The Inauguration Of The Talla Water Scheme

Rejoice all ye people of Edinburgh and Leith who are alive
In this year Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Five!
Because of the Talla Water Scheme which the Trustees did inaugurate
On Saturday last, September the Twenty-Eight,
About which I now something to you relate.
For on that day a new supply was to be found out.
Which over the rugged stones and heath did rush and spout,
And so beautiful appeared the silvery stream
It made the Trustees murmur, and sob, and scream;
For delightful was the sweet water and heather-bell,
Also all the Trustees, and the Provost’s Lady was a great swell.
And the Engineer presented Mrs Provost with a silver spade
So that it might never from her memory fade.
Then the Provost’s Lady the first, sod she did cut.
Which she did most excellent well by the aid of her fut.
And after that upon her spade she did most graceful lean,
Which was a sight most beautiful to be seen.
While Bailie Archibald put the sod in a little barrow,
And wheeled it along a plank quite narrow.
Tumbling it over just like the fall of a sparrow.

All the while in brown-study Poet Colston sat,
But, jumping up, in mid-air he threw his big hat,
And with majestic mien and mighty force
Shouted out a lot of poetry, which made him hoarse,
Yes! Poet Colston into a wild poetic fire did blaze,
Which was very grand, and did every one amaze;
For though the poetry is not so good as mine,
Yet, for all that, it is very fine.

Then one and all partook of the water, so sparkling and so pure,
Because it is the gift of God both to rich and poor,
Which all should rejoice at, I am sure.
For it is far superior to whisky, beer, or rum,
And will be quite plentiful for many years to come.
Above everything water no one can afford to scorn,
And now Edinburgh and Leith has a supply for generations yet unborn.

After that the Trustees took their good things, which the Council always allows,
Which was better far than going into a public-house.
And they enjoyed the refreshments very well.
Even better than the beauties of that shady dell.

Surely all will agree with me when I do say
That long shall be remembered this great day;
For though it will be many years till it is paid,
It is bound in the long run to increase our trade.
And may it add fresh laurels to our name,
Which will be enrolled in the book of fame;
And may the Talla long flow with health and happiness to all,
Is the sincere wish of Poet McGonagall.


This poem was published in the Edinburgh Evening Telegraph together with an accompanying letter from the poet, it does not appear on any surviving broadsheets. At least one other “gem” sent to the Telegraph under McGonagall’s name turned out to be a hoax, so it’s possible that this poem is not actually a genuine McGonagall composition. However, the style and subject matter is undoubtedly consistent with the great man’s work; and it’s quite likely that McGonagall – newly arrived in Edinburgh at the time – would want to advertise his services by sending a few poems to the local papers.

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Comments (3) »

  1. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 15th day of June at 9:55 pm

    I’m quite sure that this is a genuine McGonagall as I am pretty certain that two people couldn’t get that close a style.
    What’s more that humble self assured knowing, that no-one else can Wright in his personal style.

    “For though the poetry is not so good as mine,
    Yet, for all that, it is very fine”.

    Oor Wullie is confident that no man can better him(er… so am I, I think).

  2. Douglas Thomson
    In the year 2018, on the 29th day of June at 6:42 pm

    I think this is more likely to be a parody; a very good pastiche, but lacking the bombast and lack of insight seen in the genuine works of the Master Poet and Tragedian. Books of his poetry were in wide circulation by the 1890s so many had enough material available to write a decent pastiche.

    1. At no time was he known to regard the work of any poet other than Shakespeare as “very fine”

    2. There are a few lines ending in words rarely seen in his canon (“scream” and “swell” used as a noun are not really classic McGonagall) – in particular the line about the Provost’s wife’s “fut” reads far more like the work of a parodist.

    3. The lines about Bailie Archibald don’t really have an authentic style about them – McGonagall was far too much of a failed social climber to write so disparagingly about a city official.

  3. Stephen Midgley
    In the year 2018, on the 1st day of July at 9:25 am

    I tend to agree with Douglas Thomson that this is probably a parody – and a skilful and entertaining one at that. Some passages do not ring true, and some are definitely ‘over the top’- even for the great man himself. And yet, there’s still a nagging doubt – mainly because, let’s face it, don’t all McGonagall’s poems read like parodies?

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