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Myths and Legends
William McGonagall: Scotland's Other National Bard

Sketch of the Tay Bridge Disaster
© SCRAN
The disaster, in 1879, provided McGonagall with his most famous subject – an eight stanza poem of debateable quality that, for all it lacks in poetic technique, demonstrates his enthusiasm for his subject as well as his child-like reliance of rhyme to qualify his writings as poetry. An example of this is –

“Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay Alas I am very sorry to say That ninety lives have been taken away On the last Sabbath day of 1879 Which will be remember’d for a very long time.”



McGonagall did not spend the entirety of his life in Dundee, however, he moved 26-miles down the Carse of Gowrie to Perth, a city he described as ‘one of the finest on earth’. He and his wife left Dundee because, as he put it, ‘the harsh treatment I had received in the city’ had become intolerable.


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Your comments

1 robin anderson from forres, scotland - 26 January 2004
"'The Great McGonagall' - 1975 film starring Spike Milligan as the man himself and Peter Sellars as Queen Victoria. Directed by the great writer/produced/director (ex BBC!!) Joe McGrath. 'On yonner hill there stans a coo If it's no awa it'll be there noo.' Sounds Milliganish but I think it's McG. who,these days, can be found discretely tucked away in Greyfriars Churchyard, Ed."

2 John Low from Dundee - 8 January 2004
"Maybe we shouldnt dismiss McGonagall so readily. First of all he actually attracted people to poetry, however bad his efforts might be compared to the classics. But secondly he made it easy for even the most incompetent amongst us to write blank verse or doggerel, call it what you may. Just sit down and try to write a piece based on McGonagalls style and you will find it comparatively easy. Then try to write a piece in the style of Burns or Byron and see how much more difficult it is. I am not trying to justify McGonagalls style as something to be admired, but how many of the classical poets have encouraged us to try to emulate their style. Very few I should think. So it could be argued that McGonagall has done more to popularise poetry than them, and that can surely be no bad thing. "




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