William McGonagall

British weaver, actor, poet (1825–1902)

William Topaz McGonagall (1825September 29, 1902) was a Scottish weaver, actor, and poet. Born in Edinburgh of Irish parents, he settled in Dundee. He is comically renowned as one of the most loved poets in the English language; his distinctive verse style is often imitated in Private Eye and Spike Milligan was among his many "admirers".

William McGonagall



Lines in praise of the Rev. George Gilfillan (1877)

  • All hail to the Rev. George Gilfillan, of Dundee,
    He is the greatest preacher I did ever hear or see.
    He preaches in a plain, straightforward way,
    The people flock to hear him night and day,
    And hundreds from his church doors are often turned away,
    Because he is the greatest preacher of the present day.
    • McGonagall's first poem.

A Requisition to the Queen (1877)

  • Most Mighty Empress, of India, and Englands beloved Queen,
    Most Handsome to be Seen.
    I wish you every Success.
    And that heaven may you bless.
    For your Kindness to the poor while they are in distress.
    I hope the Lord will protect you while living
    And hereafter when your Majesty is … dead.
    I hope the Lord above will place an eternal Crown! upon your Head.
    I am your Gracious Majesty ever faithful to Thee,
    William McGonagall, The Poor Poet,
    That lives in Dundee.

The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay (1878)

  • BEAUTIFUL Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay !
    With your numerous arches and pillars in so grand array
    And your central girders, which seem to the eye
    To be almost towering to the sky.
    • Written before the disaster.

The Tay Bridge Disaster (1880)

Wikisource has original text related to:
  • 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.
    • The death toll was actually 75.
  • I must now conclude my lay
    By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
    That your central girders would not have given way,
    At least many sensible men do say,
    Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
    At least many sensible men confesses.

The Battle of Bannockburn

  • Then King Edward ordered his horsemen to charge,
    Thirty thousand in number, it was very large;
    They thought to o'erwhelm them ere they could rise from their knees,
    But they met a different destiny, which did them displease;
    For the horsemen fell into the spik'd pits in the way,
    And, with broken ranks and confusion, they all fled away,
    But few of them escap'd death from the spik'd pits,
    For the Scots with their swords hack'd them to bits.

Other works

  • But I may say Dame Fortune has been very kind to me by endowing me with the genius of poetry. I remember how I felt when I received the spirit of poetry. It was in the year of 1877.
    • "The Autobiography of Sir William Topaz McGonagall", published in the Weekly News
      • McGonagall's "knighthood" was an honorary one conferred on him by King Theebaw of the Andaman Islands: "Knight of the White Elephant of Burmah".
  • I was seized with a strong desire to write poetry, so strong, in fact, that in imagination I thought I heard a voice crying in my ears –

    "Write! Write"

    I wondered what could be the matter with me, and I began to walk backwards and forwards in a great fit of excitement, saying to myself– "I know nothing about poetry."

    • "The Autobiography of Sir William Topaz McGonagall".
  • Well, I must say that the first man who threw peas at me was a publican ..
    • "Reminiscences".
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Wikisource has original works by or about: