Poet McGonagall’s Plaint

Quoting Shakespeare in the Police Court

Poet McGonagall has been subjected to another insult, and threatened once more to shake the dust of Dundee from off his feet, and betake himself elsewhere. This morning Bailie Perrie had just left the bench of the Police Court when the poet stalked into the Courtroom, carrying large basket — one the kind used by butchers’ boys. To an interested group, including the Prosecutor, two Lieutenants, and the clerk, he laid off his story, with, it ought stated, as much good humour as could be expected under the trying circumstances. “This is rather a serious matter,”  he began. “I consider I have been subjected this morning to a grievous insult. Observe now this is becoming a daily practice, gentlemen, and I am afraid leave my own house in the morning for fear of abuse, which is rather hard.” McGonagall proceeded to state that last week two youths — they had a barrow, observe — began to abuse him, which was very aggravating. He took possession of that barrow, and held it for about half an hour, just by way of punishing those youths, it were. Then he allowed them to take it. But this morning a similar thing occurred. Two boys — not the same two, however — began to annoy him near the same place. They had a barrow, with baskets on it. An idea flashed into his mind. He seized one of the baskets, and now produced it in Court, so that when the owner of it called at the Police Office the authorities would “spot” the guilty party. They pleaded with him to deliver the basket, but he was obdurate. “Now,” continued the poet, “this custom of annoying me is destroying my head. It keeps up the external sound in my brain. I put it to you, sir, would you allow any man or boy to annoy you time after time? Shakespeare says “Who can hold the fire in his hand.” by way of simile, “without feeling pain?”  Sympathy having been expressed with the poet in his trouble, he intimated that if these youths persisted in annoying him he would be bound to leave Dundee for the good of his health. By the way, he explained, he did not like to wheel the barrow to the Police Office — the crowd had been too great. The poet was assured that he would have the protection of the law, and he thereupon wished his sympathisers a good morning.

Evening Telegraph, 20th February 1883

Comments (1) »

  1. In the year 2017, on the 26th day of April at 2:20 pm

    I am organising a McGonagall supper (in reverse order) at Glasgow Golf Club on September 29th
    to celebrate the Poet’s life and work.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed your website.
    Jim Roulston

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