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William Topaz McGonagall

William Topaz McGonagall (1825 September 29, 1902) was a weaver, poet, and actor. Born in Edinburgh, of Irish parentage, he was working as handloom weaver[?] in Dundee when an event occurred that was to change his life. As he was later to write:

The most startling incident in my life was the time I discovered myself to be a poet, which was in the year 1877.

McGonagall has been widely acclaimed as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms of his poetry are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor[?] and unable to scan[?] correctly. Of the 200 or so poems that he wrote, the most famous is probably "The Tay Bridge Disaster", which recounts the events of the evening of 28 December 1879, when, during a severe gale[?], Tay Rail Bridge near Dundee collapsed as a train was passing over it.

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.

(Modern sources give the death toll as 75.)

The memory of McGonagall was resurrected by the Irish comedian Spike Milligan. A character called McGoonagall frequently appears in The Goon Show, alternately played by Milligan and Peter Sellers. Milligan also occasionally gave readings of McGonagall's verse.

See also:

Scottish literature

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