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A Tribute to Mr J. Graham Henderson, The World's Fair Judge

William Topaz McGonagall 1825 – 1902 (Greyfriars Parish, Edinburgh)

Thrice welcome home to Hawick, Mr J. Graham Henderson,
For by your Scotch tweeds a great honour you have won;
By exhibiting your beautiful tweeds at the World's Fair
You have been elected judge of Australian and American wools while there.

You had to pass a strict examination on the wool trade,
But you have been victorious, and not the least afraid,
And has been made judge of wools by Sir Henry Truman Good,
And was thanked by Sir Henry where he stood.

You have been asked by Sir Henry to lecture on wools there,
And you have consented to do so, which made your audience stare
When you let them see the difference betwixt good wool and bad;
You'll be sure to gain fresh honours, they will feel so glad.

To think they have found a clever man indeed,
That knows good wool and how to manufacture Scotch tweed,
I wish you success for many a long day,
Because your Scotch tweeds are the best, I venture to say.

May you always be prosperous wherever you go,
Always gaining fresh friends, but never a foe,
Because you are good and a very clever man,
And to gainsay it there's few people can.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Topaz McGonagall

William Topaz McGonagall (March 1825 – 29 September 1902) was an Irish weaver, poet and actor who lived in Scotland. 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 lampooned as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he was deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme. McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings are considered to generate in his work. Scholars argue that his 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. more…

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    "A Tribute to Mr J. Graham Henderson, The World's Fair Judge" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41771/a-tribute-to-mr-j.-graham-henderson,-the-world's-fair-judge>.

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