McGonagall at the Circus

A Terrific Scene

The “Poet of the Tay Bridge, Tel-el-Kebir,” &c., otherwise the great McGonagall, appeared to fulfil a special engagement in Transfield’s Circus last night. It was a red letter night with that popular place of amusement, the occasion being the benefit of Mr Harry Hemfrey, tha ringmaster. A large number of specialties were introduced to add variety to the entertainment, a stilt walking match, and a boxing match, but the one great event was the announcement that the “Poet ” would appear in the ring and recite “The Battle of Bannockburn.” The house was crowded from floor to ceiling, boxes, pit, and gallery being packed with an eager and expectant audience. The usual menage performance were well received, but now and again an impatient call could be heard from the upper regions of the gallery for “McGonagall.” The treat of the evening was kept till the last. It was nearly ten o’clock when the manager made his bow and intimated that he had now the pleasure of introducing Mr McGonagall, and hoped they would give Scotland’s “poet” a hearty reception. Amidst yells, shouting, and whistling, the hero of the hour, arrayed in the “garb of Old Gaul” — Glengarry bonnet, cockade, and claymore — marched with a firm and majestic step within the magic circle. The carpet had been previously removed — a wise precaution, as will presently be seen. The band struck up, “See the Conquering Hero Comes,” but the poet had not trod above ten paces over the tan bark when the enemy aloft rained a withering fire of potatoes, apples, and rotten eggs about his ears. The “poet” drew himself up to his full height, and raised his hands deprecatingly and menacingly, and attempted to speak, but the yelling, whistling, and stamping completely drowned his voice. For a second he stood his ground while the missiles ploughed the dust, sending up showers of dust all around. The dress-coated gentlemen fled, and McGonagall followed their example, and disappeared. The din increased tenfold. The manager appealed to the audience that they were not treating the “poet” fairly. He was an old man. “It’s a warm reception,” came from the reserved seats. “Bring him back, bring him back,” shouted the “gods,” and McGonagall once more marched into the ring. His re-appearance was the signal for a renewed burst of derisive cheers, and a fresh shower of favours were delivered at his head, amongst others a huge bouquet in the shape of a cabbage, as a vegetable offering to the genius of Dundee. A second time the “poet” beat a hasty retreat, and again a yell of rage assailed the manager. A third time McGonagall made his appearance, and this time he made an attempt to begin business, hut he had only uttered the words, “The English army thirty thousand strong,” when a third storm burst around his devoted head, and one sharpshooter with a truer hand than the rest hit the “poet” on the nose. This was the crowning indignity — “the last straw” — and McGonagall bolted in hot haste, and firmly declared that he would not go back again. The audience would not be appeased, but McGonagall was obdurate, and the “gods,” after shouting themselves hoarse, subsided into their normal quietude. In the course of an interview with the “poet” after the affair was over, he confidentially informed our representative that he was aware that his unfavourable reception was brought about by a plot amongst the publicans. “I do not know what they were throwing at me,” he said, “but I saw one egg at least, and there were more in reserve. Dundee has disgraced itself after it has been made a city, but I know the cause. A gentleman told me about it before I came here.” Poor McGonagall! Like many a better man, he will not get much honour in his own country, or anywhere else, we much fear.

Dundee Courier, 22nd December 1888

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