On Tuesday, at the Dundee Sheriff Small Debt Court, William McGonagall, who styles himself “Poet to Her Majesty” was sued by David Stewart, grocer, for £6 3s. 6d. as an account for goods supplied to the poet’s family during the last six or eight months. From the state of the pass-book it appeared that the poet had been gradually falling into arrears with his grocer, till the balance had accumulated to upwards of £6. When the case was called Mr. McGonagall appeared in the witness-box, and Mr. Paul bade him state his circumstances to his lordship. —Mr. McGonagall cleared his throat, and with a tragic air thus addressed the Sheriff:- “Well, sir, I am a handloom weaver, and the charge against me here is debt, and poverty is the cause of my being unable to pay. I am willing to pay if I am allowed time to do so.” —The Sheriff: Why have you been getting all these goods since the New Year and not paying for them? —The Poet: The cause is scarcity of work, my lord. —Mr. Paul: I believe, my lord, he has given more of his time to other things — poetry and the drama – than to weaving (Laughter). I believe that has something to do with his difficulties. —The Poet: I have no wages. Some weeks I might earn 7s. or 10s., or 15s., but it is not very regular. —Mr Paul: How much can you give a week? —The Poet: In my present circumstances I could not give more than 1s per week. —The Sheriff: That would take 120 weeks to payoff the debt. (Laughter). You will have to pay 3s. per week.
Leeds Times, 8th June 1878