William McGonagall
(1825-1902)

Died aged c. 77

William Topaz McGonagall (March 1825 – 29 September 1902) was a Scottish weaver, doggerel poet and actor. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers' opinions of his work. He wrote about 200 poems, including "The Tay Bridge Disaster" and "The Famous Tay Whale", which are widely regarded as some of the worst in English literature. Groups throughout Scotland engaged him to make recitations from his work and contemporary descriptions of these performances indicate that many listeners were appreciating McGonagall's skill as a comic music hall character. Collections of his verse remain popular, with several volumes available today. McGonagall has been acclaimed as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings generate in his work. The inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language. His work is in a long tradition of narrative ballads and verse written and published about great events and tragedies, and widely circulated among the local population as handbills. In an age before radio and television, their voice was one way of communicating important news to an avid public.

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Commemorated on 2 plaques

gnomonic on Flickr
Craig Wallace on Geograph

William McGonagall poet and tragedian died here 29th September 1902

5 South College Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom where they died (1902)

William Topaz McGonagall 1825-1902 The most miraculous minstrel William Topaz McGonagal Described as the very best of the world's worst poets He gave a recital of his poems in the Gellions Hotel Oct.1894 to the Heather Blend Club Robert Burns also visited Inverness in 1789 residing at Ettles Hotel directly across from the Gellions Hotel

14 Bridge Street, Inverness, United Kingdom where they performed (1894)