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The Terrific Cyclone of 1893

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

'Twas in the year of 1893, and on the 17th and 18th of November,
Which the people of Dundee and elsewhere will long remember,
The terrific cyclone that blew down trees,
And wrecked many vessels on the high seas.

All along the coast the Storm Fiend did loudly roar,
Whereby many ships were wrecked along the shore,
And many seamen lost their lives,
Which caused their children to mourn and their wives.

Alas! they wiil never see their husbands again,
And to weep for them 'tis all in vain,
Because sorrow never could revive the dead,
Therefore they must weep, knowing all hope is fled.

The people's hearts in Dundee were full of dread
For fear of chimney-cans falling on their heads,
And the roofs of several houses were hurled to the ground,
And the tenants were affrighted, and their sorrow was profound,

And scores of wooden sheds were levelled to the ground,
And chimney stalks fell with a crashing rebound :
The gale swept everything before it in its way;
No less than 250 trees and 37 tombstones were blown down at Balgay.

Oh! it was a pitiful and a terrible sight
To see the fallen trees lying left and right,
Scattered about in the beautiful Hill of Balgay,
Also the tombstones that were swept away.

At Broughty Ferry the gale made a noise like thunder,
Which made the inhabitants shake with fear and wonder
If their dwellings would be blown to the ground,
While the slates and chimney-cans were falling all around.

Early on the 18th a disaster occurred on the Tay :
The wreck of the steamer "Union,"- Oh! horror and dismay!
Whereby four lives have been taken away,
Which will make their friends mourn for many a day.

The steamer left Newburgh for Dundee with a cargo of sand,
And the crew expected they would safely land,
But by the time the steamer was opposite Dundee,
Alas! stronger blew the gale, and heavier grew the sea.

And in order to prevent stranding the anchor was let go,
And with the cold the hearts of the crew were full of woe,
While the merciless Storm .Fiend loudly did roar,
As the vessel was driven towards the Fife shore.

Then the crew took shelter in the stokehole,
From the cold wind they could no longer thole,
But the high seas broke over her, one finding its way
Right into the stokehole, which filled the crew's hearts with dismay.

Then one of the crew, observing that the steamer had broached to,
Immediately went on deck to see what he could do,
And he tried hard to keep her head to the sea,
But the big waves dashed over her furiously.

Then Strachan shouted that the "Union" was sinking fast,
Which caused his companions to stand aghast,
And Strachan tried to lower the small boat,
But alas! the vessel sunk, and the boat wouldn't float,

And before he could recover himself he was struggling in the sea,
And battling with the big waves right manfully,
But his companions sank with the "Union" in the Tay,
Which filled Strachan's heart with sorrow and dismay,

And after a great struggle he reached the beach,
Fortunately so, which he never expected to reach,
For often he was drawn back by the back-wash,
As the big waves against his body did dash.

But, when nearly exhausted, and near to the land,
A piece of wreckage was near him, which he grasped with his hand,
Which providentially came within his reach,
And bruised, and battered, he was thrown on the beach.

He was so exhausted, he was unable to stand upright,
He felt so weakly, he was in such a plight,
Because the big waves had done him bodily harm,
Yet on hands and knees he crept to a house at Northfield farm.

He arrived there at ten minutes past four o'clock,
And when he awakened the inmates, their nerves got a shock,
But under their kind treatment he recovered speedily,
And was able to recount the disaster correctly.

Oh! it was a fearful, and a destructive storm!
I never mind the like since I was born,
Only the Tay Bridge storm of 1879,
And both these storms will be remembered for a very long time.

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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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