Sir Garnet Wolseley and the Poet McGonagall

Among the many poets who have celebrated the victory of Tel-el-Kebir, none has attained a higher distinction than the “local bard,” Mr McGonagall. The subject was one fitted to stir the “muse” of that most patriotic poet, and the result has been a production which has added to his laurels. Anxious that the hero of the fight should be made aware of the esteem in which he is held by the poet, Mr McGonagall some time ago forwarded copy of the verses to Sir Garnet. He has now received the following reply, dated from the Adjutant-General’s Department, War Office,and addressed to “Mr William McGonagall, Poet, 19 Smith’s Buildings, Paton’s Lane, Dundee: “Sir Garnet Wolseley has to thank Mr William McGonagall for his letter enclosing some verses on the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, which he is most pleased with. — Horse Guards, War Office, 10th Nov. 1882.”

We have been favoured by Mr McGonagall with a copy of “Tel-el-Kebir,” from which we give the following extracts for the benefit of our readers:-

Ye Sons Great Britain, come join with me,
And sing in praise of Sir Garnet Wolseley.
Sound drums and trumpets cheerfully,
For be has acted most heroically.

He has gained for himself fame and renown,
Which to posterity will be handed down;
Because he has defeated Arabi by land and by sea.
And from the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir he made him to flee.

With army about Fourteen Thousand strong,
Through Egypt he did did fearlessly march along
With the gallant and brave Highland Brigade,
To whom honour is due, be it said.

Arabi’s army were about Seventy Thousand in all,
And virtually speaking, it wasn’t very small;
But if they had been as numerous again,
The Irish and Highland Brigades would beaten them, it is plain.

After describing the night march the poet proceeds:-

But Major Hart and the 18th Royal Irish, conjoint,
Carried the trenches the bayonet’s point,
Then the Marines chased them about four miles away,
At the Charge! of the bayonet, without dismay.

General Sir Archibald Alison led on the Highland Brigade,
Who never were the least afraid.
And such has been the case in this Egyptian War,
For at the Charge! of the bayonet they ran from them afar.

Oh! it must have been gorgeous sight,
To see Sir Garnet Wolseley in the thickest of the fight.
In the midst of shot and shell, and the cannon’s roar,
Whilst the dead and the dying lay weltering in their gore.

Then the Egyptians were forced to yield,
And the British were left masters of the field;
Then Arabi he did fret and frown,
To see his Army cut down.

Then Arabi, the Rebel, took to flight,
And spurred his Arab Steed with all his might;
With his heart full of despair and woe,
And never halted till he reached Cairo.

Evening Telegraph, 15th November 1882

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