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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 15:20 GMT
Critics pan play by 'worst poet'
William McGonagall. Pic from Dundee Central Library
McGonagall had already been slated for his poems
A newly-published play by a man acknowledged to be one of the world's worst poets has been savaged by literary historians.

The 1886 play by Dundee poet William McGonagall will be included in a new collection of his poems.

Jack o' the Cudgel, or The Hero of a Hundred Fights, was never performed during the poet's lifetime.

Dr Gerard Carruthers from Glasgow University described it as a "real bludgeoning of literature."

It's a bit like watching Ricky Gervais' character in The Office attempting to dance - he won't stop but nothing good is coming out
Dr Gerard Carruthers
Glasgow University

Dr Carruthers, a senior lecturer on Scottish literature, told the BBC's Today programme: "It's dreadful. He does cudgel the play to death. It's as bad as anything else McGonagall wrote.

"Typically it's all energy and no talent. You have had to stand back and admire.

"It's a bit like watching Ricky Gervais' character in The Office attempting to dance - he won't stop but nothing good is coming out."

Dr Carruthers said that "thankfully" there was not much of an attempt at rhyme but he said the play included some "dreadful" lines.

"When the hero Jack reveals himself he refers to the Kent town of which he comes and says 'I am Jack of Sandwich'," Dr Carruthers said. "It's pure Crackerjack."

McGonagall was born in Edinburgh but did not begin writing until he moved to Dundee with his family. The Tay bridge was one of his favourite subject matters.

He died in 1902 and was buried in a pauper's grave.

Ricky Gervais dancing as David Brent
McGonagall's writing was compared to David Brent's dancing

Jack o'the Cudgel was discovered in the 1960s as part of a director's research into McGonagall and as a result became part of another play.

Hamish Wilson was one of the actors who performed in it.

"We had great fun rehearsing it then played it absolutely straight," he said. "It was fascinating because this great tragedy ran for just 25 minutes."

Dr Carruthers added: "Sadly, there is something rather cruel about us still reprinting and republishing McGonagall.

"He was encouraged in his own day to be thought of as a poet and tragedian, just people clearly were paying money to go along and to listen to him and laugh.

"He either didn't care or didn't want to care because he probably enjoyed the limelight.

"It's time for us to close the book on McGonagall once and for all."

The 'worst poetry' in the world

Tribute to the best bad bard
24 Jun 02 |  Scotland
McGonagall: Gone but unforgettable
06 Oct 99 |  Scotland


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