“Poet” McGonagall On Bennet And His Bauble

Leith Provost and his Jubilee “Bauble”

Extraordinary Proceedings

At a meeting of Leith Town Council held yesterday afternoon, the following item of business was brought up:- “Letter from Lord Balfour of Burleigh to the Provost, transmitting medal which Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to confer upon the Provost on the completion of the sixtieth year of her reign.” Whereupon the Provost remarked that “the bauble” was here, if they wished to see it, and he produced a small jewel case. Proceeding, he said he was quite disappointed when be saw it. The value of it was from 1s 6d to 2s. He was astonished that Lord Balfour of Burleigh or Her Majesty would send such a trifle. The case was of more value than the medal. (Laughter.) Bailie Gibson protested against such language. If he did not wish the medal he should not have received it. The Provost- Have you gentlemen all seen this bauble? Mr Baxter said he thought the Council should present the Provost wiith a replica in gold. It would be more in sympathy with his other decorations. The Provost said he would rather have that. Mr Baxter said he would move it, Bailie Robertson seconded. The Provost said that if the motion was carried, he would present Mr Baxter with the one he had received. Bailie Manclark said such a motion was not on the billet. Provost Bennet said Mr Baxter came out this time and he wanted him (the Provost) to support him.

Several members, amidst some noise, now demanded that the letter from Lord Balfour should be read. Mr M’Kelvie said he thought the Provost’s remarks most disrespectful to Her Majesty. The Provost (hotly)-You have no right to speak to me like that; I am the recipient of the bauble. (Laughter.) Mr Kinnaird rose to a point of order. He was perhaps more Radical than any man there, but he was very sorry to hear such remarks coming from the Provost of Leith. Mr Smith said that if he was not satisfied he should not have taken it, nor dragged them into this public discussion. It was a most ungracious act. The Provost said he did not ask it to be put on the billet. He had had it for two months, and he was attacked by the members to bring it up. (Hear, hear.) Mr M’Kelvie said he should not look on its intrinsic value. A noisy discussion followed, in the course of which Bailie Waldie said he would not leave till the letter from Lord Balfour was read, but the Provost would not agree to this. He said it was addressed to him privately and was mentioned in the billet without his consent, Turning to Mr Laing, town-clerk, he said- Give me the letter. The clerk, amidst more noise from members, handed over the letter to the Provost, who promptly put it in his breast pocket, saying, “It is my letter, and it will not be read.” Several members claimed that it was mentioned in the billet that it was the property of the Council, but this the Provost would not admit. Mr Kinnaird said the Provost’s behaviour was lamentable. The Provost said he had no right to be attacked by any member like this. Mr Kinnaird- I want that letter read. Another altercation ensued, and the Provost insisted on keeping his decision as to the letter. Mr Kinnaird- I move that the Provost leave the chair. He said he had heard a conundrum which was this- What was the difference between whisky and Provost Bennet? and the answer was that whisky improved with old age and the Provost did not. (Laughter.) Mr G. Yooll- l second. The Provost- You may second, third, or fourth, but I will not leave the chair. Mr Baxter said there was here an organised attempt to annoy the Provost. The Provost said they had all seen the bauble, and what right had they to move? Bailie Gibson said there was a direct attempt made to make a noise. If the Provost’s remarks were not what they should have been, it was for him (the Provost) to settle. (The Provost- Of course.) He could not see why the Provost should be asked to leave the chair because he refused to read a private communication. (Mr Baxter- Disgraceful.) Mr Graham Yooll said he seconded the motion merely to mark his disapproval of the utterances to which the Provost had given expression. Mr Baxter said Mr Yooll was entirely out of order, and the Provost ought not to allow himself to be used in the way he had been. The discussion then terminated. and the meeting, so far as public business was concerned, was closed.

Glasgow Herald, 6th October 1897

On reading a report of the “bauble” incident at Leith Town Council meeting on Tuesday poetic fire consumed the soul of that silver-tongued singer, Poet McGonagall. Seizing his lyre, he immediately twanged off the following sublime sentiments, which he graciously sends us, with the accompanying note:-

“Dear Sir,- I have been reading about your Provost and his disgraceful treatment of the Jubilee Medal presented to him by our Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, and I send you the following lines which I have wrote about it, and which I ask you to put in your most valuable paper. -Yours respectively.

Poet McGonagall.
Edinburgh, October 6, 1897.

The Leith Provost, that gentleman which Lord Sanger’s elephant did frighten his horse,
And who, unlike Leith whisky, by age grows worse and worse.
Received lately from Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen
A silver medal which, he said, was not beautiful to be seen.

But was most paltry: and, like a man of no sense,
He declared it was not worth eighteenpence.
And then, in bad taste, at the medal he did scoff,
For which, had he lived in back ages, he would have got his head cut off-

Which is a punishment he well deserved to get-
Or any other man who at the Queen would take the pet.
The medal was given him to commemorate the Jubilee-
I only wish the Queen had given it to me.

I would have prized it above priceless gems and rubies,
And not have ridiculed it before the Leith Town Council boobies.
But the Leith Provost is a most foolish man,
And has defied everybody since his career began.

This medal, he said, was an insult to offer to any man of light,
Who did not care for Queens or baubles a single dight,
And Baxter, a man wnose ignorance and assertion makes him bold,
Said, “Give me the bauble, and I will give you one of gold.”

Which should make all loyal people desire to fling
Him into that place which he calls the municipal dust-bin.
For this man who thinks himself so clever as a rule
Should really leave the Council and go back to school.

But the Leith Councillors is nearly all alike.
And should be locked out by the people like the engineers’ strike.
For they only make of Leith a laughing-stock,
Holding it up to all other towns to mock.

For in nearly all things these Councillors are weak and rude,
Studying themselves and not the public good.
Their aim and action is to make a scene,
Even though it leads to insult to their Queen.

Surely it is a pity that Leith should stay in this benighted state
When she could end it if with Edina she would amalgamate.
Yes; if Leith would just take the advice of the Press,
She would soon end this disgraceful muddle and mess.

For the Leith Councillors are too stupid to realise their shame,
And, when she kicks them out, they will always be the same.
That in November they will thus be treated one and all
Is the sincere wish of

Poet (Sir Topaz) McGonagall, K.O.W.E.

Evening Telegraph, 11th October 1897


Whilst included here for completeness, this poem is not an authentic work by McGonagall, as a subsequent notice in the Dundee Courier makes clear:

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the Poet McGonagall is evidently not a believer in the old axiom. The other day an ¬†Edinburgh newspaper published a poem purporting to have been written by McGonagall dealing with the “bauble” incident at Leith Town Council. The poet now writes, denying the authorship of what he calls “the so-called poem.”

Dundee Courier, 13th October 1897

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