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The Kessack Ferry-Boat Fatality

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

'Twas on Friday the 2nd of March, in the year of 1894,
That the Storm Fiend did loudly laugh and roar
Along the Black Isle and the Kessack Ferry shore,
Whereby six men were drowned, which their friends will deplore.

The accident is the most serious that has occurred for many years,
And their relatives no doubt will shed many tears,
Because the accident happened within 200 yards of the shore,
While Boreas he did loudly rail and roar.

The ferry-boat started from the north or Black Isle,
While the gusty gales were blowing all the while
From the south, and strong from the south-west,
And to get to land fclie crew tried their utmost best.

The crew, however, were very near the land,
When the gusts rose such as no man could withstand,
With such force that the ferry-boat flew away
From her course, down into the little bay,

Which opens into the Moray Firth and the river Ness,
And by this time the poor men were in great distress,
And they tried again and again to get back to the pier,
And to save themselves from being drowned they began to fear.

And at last the poor men began to despair,
And they decided to drop anchor where they were,
While the Storm Fiend did angry roar,
And the white-crested billows did lash the shore.

And the water poured in, but was baled out quickly,
And the men's clothes were wet, and they felt sickly,
Because they saw no help in the distance,
Until at last they blew the fog-horn for assistance.

And quickly in response to their cry of distress,
Four members of the coastguard, in coastguard dreys,
Whose station overlooked the scene, put off in a small boat,
And with a desperate struggle they managed to keep her afloat.

Then the coastguards and boat drifted rapidly away,
Until they found themselves in the little bay,
Whilst the big waves washed o'er them, again and again,
And they began to think their struggling was all in vain.

But they struggled on manfully until they came upon a smaller boat,
Which they thought would be more easily kept afloat,
And to which the hawser was soon transferred,
Then for a second time to save the ferrymen all was prepared.

Then the coastguards drifted down alongside the ferry-boat,
And with great difficulty they kept themselves afloat,
Because the big waves were like mountains high,
Yet the coastguards resolved to save the ferrymen or die.

Then at last the ferrymen got into the coastguard boat,
And they all toiled manfully to keep her afloat,
Until she was struck as she rose on the crest of the wave,
Then each one tried hard his life to save.

And the poor men's hearts with grief were rent,
For they were thrown into the merciless sea in a moment,
And out of the eight men two have been saved,
All owing to their swimming abilities, and how they behaved.

Oh! it must have been a fearful sight,
To see them striving hard with all their might
To save themselves from a watery grave,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh and angry did rave.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:40 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 Kessack Ferry-Boat Fatality" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41920/the-kessack-ferry-boat-fatality>.

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