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The Miraculous Escape of Robert Allan, the Fireman

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

'Twas in the year of 1858, and on October the fourteenth day,
That a fire broke out in a warehouse, and for hours blazed away;
And the warehouse, now destroyed, was occupied by the Messrs R. Wylie, Hill & Co.,
Situated in Buchanan Street, in the City of Glasgow.

The flames burst forth about three o'clock in the afternoon,
And intimation of the outbreak spread very soon;
And in the spectators' faces were depicted fear and consternation;
While the news flew like lightning to the Fire Brigade Station.

And when the Brigade reached the scene of the fire,
The merciless flames were ascending higher and higher,
Raging furiously in all the floors above the street,
And within twenty minutes the structure was destroyed by the burning heat.

Then the roof fell in, pushing out the front wall,
And the loud crash thereof frightened the spectators one and all,
Because it shook the neighbouring buildings to their foundation,
And caused throughout the City a great sensation.

And several men were injured by the falling wall ,
And as the bystanders gazed thereon, it did their hearts appal;
But the poor fellows bore up bravely, without uttering a moan,
And with all possible speed they were conveyed home.

The firemen tried to play upon the building where the fire originated,
But, alas! their efforts were unfortunately frustrated,
Because they were working the hose pipes in a building occupied by Messrs Smith & Brown,
But the roof was fired, and amongst them it came crashing down.

And miraculously they escaped except one fireman,
The hero of the fire, named Robert Allan,
Who was carried with the debris down to the street floor,
And what he suffered must have been hard to endure.

He travelled to the fire in Buchanan Street,
On the first machine that was ordered, very fleet,
Along with Charles Smith and Dan. Ritchie,
And proceeded to Brown & Smith's buildings that were burning furiously.

And 'in the third floor of the building he took his stand
Most manfully, without fear, with the hose in his hand,
And played on the fire through a window in the gable
With all his might, the hero, as long as he was able.

And he remained there for about a quarter of an hour,
While from his hose upon the building the water did pour,
When, without the least warning, the floor gave way,
And down he went with it: oh, horror! and dismay!

And with the debris and flooring he got jammed,
But Charlie Smith and Dan. Ritchie quickly planned
To lower down a rope to him, without any doubt,
So, with a long pull and a strong pull, he was dragged out.

He thought he was jammed in for a very long time,
For, instead of being only two hours jammed, he thought ‘twas months nine,
But the brave hero kept up his spirits without any dread
Then he was taken home in a cab, and put to bed.

Oh, kind Christians! think of Robert Allan, the hero man
For he certainly is a hero, deny it who can?
Because, although he was jammed, and in the midst of the flame,
He tells the world fearlessly he felt no pain.

The reason why, good people, he felt no pain
Is because he put his trust in God, to me it seems plain,
And in conclusion, I most earnestly pray,
That we will all put our trust in God, night and day.

And I hope that Robert Allan will do the same,
Because He saved him from being burnt while in the flame;
And all that trust in God will do well,
And be sure to escape the pains of hell.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:06 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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