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The Albion Battleship Calamity

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

'Twas in the year of 1898, ond on the 21st of June,
The launching of the Battleship Albion caused a great gloom,
Amongst the relatives of many persons who were drowned in the River Thames,
Which their relatives will remember while life remains.

The vessel was christened by the Duchess of York,
And the spectators' hearts felt light as cork
As the Duchess cut the cord that was holding the fine ship,
Then the spectators loudly cheered as the vessel slid down the slip.

The launching of the vessel was very well carried out,
While the guests on the stands cheered without any doubt,
Under the impression that everything would go well;
But, alas! instantaneously a bridge and staging fell.

Oh! little did the Duchess of York think that day
That so many lives would be taken away
At the launching of the good ship Albion,
But when she heard of the catastrophe she felt woebegone.

But accidents will happen without any doubt,
And often the cause thereof is hard to find out;
And according to report, I've heard people say,
'Twas the great crowd on the bridge caused it to give way.

Just as the vessel entered the water the bridge and staging gave way,
Immersing some three hundred people which caused great dismay
Amongst the thousands of spectators that were standing there,
And in the faces of the bystanders, were depicted despair.

Then the police boats instantly made for the fatal spot,
And with the aid of dockyard hands several people were got,
While some scrambled out themselves, the best way they could--
And the most of them were the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

Part of them were the wives and daughters of the dockyard hands,
And as they gazed upon them they in amazement stands;
And several bodies were hauled up quite dead.
Which filled the onlookers' hearts with pity and dread.

One of the first rescued was a little baby,
Which was conveyed away to the mortuary;
And several were taken to the fitter's shed, and attended to there
By the firemen and several nurses with the greatest care.

Meanwhile, heartrending scenes were taking place,
Whilst the tears ran down many a Mother and Father's face,
That had lost their children in the River Thames,
Which they will remember while life remains.

Oh, Heaven! it was horrible to see the bodies laid out in rows,
And as Fathers and Mothers passed along, adown their cheeks the tears flows,
While their poor, sickly hearts were throbbing with fear.

A great crowd had gathered to search for the missing dead,
And many strong men broke down because their heart with pity bled,
As they looked upon the distorted faces of their relatives dear,
While adown their cheeks flowed many a silent tear.

The tenderest sympathy, no doubt, was shown to them,
By the kind hearted Police and Firemen;
The scene in fact was most sickening to behold,
And enough to make one's blood run cold,
To see tear-stained men and women there
Searching for their relatives, and in their eyes a pitiful stare.

There's one brave man in particular I must mention,
And I'm sure he's worthy of the people's attention.
His name is Thomas Cooke, of No. 6 Percy Road, Canning Town,
Who's name ought to be to posterity handed down,
Because he leapt into the River Thames and heroically did behave,
And rescued five persons from a watery grave.

Mr. Wilson, a young electrician, got a terrible fright,
When he saw his mother and sister dead-- he was shocked at the sight,
Because his sister had not many days returned from her honeymoon,
And in his countenance, alas! there was a sad gloom.

His Majesty has sent a message of sympathy to the bereaved ones in distress,
And the Duke and Duchess of York have sent 25 guineas I must confess.
And £1000 from the Directors of the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company.
Which I hope will help to fill the bereaved one's hearts with glee.

And in conclusion I will venture to say,
That accidents will happen by night and by day;
And I will say without any fear,
Because to me it appears quite clear,
That the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:38 min read
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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…

All William Topaz McGonagall poems | William Topaz McGonagall Books

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    "The Albion Battleship Calamity" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41849/the-albion-battleship-calamity>.

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