Grand Entertainment by Poet McGonagall

McGonagall the great has once more emerged from his obscurity. On Friday he appeared before an admiring though rather a small audience in Blair’s Hall Overgate, when a real poetical and dramatic treat was enjoyed. The Poet attended at the hall door in person to welcome his friends and take the coppers. The advertisement, which appeared in the Courier & Argus, announced that the entertainment was to consist of songs, readings, and recitations, selected from his own and other “works.” Some snarling critics might be apt to carp at the idea of an author giving public readings of his own works, but though to some it may appear egotistical, Mr McGonagall is not without a precedent for such a proceeding. It is said that Shakespeare  appeared on the stage in his own matchless dramas, and other dramatic stars of lesser note have followed the example of the Bard of Avon. In more recent times we can point to Thackeray and Dickens, and only the other week the author of “Ginx’s Baby,” gave a public reading from that well-known work. Why then should not McGonagall adopt a similar course? Echo answers why? At eight o’clock the audience began to get impatient, and the Poet left the door to look after itself, and mounted a rough deal table, which stood against the wall as an apology for a platform. A chairman was then appointed, and a written programme having been put into his hands, he announced that the entertainment would begin with a comic song, “The rattling boy from Dublin Town.” A voice, from the back anxiously inquired the author’s name.” McGonagall, to be sure, who else would it be?” replied the Chairman, thumping with a stick on the table to command silence. Loud cries were made for the Chairman’s address, but that dignitary remarked that it would be insulting to the audience were he to occupy their time, when such a man as McGonagall was to come after him. This well-timed remark was followed by a burst of enthusiastic applause and laughter. The song was rendered in a thorough rattling style, and the dexterous way in which the Poet flourished a walking stick every line was a master-piece of Irish comic acting. A new poem, on Mrs Goose, was read for the first time. The author had some difficulty in selecting the MS.S. from a mass of papers. “Wha is his stationer?” shouted an anxious inquirer. “I must put on my spectacles,” said the Poet as he spread the paper before him. The idea of a poet in spectacles tickled the risible faculties of the gods, and the first line of Mrs Goose was drowned in a roar of laughter, which was taken up and re-echoed by a crowd of youngsters outside. “Mrs Goose” was a genuine Christmas carol; all about the stealing of a goose, for which the thief got ten days in jail. Some of the audience declared that the Poet was reading the paper upside down, and one protested loudly that he had missed a verse. The versatile talents of Mr McGonagall, were displayed in a reading from Hogg. But the audience had no patience with Hogg. “What’s Hogg compared with McGonagall?” “Its owre lang,” cried another. “Shut up, gies a sang.” “lat’s hae a dance,” “Gie him a bottle o’ tippeny,” were shouted from various quarters. But, undaunted, the Poet read on without paying the least attention to the untimely interruptions, till at last his voice was fairly drowned by a lusty chorus of “Tra la la,” which was kept up with great spirit for several minutes. A comic song followed, and then a reading of another new poem, a tragic love story, in which the hero very foolishly attempted to swim across a wide river to bring a flower to his sweetheart, and got himself drowned in the attempt. In the course of the evening a gentleman mounted the platform, and read the following verses which he had composed in honour of the Poet:—

McGonagall the great,
Most beautiful to be seen,
Who has written that glorious work,
“The Magdalen Green,”
Let us toast him with honour,
For his fame’s spread abroad;
But I’m afraid he’s a goner,
If he does not go to bed!

The reading of this poem was received with great applause and shouts of laughter. The “Tay Bridge” was given as usual with all the dramatic force which the Poet can throw into the reading of his own works. At the request of the Chairman, Mr McGonagall read a poem which he has just published in praise of the Rev. D. Macrae. We quote the first stanza, which will give the reader an idea of the vigorous style in which the piece is written—

“All hail to the Rev. Mr Macrae,
He is an eloquent preacher, I venture to say,
And his religious views I appreciate right well,
Because be does not believe in the eternal punishment of hell.”

After reading the piece the Poet intimated that copies could be had at the low charge of one penny. At this announcement the audience crowded round the Poet and overwhelmed him with congratulations, but no one seemed to be disposed to purchase a copy of his Latest work. A gentleman mounted a chair and delivered a very eloquent address, in which he expressed the opinion that Mr McGonagall ought to come out oftener before the public. He said it was evident that he was a great genius, and he ought not to hide his light under a bushel. He concluded his address with the following appropriate couplet—

“He has something to say about Mr Macrae,
But he should take my advice and go away.”

Several ardent spirits then seized the Poet with the intention of carrying him through the town shoulder-high, but the Poet pleaded that he was not very well, and in pity he was allowed to retire to the anteroom, when the audience reluctantly dispersed.

Dundee Courier, 9th December 1879

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