Hoaxing the Public

SIR,— Did you ever hear of the person who, in order to ‘raise the wind,’ devised the plan of hoaxing the public by announcing the holding of a great theatrical entertainment entitled ‘Letting the Cat Out of the Bag,’ and who, in presence of a crowded and excited house, literally fulfilled his announcement by letting a live cat out of an old coal sack, and then apologised, and explained that poverty had compelled him to resort to this means of obtaining money. If you have not heard the story it is of no consequence, as we have a somewhat practical illustration at our own door. On Saturday night, tempted by an announcement that a ‘McGonagall, a Dundee poet,’ had ‘completed his arrangements,’ and, assisted by several artistes, ‘a comic reciter, and favourite reciter, and a dramatic reader,’ would appear in Prince Street Hall, Peterhead, otherwise announced as a ‘Popular Entertainment by Popular People.’ I paid my sixpence and took my seat at this entertainment,’ and, along, with several others, was there and then made the object of as bare faced a hoax as could be imagined. A narration of what took place is necessary in support of this assertion. One of the performers was a young man who appeared at different times on the stage, and never had the respect to take off his hat, singing a number of doggerel ditties, which, at the conclusion of each verse, was greeted with satirical applause from a few of the ‘gods,’ which he evidently construed as being awarded in appreciation of his own abilities. The leading character in the ‘entertainment’ who was attired in Highland costume, the most ridiculous figure on a platform I have ever seen. In reciting a prosaic description of the preliminary arrangements made by Robert Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in digging pits for the English to fall into this ‘poetic’ individual worked himself into a wild state of excitement screaming at the pitch of his voice without the least necessity for it and in describing the onslaught of the Scotch on the English when the latter fell into the pits he drew a sword he carried at his side and rushed from one end of the stage to the other for about the space of five minutes slashing right and left, and (in imagination) killing the English by hundreds. The sight was so ridiculous that the audience were convulsed with laughter and began to see that they were being ‘sold.’ After this exhibition this same excitable being appeared in his colours as a ‘poet’ and commenced one of his own effusions— which was of a most mediocre stamp—concerning Burns’ statue in Dundee which so disgusted the audience that the usual manifestations of disapproval, such as whistling, shouting, and ‘ruffing,’ were freely indulged in. The ‘poet’ still persisted in his efforts, however, and ultimately the audience were so provoked that they rose en masse and by shouting and other noises completely drowned the words of the ‘popular’ entertainer, who notwithstanding nothing daunted still continued to declaim to the best of Ins ability appearing to be supremely unconscious of the great interruption. This continued for some time till he finally dived off the platform in a stagy-tragic manner flourishing his sword in mid-air.

This was a sample of the ‘popular entertainment.’ I do not doubt that some of the performers made an effort to please and do their best but I would recommend that they should undergo training in some back closet where no one will see them for a year or more, while the gentleman I have principally referred to would do well to take the advice given him by one of the audience to ‘gae awa’ to Dundee or ‘rin awa’ to the Lunatic.’ I hope you will give publicity to this and that it will have the effect of preventing a recurrence of such a hoax, while at the same time it gives vent to the strong feelings of a


Buchan Observer and East Aberdeenshire Advertiser, 24th December 1880

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