Poet McGonagall’s “Modest Request”

Business at the Checking Committee of the Dundee Harbour Trust was yesterday agreeably diversified by an amusing request from Poet McGonagall. When the rather dry work of examination of the accounts had been finished, a letter which had been addressed to the Convener of the Tay Ferries Committee was submitted. The Treasurer was asked to read the communication, which, in polite terms, asked the Convener to arrange with his Committee and the Board to give “our own poet” a free passage to and from Newport by steamer when he felt inclined to brave the dangers of the Tay. The poet drew attention to the fact that in many of his poems he had waxed eloquent on the beauties of Newport, and had sung of the “beautiful banks of the silvery Tay,” and, as if to give additional emphasis to his request, he naively added that if he were successful he might write a few poems in praise of Newport and its surroundings, and so induce many more persons to cross the river to that “beautiful spot,” and add to the revenue of the Tay Ferries; besides, he concluded, composing some verses in honour of the Convener of the Tay Ferries. Along with the letter the poet enclosed several of his most recent “works,” just to show the Trustees the character and scope of his writings. The reading of the letter excited much merriment; and the members of the Committee, desiring to have all the facts before them, unanimously asked the Treasurer to read for their benefit one of the poems. A selection having been made, the Treasurer, it is said, recited with great effect a poem dealing with Newport. This also created much mirth, which having subsided, the Trustees, in a more serious mood, set themselves to the task of deliberating on the whole matter; and, it is reported, after a very careful and serious consideration, they decided to decline the request.

Evening Telegraph, 21st September 1894

Comments (3) »

  1. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 21st day of September at 3:45 pm

    Those were hard times and men with hard hearts, William was hard up with hardly two half pennies to rub together. Today people seem to get sponsors for almost anything, and most with hardly half as much Talent as our Wulllie.

  2. Robert Haynie
    In the year 2018, on the 25th day of September at 4:14 am

    Mr. E (a curious pseudonym, if descriptive) makes something of a point, and one that is not inaccurate. However, I feel he does not give proper credit to the gentlemen of the Committee. One notes that Mr. McGonegall offered “that if he were successful he might write a few poems in praise of Newport and its surroundings”, and this muct be taken into consideration.

    After all, it is not impossible that he might have carried through with his threat– Ah, I mean offer. It’s likely the Committee’s actions were not a matter of scorn for the Poet, but rather self-defense, in that the reaction of the populace of Newport might be less appreciative of such then, than we are today.

  3. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 25th day of September at 4:24 pm

    The “E” is the first letter of my Surname, I like a bit of a mystery and riddles; maybe like the Sphinx I like people to guess.
    However William would have been about sixty nine or seventy, a good age for that time considering his poverty; he did manage to keep himself and family out of the Poorhouse. Having been around in the thirties and knowing what poverty is, I also know that there wasn’t much charity around even then. However we never expected anything as we knew there was none to be had. Just goes to show that William was forever the optimist.

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