McGonagall had passed middle life before he got the idea he had been visited by the muse. He was born in Edinburgh in 1825 and grew up in Dundee, to which his father moved in search of work. William also laboured long hours in the weaving trade.
All his life he was the butt of cruel jokes, but his faith in himself could not be shaken.
His remains were dropped into a paupers' grave nearly a hundred years ago, but his memory holds up.
All his poems have been published and so are there to be judged: they have, if nothing else, the quality of inimitability.
Until earlier this year his name and portrait flourished over a public house in one of Dundee's main roads and a McGonagall Society endures.
He claims a place on library shelves because his indomitable spirit appealed to authors and essayists. He made a number of courageous journeys, courageous in respect they were made by a person whose means were generally nil. He went to Balmoral, 50 odd miles, on foot, in the hope of seeing Queen Victoria. He got no further than the gate and was told never to come back. To London, then by sea, lured by forged invitations and, to cap it all, to New York, crossing the ocean in the steerage class and arriving with eight shillings. The streets of New York were not paved with gold for him, and in no time he was appealing to a Dundee benefactor to get him back home.
Our membership as at 5 November, 1998 stands at.
We are recognised by the Inland Revenue as a Scottish Charity No. SCO21554.
Copyright © 1996, Brian Geekie, Revised 5 November, 1998