearance, they could not comply with the request. At last, after a good deal of shouting and laughter, a young man named Mr Joseph Kyd, on the motion of the Poet, agreed to preside, and took his place on the platform amidst thunders of applause. A cry was raised by some of the “gods” on the back benches for the Chairman to give an opening address, but as the Chairman did not appear to have come prepared with a speech, the audience had to forego that part of the entertainment. Mr McGonagall then produced from his coat pocket a written programme, which he handed to the Chairman, who, amidst shouts of derisive laughter, announced that Mr McGonagall would sing “ The Rattling Boy from Dublin Town,” composed by himself. Mr McGonagall cleared his throat, and intimated that the song had been written by himself, and had been originally published in the Weekly News, and he would sing it to a tune adapted by himself. “The Rattling Boy” provoked roars laughter, and the audience joined lustily in the chorus of “Whack, fal de lal, lal, lal,” &c., so loud and heartily that the Poet’s voice was completely drowned. At the second stanza a voice called out lustily for an encore, while another chimed in “What about the smiddy?” The song was got through somehow, when loud calls for encore were politely replied to by the performer that the programme was so long that he could not comply. But as “one man in his time played many parts,” he would next recite Hamlet’s soliloquy on “Death.” This was rapidly followed by “Lord Ullin’s Daughter.” Both pieces were effectively recited. A very unruly and uproarious set of fellows in the back of the hall, who evidently failed to appreciate the beauties of the sentiment, kept up a running fire of comments on the pieces, and by their clamour at times drowned the performer’s voice, when engaged with the most thrilling passages. Some gentleman was very desirous to learn who had the honour of being the Poet’s tailor, and repeated the question with great pertinacity throughout the whole proceedings. Another anxious inquirer lustily called for a full and particular account of the “Holiday tour;” while another proposed that the Poet should get a bottle of tippeny. Mr McGonagall, however, treated all these untimely proposals with silent contempt, and with the gravity of a philosopher proceeded with the entertainment. But the most popular part of the entertainment was the reading of the author’s own pieces, which were received with uproarious applause and laughter. “The Death of the Old Mendicant,” which began with “There was an old gentleman who lived on a moor,” a fact which one of the audience denounced with “that’s a lee.” This was a very pathetic piece, and the Poet seemed to pour his whole soul into the reading of it, and when he came to the passage where the old mendicant died on the snow, and was afterwards buried by the old gentleman in a very respectable way, the audience broke forth with dismal howls and lamentations. “Beautiful Balmoral and Castle so beautiful to see down by the River Dee,” met with a storm of applause. The entertainment was varied with another song, ” Follow the Drum,” in which the audience chorused and beat time on the partition most vigorously. At this point a young man appeared on the platform and said that he had been deputed by some of Mr McGonagall’s warmest admirers to read a poem which had been written in his praise. Amidst great laughter the gentleman then gravely read the following doggerel verses:—

The “Poet” McGonagall

O, all ye glorious nine appear,
And to McGonagall give ear;
Award to him your freshest bays
For his poetic Tay Bridge Lays.

Entwine his brows with camomile;
Smile on him, Muses , smile, O smile.

A “Poet” from the people sprang,
The Newport Railway well he sang;
And other themes in verse and prose,
Where richest melody o’erflows.

Entwine his brows with canomile;
Smile on him, Fortune, smile, O smile.

Let Fames loud trumpet lend its blast
To herald forth of poets last;
With Shakespeare, Campbell, hand him down,
Through ages hence, with high renown.

Entwine his brows with camomile;
Smile, O shade of Shakespeare, smile.

Dundee, lift up your head this day,
You’ve got a poet in your midst, I say;
A poet to Her Majesty the Queen,
Who lately passed along the Magdalen Green.

Anoint his locks with cetaceous “ile,”
Smile on him, Dundonians, smile, O smile.

— Casta Royle.

During the evening repeated calls had been made for the “Tay Bridge,” which by some oversight had been omitted from the programme. At last, yielding to the solicitations of the audience, the Poet brought forth from his wallet a folio MS., and in a melodramatic strain recited the famous piece, beginning— “Beautiful Railway Bridge of the silvery Tay.” The reading of this piece was received with tremendous cheering and waving of hats and repeated calls to give it over again. Some of the gentlemen in the reserved seats suggested that he should sing the piece, when, with the greatest suavity, the Poet said he would try to sing a verse or two. Then he began to rant over the lines to a tune something like “Johnny Cope” to the great amusement of the audience, who broke in with a wild chorus of “Yah, yah,” and at last drowned the Poet with “Rule Britannia,” The last piece was a song, “The Brown Haired Lassie,” which he sung to a tune peculiarly his own, and the audience supplemented with “When the Kye comes Hame.” A vote of thanks was forgotten to be passed to the Chairman at the close, as the audience were so eager to shake hands with the Poet. They crowded on the platform and almost tore the Poet to pieces in their enthusiasm. A number of ardent spirits also lingered in the court outside, determined to carry him shoulder high to his home. But the Poet in his modesty shut himself up in the hall, and the patience of his admirers becoming exhausted, they slowly dispersed, and each took his separate way, highly delighted with the evening’s entertainment.

Dundee Courier, 8th July 1879

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