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Poll #1348295 McGonagalls

Which of these people have you heard of?

William McGonagall
William the Gonnagle
Minerva McGonagall

The gonnagles from Pratchett's Nac Mac Feegle books and Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter books are both, of course, named after William Topaz McGonagall, one of Scotland's "great" "poets". His most famous poem is The Tay Bridge Disaster, which starts:

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.

and continues in that vein for seven increasingly long verses. Fantastic! He's thought of as Britain's worst poet (apart from Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings, one assumes) but is still fairly well known 100 years later because really, this is astounding, amazingly, hilariously bad poetry.

And there's a petition to put him on a stamp. Surely this must happen. Sign!

(Man, I just found out there's a Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers film about him, The Great McGonagall. (Well, "about" him. Y'know.) Only £2.98 on Amazon! I'm so tempted.)

Hat-tip to sesquipedality for the petition link!

(Oh, and happy Darwin Day, all!)


Feb. 12th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
What i love most about his Tay bridge poem is that he had previously written an equally bad one extolling the virtues of the great bridge. I tried to find ana ppropriate quote, but I can pare down the wonderful first verse -

Beautiful new railway bridge of the Silvery Tay,
With your strong brick piers and buttresses in so grand array,
And your thirteen central girders, which seem to my eye
Strong enough all windy storms to defy.
And as I gaze upon thee my heart feels gay,
Because thou are the greatest railway bridge of the present day,
And can be seen for miles away
From North, South, East or West of the Tay
On a beautiful and clear sunshiny day,
And ought to make the hearts of the "Mars" boys feel gay,
Because thine equal nowhere can be seen,
Only near by Dundee and the bonnie Magdalen Green.
Beautiful new railway bridge of the Silvery Tay,
With thy beautiful side-screens along your railway,
Which will be a great protection on a windy day,
So as the railway carriages won`t be blown away,
And ought to cheer the hearts of the passengers night and day
As they are conveyed along thy beautiful railway,
And towering above the Silvery Tay,
Spanning the beautiful river shore to shore
Upwards of two miles and more,
Which is most beautiful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the bonnie Magdalen Green.

Full version here.


bad wolf
Notes from extinction

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