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The Disastrous Fire at Scarborough

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

'Twas in the year of 1898, and on the 8th of June,
A mother and six children met with a cruel doom
In one of the most fearful fires for some years past
And as the spectators gazed upon them they stood aghast

The fire broke out in a hairdresser's, in the town of Scarborough,
And as the fire spread it filled the people's hearts with sorrow;
But the police and the fire brigade were soon on the ground,
Then the hose and reel were quickly sent round.

Oh! it was horrible to see the flames leaping up all around,
While amongst the spectators the silence was profound,
As they saw a men climb out to the parapet high,
Resolved to save his life, or in the attempt to die!

And he gave one half frantic leap, with his heart full of woe,
And came down upon the roof of a public-house 20 feet below;
But, alas! he slipped and fell through the skylight,
And received cuts and bruises: oh, what a horrible sight!

He was the tenant of the premises, Mr Brookes,
And for his wife and family he enquires, with anxious looks,
But no one could tell him, it did appear,
And when told so adown his cheeks flowed many a tear.

He had been sleeping by himself on the second floor,
When suddenly alarmed, he thought he'd make sure,
And try to escape from the burning pile with his life,
And try and save his family and his wife.

The fire brigade played on the first door with greet speed,
But the flames had very inflammable fuel upon which to feed,
So that the fire spread with awful rapidity,
And in twenty minutes the building was doomed to the fourth storey.

The firemen wrought with might and main,
But still the fire did on them gain,
That it was two hours before they could reach the second floor,
The heat being so intense they could scarcely it endure.

And inside all the time a woman and six children were there,
And when the firemen saw them, in amazement they did stare;
The sight that met their eyes made them for to start
Oh, Heaven! the sight was sufficient to rend the strongest heart.
For there was Mrs Brookes stretched dead on the floor,
Who had fallen in trying her escape for to procure.
She was lying with one arm over her ten months old child,
And her cries for help, no doubt, were frantic and wild;
And part of her arm was burned off as it lay above
The child she was trying to shield, which shows a mother's love.

For the baby's flesh was partly uninjured by the flames,
Which shows that the loving mother had endured great pains;
It, however, met its death by suffocation,
And as the spectators gazed thereon, it filled their hearts with consternation.

The firemen acted heroicallv, without any dread,
And when they entered the back premises they found the six children dead;
But Mr Brookes, 'tis said, is still alive,
And I hope for many years he will survive.

Oh, Heaven! it is cruel to perish by fire,
Therefore let us be watchful before to our beds we retire,
And see that everything is in safe order before we fall asleep,
And pray that God o'er us in the night watch will keep.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:51 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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