McGonagall’s most famous work describes a railway accident, and his name has been linked with disasters and catastrophes ever since. Whilst the poems on this site should demonstrate that his range of poetic subjects was much greater, the penchant for such calamities is clearly shown below:
Then, as now, the railway was one of the safest ways to travel. Rail accidents had a big impact, especially on McGonagall’s career.
Travel aboard ship was a dangerous business in McGonagall’s day. A veteran of a couple of long sea voyages himself, McGonagall would have been well aware of the perils of life aboard ship, whilst news of sinkings in Dundee’s fishing and whaling fleets must have been pretty constant in the local papers.
- A Tale of the Sea
- An Excursion Steamer Sunk in the Tay
- Bill Bowls, the Sailor [Version 2]
- Grace Darling or The Wreck of the “Forfarshire”
- The Burning of the Ship “Kent”
- The Burning of the Steamer “City of Montreal”
- The Collision in the English Channel
- The Foundering of the Steamer “Spree”, While on her way to New York
- The Kessack Ferry-Boat Fatality
- The Loss of the Victoria
- The Wreck of the “Abercrombie Robinson”
- The Wreck of the “Columbine”
- The Wreck of the “Indian Chief”
- The Wreck of the “Thomas Dryden”
- The Wreck of the Barque “Lynton”, While Bound for Aspinwall, Having on Board 1000 Tons of Coal
- The Wreck of the Barque “Wm. Paterson” of Liverpool
- The Wreck Of The Steamer “London”, While on her way to Australia
- The Wreck of the Steamer “Mohegan”
- The Wreck of the Steamer “Stella”
- The Wreck of the Steamer “Storm Queen”
- The Wreck of the Whaler “Oscar”
- Wreck of the Schooner “Samuel Crawford”
In an era reliant on gas lighting, fire was a constant danger. Dundee, with its warehouses full of textiles, was particularly threatened, and there were several spectacular conflagrations during McGonagall’s time there.
- Burning of the Exeter Theatre
- Calamity in London
- The Burning of the People’s Variety Theatre, Aberdeen
- The Clepington Catastrophe
- The Disastrous Fire at Scarborough
- The Miraculous Escape of Robert Allan, the Fireman
McGonagall was also moved to write about several disastrous battles in his military works.