The Poet McGonagall in Tribulation

A young man, named Joseph Boland, clothier. Hunter Street, was charged — before Bailie McCulloch at the Dundee Police Court to-day — with assault. He pleaded not guilty, and was defended by Mr Fay, solicitor. William McGonagall, poet, Step Row, deponed — About two o’clock on the afternoon of the 2d inst, I entered accused’s mother’s shop in Hawkhill and enquired for his brother, who is the habit of buying my poems. I asked James Boland to buy a copy of a poem, and in a gentlemanly way he gave me 2d for it. His mother asked if I had been in New York. I replied had, and she then asked me how liked it. I began to tell her about New York, its manners and customs, and the desecration of the Sabbath day there, but seemingly my statement did not please the accused, and he called me a ——— old Tory. I looked at the man, and said, “Now, now; you are getting angry.” Then he asked me why I wrote a letter and put it in the papers denouncing the Land League. (Mr McGonagall, in giving his evidence, assumed a tragic attitude in the witness-box, and, becoming somewhat excited, raised his voice to such a pitch that Mr Dewar requested him not to speak quite so loud. Continuing, Mr McGonagall said — I denied it, but he maintained that I did write. I said, “It is false,” and then I was instantly struck on the mouth, the blow dislodging a tooth, and it is here in my possession to show. (Laughter.) The blood flowed copiously from my mouth, and I came straight away to the Police Office, and got there after some difficulty, being like to faint by the way. Accused was behind the counter when he struck me, which I considered to be a base, cowardly action. His mother asked him if he was not ashamed of himself after striking an old man, but could make no reply — he was guilty. My mouth became inflamed and I went to a doctor, who ordered me to bathe it with warm water every two hours. In reply to Mr Fay witness stated that the tooth was hanging slack in his mouth when he got to the Police Office, and, being frightened he might swallow it, he pulled it out. (Laughter.) Mr Fay—Did you pull it out with your fingers? Witness— Certainly. It was not with my head. (Laughter.) James Boland deponed that McGonagall came often about his mother’s shop, and on every occasion talked a great deal and annoyed them. On the occasion in question witness gave him 2d for a poem, and thereafter the poet began to talk about America. Accused had also been in America, and contradicted some things which McGonagall said. McGonagall called him a liar, waved his stick in the air, and as he talked on he raised his voice and worked himself into a fit of indignation. he struck a tragic attitude, and called Joseph a liar once or twice. Mrs Boland asked the poet to go out, but he continued to make a noise in the shop, and when he called accused a liar for the third time, witness said that was too much, and gave orders for McGonagall beiug put out. Accused then took hold complainer by the collar of the coat with the intention of putting him out, but McGonagall swung round about and flourished his stick in the air. Accused was successful in forcibly ejecting the poet, who when on the street threatened him. Witness did not see his brother strike McGonagall a blow the face or see blood flowing from his mouth. Mr Fay — If it had been a loose tooth it might have been dislodged by his swinging round? Witness — Has he any teeth? (Laughter.) Mrs Boland corroborated. Lieutenant Parr said when McGonagall appeared at the office there was some blood about his mouth, and when he pulled the tooth out a little blood flowed from the wound. After further evidence, the Magistrate said there was no proof of a blow having been struck. The charge was found not proved.

Evening Telegraph, 10th May 1888

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