McGonagall at Arbroath

In the Trades Hall, Arbroath, the Poet made his appearance on Saturday evening. Mr Scott of Dundee, conductor of a star company of vocalists, &c. secured the Trades’ Hall Theatre for that night, issued bills on which the name of this popular author appeared, the result being a full house. The other members of the company, including Mr Boyack, a comic singer, were fully up to the mark in their varied departments, but it was evident that the “Poet” was an attraction as repeated calls were made for him previous to his appearance. At length the time came, and also the man McGonagall, clad in the “garb of Old Gaul,” with a claymore at his side, and something else in his hand, stepped to the footlights, and after gracefully acknowledging the applause with which he was greeted, burst out with that sublime and patriotic composition “The Battle of Bannockburn“, with which his name has been so much associated. Whether it arose from the heartiness of his reception or from an impression that the building was much larger than it really was we cannot tell, but some fine passages were inaudible from the vehemence with which they were delivered. In his ardour he seemed to be under the impression that the “Proud Usurper,” with his bows and spears, was about to cross the Brothock, forgetting that they were all buried a long time ago. Having got well through with his thrilling narrative he threw away the something he had held in his hand, and drew his claymore with which he commenced a vigorous onslaught on the foe. While doing so he ceased speaking for a few minutes, during which he walked majestically from side to side of the stage, making ferocious sweeps with his claymore, each of which was intended to do for a southern. From a minute observation and tally kept we are assured that had Edward’s forces been there, 128 of the flower his army would have “bit the dust.” At first the fiddlers made their escape from the front or got down under their seats, and the little boys who were clustering behind the orchestra also retired to a safe distance. When the onslaught was over and the battle won, Edward being now at Dunbar, the “Poet” resumed his narrative, much of which however was lost amid cries of “Tay Bridge,” and so on. On the whole McGonagall had a warm though somewhat boisterous reception. His “Rattling Boy” was a success, the whole gallery joining in the elegant and expressive chorus.

From a Dundee newspaper, 12th February 1881

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