Poet McGonagall’s Holiday Tour

Ill Requited Genius

The well-known Dundee “Poet,” Mr W. McGonagall, has again distinguished himself by performing another Quixotical adventure, somewhat similar to his famous journey through Glenshee to Balmoral, which he accomplished last summer. This time, however, his journey, which has neither been so long nor so romantic, has been equally fruitless in its results. Times of late have been hard and money scarce with the “Weaver Poet,” but a bright idea struck him, which he hoped would lead him to fame and fortune. The Dundee holidays began on Saturday last, and while thousands of his more favoured townsmen were crowding the railway stations and steamboat quays on pleasure bent, poor Wm. McGonagall left the town on his own “pair” on a professional journey to the provinces. The “Poet” had resolved to open a “starring” campaign in the villages of Strathmore, where he intended giving a series of entertainments, consisting of readings from his own works, varied with selections from the other great poets— Shakespeare. Scott, and Burns. His first destination was Coupar-Angus, where he arrived at a late hour on Saturday afternoon, drenched with rain, and without a penny in his pocket. Undaunted by the weather and his empty purse, the “Poet” set about making inquiries to obtain the use of a hall wherein to display his histrionic talents to the benighted villagers. Whether it so happened that all the public halls in Coupar-Angus were pre-engaged before the advent of the poet in the village, or whether the hard-hearted, hard-fisted proprietors refused to let their premises without a material guarantee for payment of the rent is not very clear, but the result was that all Mr McGonagall’s efforts to secure a place proved an utter failure. Finding that the hall proprietors in Coupar did not sympathise with the object of his visit, he turned his back on the village, and traveled on through the rain and mud in search of other “fields and pastures new.” It was rather late when he reached Burrelton, and all attempts to give an entertainment that night had to be abandoned. As may well be supposed, his condition was far from comfortable, and his prospects not of the brightest, but the poet was not easily discouraged. Here he was, benighted in a strange place, miles away from home and friends, weary, hungry, cold and wet, and not a penny in his pocket to obtain food or shelter. In the midst of his perplexity, however, a “Good Samaritan” took him in, warmed, fed, and lodged him for the night. A simple, kind-hearted country woman, who had read and admired the “poet’s” effusions in the columns of the Weekly News, took pity on the forlorn stranger and entertained him most hospitably till Monday. Monday morning dawned bright and fair, and brought fresh hopes of success to the “Poet’s” desponding heart. Burrelton, however, was but a poor place, and could boast of no public hall, and after all his exertions to secure a suitable place wherein to give his matchless entertainment, he had to be contented with “an old smiddy.” Here in the evening a goodly number of the rustics assembled to hear and see the poet of the “Tay Bridge,” but the ill-mannered set were bent on fun and frolic, and had no soul for the appreciation of the beauties of poetry. To quote Mr McGonagall’s own pathetic words — “The people just came to make game of me, and they gave me nothing.” This was the unkindest cut of all. With a heavy heart and a light purse the “Poet” took the road early next morning for Perth, where he arrived tired and hungry at an early hour in the forenoon. He had not been long in the Fair City before he recognised and buttonholed a party of excursionists from Dundee, to whom he poured forth the story of his hardships and adventures. “And now,” he said, “here I am without a farthing in the world, and I know not what to do. I was indebted for my breakfast this morning to a gentleman who had seen me play Othello in the Dundee Music Hall It is time, I think, that I should be recognised; and, indeed, it cannot come too soon, considering my own condition and the circumstances of my family. But,” he added in a more hopeful strain, “my time will come yet; I will never despair. Bouch has got knighted, I am glad to see.” “O, you’ll be knighted too some day,”‘ replied his sympathisers. “I wish I could only get some remuneration for the labour of my brain,” replied the “Poet ” humbly. A literary gentleman of the city, happening to pass at that moment, was introduced by the sympathisers to the poor “Poet.” “I never saw you before, Mr McGonagall,” remarked the citizen, staring dubiously at the figure before him. “Well, you have the honour of seeing me now— the poet of the Tay Bridge,” loftily replied Mr McGonagall, extending his hand patronisingly to the stranger. The stranger took the proffered hand, stared for a minute in the “Poet’s” face, smiled, and walked away. A small douceur having been tipped the “Poet” by his Dundee friends, they also bade him good-bye, and left him to return to Dundee “a sadder, but not a wiser man.”

Our Burrelton correspondent writes:— On Monday we were honoured by a visit from no less a personage than Mr William McGonagall, Poet Laureate of Dundee, &c., &c. For some time past it would appear that Mr McGonagall has more than suspected that Dundee was not altogether the most suitable place for the exhibition of his genius, and the growing tightness of his finances daily affirmed the correctness of his suspicion. But it seems that the last straw which broke the back of his patience was laid on when Her Majesty passed through Dundee on Friday. As we were informed by this neglected son of genius, he modestly remained in obscurity all the while the royal train stopped at the station, lest it should be reported that he wished to thrust himself a second time under the notice of royalty. Of course, Mr McGonagall added, had Her Majesty sent a deputation asking an interview, as a willing and obedient subject, he would have felt bound to comply. But, alas! the royal summons did not come, and Mr McGonagall, wearied hoping against hope, resolved to set out in quest of fresh fields and pastures new. Having shaken the dust off his feet against Juteopolis on Saturday, he set his face towards Coupar Angus, but his emotion at leaving was such that he turned himself on the Brae of Birky, and wept over the city, giving vent to lamentations which we have no doubt he will shortly embody in immortal verse. On his arrival in Coupar, Mr McGonagall informed us that his efforts to procure a hall for the purpose of giving an entertainment to consist of readings from Shakespeare and his own works turned out abortive on account of the state of his finances not admitting of a forehand payment of the rent. In Burrelton he was more successful, and, having got the promise of Robbie Fenwick’s smiddy for the night, he proceeded to inform the lieges of the intellectual treat in store for them. At eight o’clock a bevy of small boys collected round the smiddy door, and proceeded to make a “house,” or rather a smiddy, by the simple process of pushing one another in. Inside stood Mr McGonagall, wearing a rather rueful countenance, having under his arm a folio bearing the inscription, “Aunt Fanny’s Nursery Rhymes,” the urchins meanwhile interrogating him with impertinent questions. Shortly after the window was smashed in, and the owner presently appeared and locked the would-be performer out. What airt William has now taken we know not, but to all appearance his starring tour is not to turn out so well as could be wished.

Dundee Courier, 27th June 1879

Comments (1) »

  1. Dan E
    In the year 2016, on the 15th day of February at 9:12 pm

    It seems that William without doubt had the courage of his convictions to carry-on against all the odds, others would have given in with lesser obstacles in their way. Fate can certainly be unkind to some of the hapless creatures on this Earth, there is no sentiment in nature fortunately for William he seemed blind to whatever was thrown at him (except some well aimed egg or rotten fruit).
    William seems to have brought out in some mortals their more baser instink especially in their mob mentality, where ever you get a good man there will be two or more of the opposite persuasion.

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