Beautiful city of Glasgow, with your streets so neat and clean,
Your stateley mansions, and beautiful Green!
Likewise your beautiful bridges across the River Clyde,
And on your bonnie banks I would like to reside.

Then away to the west — to the beautiful west!
To the fair city of Glasgow that I like the best,
Where the River Clyde rolls on to the sea,
And the lark and the blackbird whistle with glee.

’Tis beautiful to see the ships passing to and fro,
Laden with goods for the high and the low;
So let the beautiful city of Glasgow flourish,
And may the inhabitants always find food their bodies to nourish.


The statue of the Prince of Orange is very grand,
Looking terror to the foe, with a truncheon in his hand,
And well mounted on a noble steed, which stands in the Trongate,
And holding up its foreleg, I’m sure it looks first-rate.


Then there’s the Duke of Wellington’s statue in Royal Exchange Square —
It is a beautiful statue I without fear declare,
Besides inspiring and most magnificent to view,
Because he made the French fly at the battle of Waterloo.


And as for the statue of Sir Walter Scott that stands in George Square,
It is a handsome statue — few with it can compare,
And most elegant to be seen,
And close beside it stands the statue of Her Majesty the Queen.


And then there’s the statue of Robert Burns in George Square,
And the treatment he received when living was very unfair;
Now, when he’s dead, Scotland’s sons for him do mourn,
But, alas! unto them he can never return.


Then as for Kelvin Grove, it is most lovely to be seen
With its beautiful flowers and trees so green,
And a magnificent water-fountain spouting up very high,
Where the people can quench their thirst when they feel dry.


I have mixed with all kinds of people – of low and high degree,
But the most unmannerly people are the people of Dundee.
The fact is they don’t know how to treat a poet;
But the Glasgow people does, and I do know it.


Beautiful city of Glasgow, I now conclude my muse,
And to write in praise of thee my pen does not refuse;
And, without fear of contradiction, I will venture to say
You are the second grandest city in Scotland at the present day!


McGonagall Transfers his Affections

As will be seen from the annexed new song from the pen of the City Poet, he has already transferred his affections to “the beautiful city of Glasgow,” to which he is shortly to retire. From a perusal of the “poem,” it will be gathered that the poet is moved by the bonnie banks of the Clyde much in the same way as the Tay, “So beautiful to seen at the Magdalen Green,”  used move him. Perhaps the most touching and, from the poet’s point of view, the truest verse is the eighth, where he gives the people of Dundee their character. The beautiful fourth line—

“The fact is, they don’t know how to treat a poet,”

contains the kernel of the whole matter. It is to hoped that Glasgow will show a greater appreciation of poetic genius a la McGonagall than the unregenerate city of Dundee.

People’s Journal, 5th October 1889

Wikipedia Article

Related Gems

Comments (6) »

  1. Mike Howard
    In the year 2011, on the 13th day of November at 6:42 pm

    Are these two lines from one of McGonagall’s poems, and if so which one? I remember the lines being recited by a Glaswegian draughtsman way back in 1966-1970, who constantly quoted from that great man’s works.

    The hen she is a bonnie bird,
    and so’s the Erskine Ferry

  2. Chris Hunt
    In the year 2011, on the 13th day of November at 6:49 pm

    It doesn’t sound like one of his. People tend to attribute any Scottish-sounding doggerel to the great man, but his style is pretty distinctive and that line doesn’t have it.

  3. Claire Docherty
    In the year 2013, on the 27th day of November at 11:24 pm

    “The River Clyde is very wide, it’s filled with water from side to side.” My father-in-law attributed this to McGonagall many years ago and I’ve always remembered it. Was this a true McGonagall quote?

  4. Chris Hunt
    In the year 2013, on the 4th day of December at 7:58 am

    See my previous comment, Claire. I’m afraid your father-in-law has fallen into the trap of making McGonagall responsible for the production of all dodgy verse north of the border.

  5. Tom Cuthbert
    In the year 2014, on the 26th day of April at 3:26 pm

    the poems that I had attributed to McGonnagal were “Two wee birds sat on a barra, wan was a speug, the other was a sparra”,the other one—— “When the moon is roon and fair,the fishes swim from Troon to AYR, but, When the moon is fair and roon the fishes swim from Ayr to Troon”
    True or not??

  6. Chris Hunt
    In the year 2014, on the 28th day of April at 9:44 am

    Another fake one, Tom. Essentially, if you can’t find a supposed McGonagall ode on this site (use the search box at the top of every page), it’s unlikely to be genuine.

    I’m not saying I have every poem he ever wrote (because I know about some that I’ve yet to track down a copy of, and others have been lost altogether), but I do have every one ever published in a book and quite a few that never have been. It’s unlikely that people are quoting “gems” that are outside this published canon.

    Keep coming forward with them though, as you never know…

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