The Great McGonagall

“Return of the Benighted Wanderer to Scenes of his Former Triumphs”— such was the heading of small bills plentifully spread over the town yesterday, announcing the important fact that at 8 p.m., and within the Masonic Hall, Hill Street, the renowned actor, author, and poet, William McGonagall (whose fame extends from Pole to Pole, though his corporal home is in Step Row, Dundee), was to reappear before a delighted audience for the first time “after a lengthened and successful tour in the United States.” The programme embraced selections from the works of Hemans, Longfellow, Montgomery, Moore, Scott, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and other minor poets, but enriched with selections from his own prolific pen. The attendance was enormous, the hall being densely packed, while from the crowded state of the stair many, no doubt, went away. Shortly after eight the poet, clad in the “garb of Old Gaul,” arrived and proceeded to the platform, but he had no Chairman to introduce him; but he got over that difficulty by introducing himself and his favourite piece, “The Battle of Bannockburn.” The first few lines were partially heard— at least by those in the front seats — but then the uproar became indescribable. The cheers and yells of the whole audience were deafening — not a word could be heard, and a perfect shower of paper bags filled with flour or whiting fell on his devoted person, and in two minutes his Rob Roy tartan was invisible. The flour or other stuff as the bags burst fell on the floor to the depth of an inch, from which a lot of boys gathered handfuls and threw in his face. At length he had to abandon Bannockburn as a lost cause. He then tried to leave the hall, saying he would never more appear on an Arbroath stage, but was prevented. Having spent some time in relieving his costume of the load it had accumulated, he was induced to remount the stage, when he got some peace to give a selection from Shakespeare, also his own “Tay Bridge,” after which he gave “Lord Ullin’s Daughter,” at the close of which the storm burst afresh, a second supply of flour bags having been got. Here our report was cut short, for, being in the line of fire, stray shots were coming rather close and frequent, so an exit was effected, though with some difficulty. By this time a large number had also got outside. We since learned that this closed the programme, and the crowd was dispersed at 9p.m.

Dundee Courier, 13th December 1888

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