'The Real McGonagall' - Solo Performance

John Cairney brings the World’s Worst Poet to life in his one-man show

Born around 1830, the Dundee Bard, William McGonagall, was a complete, if eccentric, man of his time, having an unshakeable faith in a Christian God, an Emperor Queen and an omnipotent Shakespeare. McGonagall worked first as a hand-loom weaver in the jute factory in Dundee, where to the consternation of his work-mates, he used to bellow the soliloquies of Shakespeare in time to the clacking rhythm of the loom and this encouraged him to think of himself as a reciter.

Around 1870, in what may have been an epileptic fit, he felt inspired by God to write his own poetry, and from that moment it was downhill all the way. He gave up his job in the mill, took to the street corners, and tried to sell copies of his execrable verses at a penny a time. An object of ridicule, he survived another thirty years on sheer optimism and belief in his God-given vocation to write verse. After all, God didn't say it had to be good verse.

Songs and laughs at his expense abound in 'The Real McGonagall' but perhaps in the end the last laugh is his, because the printed and bound verses, 'The Poetic Gems of William McGonagall', still sell today.


'The William McGonagall Story' - with John Cairney REL REC471 (1982)