William McGonagall – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Biography of the infamous Scottish “poet”, William Topaz McGonagall. My parents gave me a book of his poetry – generally considered some of the worst ever written – as a kid, and even then I could distinguish its awfulness.

It’s amazing to think that someone so immune to taunts and abuse could have been Scottish – it’s in our nature to hammer down those out-standing nails, and McGonagall’s neighbours seem to have tried their best. Anyone who can soldier on despite this kind of reception deserves a statue with a misspelled epitaph.

He also campaigned vigorously against excessive drinking, appearing in pubs and bars to give edifying poems and speeches. These were very popular, the people of Dundee possibly recognising that McGonagall was “so giftedly bad he backed unwittingly into genius”.

“Poet-baiting” became a popular pastime in Dundee, but McGonagall seemed oblivious to the general opinion of his poems, even when his audience were pelting him with eggs and vegetables. It is possible, however, that he was shrewder than he is given credit for, and was playing along to his audience’s perception of him, in effect making his recitals an early form of performance art.

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