McGonagall in the Thistle Hall

Rough Reception of “The Poet”

McGonagall, “the Poet,” is still alive, and struggling on in his endeavour to win fame and fortune. He has succeeded in gaining a wide notoriety, but the goal of his ambition financially is about as far distant as ever. A few “will o’-the-wisps” have lured him on lately, but just as he had got the glittering bauble in his grasp, they vanished like the baseless fabric of a dream, and left not a copper behind. A document was handed to him one night in a public meeting, which purported to be a command from Her Majesty to confer on him the honour of knighthood, accompanied with a bank cheque for £7. “Sir William McGonagall” sounds well, but, alas, the letter turned out to be a forgery and the cheque a sham. Close on the heels of that came another letter from a certain Jack Sheppard, who professed to be a great admirer of the Poet’s genius. Enclosed was a cheque on the City of Glasgow Bank for £20, to be applied for the purpose of erecting a wooden theatre wherein the Poet could display his histrionic talents. The cheque was signed Dick Turpin & Co. We need not inform the general public that both the firm of Turpin & Co., as well as the famous City Bank, have stopped payments long ago. Deceived and hoaxed by pretended friends, the Poet turned aside sick and heartsore. Still he had one bright star of hope to cheer him on. He and his son, who bids fair to fill his father’s shoes, had arranged to give a grand entertainment in the Thistle Hall on Saturday evening last. Great things were expected to come out of this affair. Blue, green, and yellow handbills, a la Music Hall, were widely circulated throughout the mills, factories and other public places announcing that McGonagall, vocalist, poet, and tragedian was to be supported by his son and a long list of local professionals, male and female. Saturday night came, and the hall having been duly hired and paid for, the doors were opened to the public at the advertised time. Instead of his fellow-townsmen rallying round him in their thousands as he confidently expected, the whole audience scarcely numbered one hundred. There were a few ladies present, but the majority were composed of young blades, who seemed ready-prepared to make a “night” of McGonagall The roughs were determined to be jolly. Half-a-dozen youths, who had invested 2d each in tin trumpets, took possession of the gallery, and began to act as a volunteer orchestra. While the audience were mustering, the trumpeters blew with might and main. The effect was deafening. It was nearly half-an-hour past the time, when the audience were informed that the local talent would not go on, unless the lessee, Mr McGonagall, “stumped up first,” and as poor Mac. had no money, and the doorkeeper had taken nothing to speak of, the professionals had to be dismissed. Deprived of his grand supporters, the Poet began himself. “The Rattlin’ Boy from Dublin” went rattling off, accompanied with a roaring chorus and trumpet blasts of an unearthly character. “Bannockburn,” was fought amidst the braying of trumpets and vociferous cheering, so loud and long that the Poet was effectually drowned. Next he made his appearance as Macbeth, in a new costume glittering with silvery spangles. The trumpets blew a louder blast, the boys gave a louder cheer, but it was plain to be seen McGonagall they would not hear. The platform was invaded, and the tragedian, afraid of his spangles, bolted for the anteroom, and hastily prepared to disrobe. He had only got his toilet half completed when the roughs burst into the green room like a torrent, and in their flurry to see the “Poet” they upset a bucket of water all over the properties, and soaked them as thoroughly as if they had been put in the wash-tub. The “Poet” and his son lost their tempers, and the junior threatened to fight all and sundry. At last the hallkeeper turned off the gas on the platform, and intimated that “it was all over” with the “Poet”. The audience then began to disperse, and left the “Poet” to gather up his traps and wander home. We are afraid this has turned out rather an unfortunate spec. for poor McGonagall. Really we would seriously advise him to abandon “poetry and the drama,” and turn his attention to some more lucrative occupation, as it is pretty evident that the present generation are not prepared to appreciate his “talents”. Whether he will get justice at the hands of generations yet unborn is a question we leave time to answer.

Dundee Courier, 12th October 1880

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