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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK

UK: Scotland

McGonagall: Gone but unforgettable

The William McGonagall plaque marks the poet's pauper's grave

The work of the man described as one of the world's worst poets has been recognised with the unveiling of a plaque at his burial place in Edinburgh.

BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
A plaque marking McGonagall's final resting place was unveiled at Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh.

It was attended by the Lord Provosts of Dundee and Edinburgh, the chairman of the City of Discovery Campaign Mervyn Rolfe, McGonagall's great great grandson William and his great great great granddaughter Mary Ross.

[ image: Mary Ross: A McGonagall descendent]
Mary Ross: A McGonagall descendent
The Rev Dr Lee Rayner, of Gilfillan Church, Dundee, conducted the service with an actor dressed in period costume paying tribute to the poet - in the style of McGonagall himself.

Although born in Edinburgh, McGonagall moved with his family to Dundee where he began writing.

His favourite subject matter was the Tay Bridge. He waxed lyricly about its structure and penned a 60-line verse to mark its disastrous collapse during atrocious weather conditions in 1879.

One of his Tay Bridge poems reads:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
With your numerous arches and pillars in so grand array
And your central girders, which seem to the eye
To be almost towering to the sky.
The greatest wonder of the day,
And a great beautification to the River Tay,
Most beautiful to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Despite his own thoughts on his work, most people recognised him to be without talent. He was known, even among those who studied his work, as Dundee's "Mr Nobody".

[ image: The poet became the butt of practical jokes]
The poet became the butt of practical jokes
His concerted efforts to be a serious poet and tragedian made him the target of cruel jokes.

Mr McGonagall was booked as the nightly turn in small Dundee halls just so his audiences could take the Mickey out of him.

The teetotaller_s drinks were spiked with alcohol and he became known for making long pointless treks in Scotland and further afield including London and New York.

All his life he was the butt of cruel jokes, but his faith in himself could not be shaken.

Mr McGonagall's remains were placed in a paupers' grave almost 100 years ago, but his memory lives on.

All his poems have been published and he earned himself a place on library shelves because his unusual appeal to authors and essayists.

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Internet Links

The William Topaz McGonagall Appreciation Society

The Tay Bridge Disaster

Dundee City of Discovery

Dundee City Council

City of Edinburgh Council

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