There’s news about the bad poet William Topaz McGonagall. It’s of absolutely no importance, but of great and goofy enjoyment to many in the English-speaking world. Several poems that have never been published in any book will soon be recited in public [on March 19, at our show at the University of Dundee] for the first time in more than 100 years, and maybe ever.
McGonagall, born in Edinburgh, lived much of his life in Dundee, by the river Tay. His most famous poem is called The Tay Bridge Disaster. One cannot help but try to admire the opening lines:
“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….”
So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.
BONUS: A video of Billy Connolly reciting the The Tay Bridge Disaster atop a hill in Dundee during a snowstorm:
ABOUT THE DISCOVERERS: The discovery was made independently, first by Norman Watson in researching his magnificent new biography of McGonagall, then serendipitously by Steve Farrar in the course of doing unrelated research. The two have joined forces to bring these long-overlooked poems into the light of day.
BONUS: TICKETS for the historic March 19 Dundee event
BONUS: Complete schedule of the 2011 Ig Nobel Tour of the UK (March 10-19)
FURTHER NEWS: Two additional poems will be given their debut on April 18, at the Edinburgh Science Festival, after which all spectators will be invited to walk together to McGonagall’s grave for a respectful visit.
BONUS: Yes, this is the McGonagall whose name J.K. Rowling beststowed upon a curious character in the Harry Potter novels, and who inspired Terry Pratchett to create the Nac Mac Feegles, and provoked wonder in many other people and places…