“Poet” McGonagall at Lochee

Disgraceful Scenes

A few days ago bills were exhibited throughout Lochee intimating “A Grand Poetic and Dramatic Entertainment by Poet McGonagall” in Lochee on Monday night. The announcement met with a generally warm reception, and it was evident from the tone of public feeling that a large gathering of young Lochee would assemble. Eight o’clock was the hour fixed for commencing the entertainment, but long before then large numbers began to congregate in front of the Weavers’ Hall, which was soon increased to quite a crowd. Immediately on the doors being opened a throng of youths and men rushed upstairs, clearly on fun intent. McGonagall Junior acted as cashier at the door, and for a time had hard work of it taking the threepences, two policemen holding guard over him the while. Exactly eight o’clock the Poet Laureate of the Tay in the person of McGonagall Senior appeared, and met with an enthusiastic ovation from the audience. The first question was the getting of a chairman. After some difficulty a working man undertook the —in the circumstances—onerous duty. After having been suitably introduced, the bard, attired full Highland costume, stepped forward and commenced to recite his well-known “poem,” “Bruce of Bannockburn.” The first stanza or two were listened to with some quietness, but as the Poet began to flourish his sword and give examples of how the Southerners were served on the above-named famous field, the patriotic feelings of the audience got the better of them, and they cheered and sang “John Brown’s Body,” &c., while peas, eggs, &c., were flying plentifully through the room, the Poet and his valorous Chairman getting the larger share. A lull in the demonstration ensuing the artiste said—”l have just immortalised”—a shower of peas at this moment struck him right on the chin, disconcerting the speaker, and causing the conclusion of the sentence be lost. Thereafter a scene of the wildest hilarity and disorder took place, the audience all standing on the seats and surrounding the platform like solid wall, with cries, such “Stick in, McGonagall,” “Fesh ben yer son,” and imitations of all sorts of sounds of the most unearthly and grotesque nature. After several ineffectual efforts to give “Beautiful Edinburgh,” evidently a favourite one with himself, he very reluctantly had to give it up. After a renewal of the disturbance, and on some calls being made for it, he gave, with infinite gusto, his “Rattling Boy of Dublin Town.” The “house” then relapsed Into immense disorder, the poor Poet being most severely treated, rotten eggs, peas, and flour flying like hail, and all directed at him. The most abominable part of the gross ill-usage was reached when an individual stepped forward with a paper bag in his hand containing treacle, and let fly with all too sure aim at poor McGonagall’s face. The horrible shot reached its mark, literally covering his face almost beyond recognition, and the semi-liquid substance continuing to flow down upon the gay garments of the bard. This was received with convulsive cheers and shrieks, the bespattered creature standing meekly in front of the platform, the foolish and pitiable butt of thousand jokes and tricks. His comparative imperturbability under all this was most astonishing. One rather good phase of the humour was the performances of a gentleman in the hall with a bugle or other instrument, who caused it to emit the most ridiculous and mirth-provoking sounds, and was the means of the greatest amusement. About half-past nine o’clock they closed completely around the sorely-tried Poet, and he then made a rush for the door. Like some frightened and bewildered creature, he flew with bounds from his tormentors. He soon reached the street. Again he was surrounded by the crowd waiting there for him, and, after vainly seeking shelter in public house, he was taken hold of by four constables and led down to the Police Station. Thus ended one of the most exciting scenes there has been in Lochee for many a day, the whole place being almost thrown into uproar by it. The affair is undoubtedly disgraceful and deplorable, and the principal regret is that any place should have been opened for an entertainment, the sure and certain and well known issue of which was a disgraceful row. The evil is opportunity being afforded for such riotous and demoralising scenes.

Weekly News, 3rd September 1881

Comments (1) »

  1. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 2nd day of May at 10:06 pm

    I always get the impression that the reporters of these disgraceful acts seem to get as much enjoyment as the rabble appear to. Just how poor William had the nerve and strength to expose himself time and again, to these yobish onslaughts amazes me. Yes William may have had some mental or strange disorder, but in hard times like then with a family to support;he most probably didn’t have much choice. Being thrown out of work with no Welfare State to support families in those times was dire, the choice was the Workhouse or Poor-house. In times like that, no one wanted to descend to that ultimate level of humanity, every one dreaded that. It’s all very well these days for people to mock William but no one these days knows what hunger and poverty is,as for my part I do know, I lived in the days of the Depression.

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