William Topaz McGonagall

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William Topaz McGonagall Born in 1825 in Edinburgh, of Irish parentage, Died September 29, 1902, he was a handloom weaver living in Dundee, Scotland when an event occurred that was to change his life. As he was later to write:

The most startling incident in my life was the time I discovered myself to be a poet, which was in the year 1877.

McGonagall has been acclaimed as the worst poet in British history, although some would argue that this is a harsh judgement. Of the 200 or so poems that he wrote, the most famous is probably the The Tay Bridge Disaster, which recounts the events of the evening of 28 December 1879, when, during a severe gale, the Tay River Bridge in Dundee collapsed as a train was passing over it.

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.

(Modern sources give the death toll as 75.) For the rest of this poem, and many others, see McGonagall Online.

The memory of McGonagall was resurrected in the 1970s by the comedian Spike Milligan who occasionally gave readings of McGonagall's verse.