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The Hero of Kalapore

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

The 27th Regiment has mutinied at Kalapore;
That was the substance of a telegram, which caused great uproar,
At Sattara, on the evening of the 8th of July,
And when the British officers heard it, they heaved a bitter sigh.

'Twas in the year of 1857,
Which will long be remembered: Oh! Heaven!
That the Sepoys revolted, and killed their British officers and their wives;
Besides, they killed their innocent children, not sparing one of their lives.

There was one man there who was void of fear,
He was the brave Lieutenant William Alexander Kerr;
And to face the rebels boldly it was his intent,
And he assured his brother officers his men were true to the Government.

And now that the danger was so near at hand,
He was ready to put his men to the test, and them command;
And march to the rescue of his countrymen at Kalapore,
And try to quell the mutiny and barbarous uproar.

And in half an hour he was ready to start,
With fifty brave horsemen, fearless and smart;
And undaunted Kerr and his horsemen rode on without dismay,
And in the middle of the rainy season, which was no child's play.

And after a toilsome march they reached Kalapore,
To find their countrymen pressed very hard and sore;
The mutineers had attacked and defeated the Kalapore Light Infantry,
Therefore their fellow countrymen were in dire extremity.

Then the Sepoys established themselves in a small square fort;
It was a place of strength, and there they did resort;
And Kerr had no guns to batter down the gate,
But nevertheless he felt undaunted, and resigned to his fate.

And darkness was coming on and no time was to be lost,
And he must attack the rebels whatever be the cost;
Therefore he ordered his troopers to prepare to storm the fort,
And at the word of command towards it they did resort.

And seventeen troopers advanced to the attack,
And one of his men, Gumpunt Row Deo Kerr, whose courage wasn't slack;
So great was his courage he couldn't be kept back,
So he resolved with Lieutenant Kerr to make the attack.

Then with crowbars they dashed at the doors vigorously,
Whilst bullets rained around them, but harmlessly;
So they battered on the doors until one gave way,
Then Lieutenant Kerr and his henchmen entered without dismay.

Then Kerr's men rushed in sword in hand,
Oh! what a fearful onslaught, the mutineers couldn't it withstand,
And Kerr's men with straw set the place on fire,
And at last the rebels were forced to retire.

And took refuge in another house, and barricaded it fast,
And prepared to defend themselves to the last;
Then Lieutenant Kerr and Row Deo Kerr plied the crowbars again,
And heavy blows on the woordwork they did rain.

Then the door gave way and they crawled in,
And they two great heroes side by side did begin
To charge the mutineers with sword in hand, which made them grin,
Whilst the clashing of swords and bayonets made a fearful din.

Then hand to hand, and foot to foot, a fierce combat began,
Whilst the blood of the rebels copiously ran,
And a ball cut the chain of Kerr's helmet in two,
And another struck his sword, but the man he slew.

Then a Sepoy clubbed his musket and hit Kerr on the head,
But fortunately the blow didn't kill him dead;
He only staggered, and was about to be bayoneted by a mutineer,
But Gumpunt Kerr laid his assailant dead without fear.

Kerr's little party were now reduced to seven,
Yet fearless and undaunted, and with the help of Heaven,
He gathered his small band possessed of courage bold,
Determined to make a last effort to capture the stronghold.

Then he cried, "My men, we will burn them out,
And suffocate them with smoke, without any doubt!"
So bundles of straw and hay were found without delay,
And they set fire to them against the doors without dismay.

Then Kerr patiently waited till the doors were consumed,
And with a gallant charge, the last attack was resumed,
And he dashed sword in hand into the midst of the mutineers,
And he and his seven troopers played great havoc with their sabres.

So by the skillful war tactics of brave Lieutenant Kerr,
He defeated the Sepoy mutineers and rescued his countrymen dear;
And but for Lieutenant Kerr the British would have met with a great loss,
And for his great service he received the Victoria Cross.

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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…

All William Topaz McGonagall poems | William Topaz McGonagall Books

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