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The Wreck of the Steamer Stella

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

'Twas in the month of March and in the year of 1899,
Which will be remembered for a very long time;
The wreck of the steamer "Stella" that was wrecked on the Casquet Rocks,
By losing her bearings in a fog, and received some terrible shocks.

The "Stella" was bound for the Channel Islands on a holiday trip,
And a number of passengers were resolved not to let the chance slip;
And the hearts of the passengers felt light and gay,
As the "Stella" steamed out of the London Docks without delay.

The vessel left London at a quarter-past eleven,
With a full passenger list and a favourable wind from heaven;
And all went well until late in the afternoon,
When all at once a mist arose, alas! too soon.

And as the Channel Islands were approached a fog set in,
Then the passengers began to be afraid and made a chattering din;
And about half-past three o'clock the fog settled down,
Which caused Captain Reeks and the passengers with fear to frown.

And brave Captain Reeks felt rather nervous and discontent,
Because to him it soon became quite evident;
And from his long experience he plainly did see
That the fog was increasing in great density.

Still the "Stella" sailed on at a very rapid rate,
And, oh, heaven! rushed headlong on to her fate,
And passed o'er the jagged rocks without delay,
And her side was ripped open: Oh! horror and dismay!

Then all the passengers felt the terrible shock,
As the "Stella" stuck fast upon the first ledge of rock;
And they rushed to the deck in wild alarm,
While some of them cried: "Oh! God protect us from harm."

Then men clasped wives and daughters, and friends shook hands,
And unmoved Captain Reeks upon the bridge stands;
And he shouted, "Get out the boats without delay!"
Then the sailors and officers began to work without dismay.

Again Captain Reeks cried in a manly clear voice,
"Let the women and children be our first choice!"
Then the boats were loaded in a speedy way,
And with brave seamen to navigate them that felt no dismay.

Then the "Stella" began rapidly for to settle down,
And Captain Reeks gave his last order without a frown,
Shouting, "Men, for yourselves, you'll better look out!"
Which they did, needing no second bidding, without fear or doubt.

Then the male passengers rushed to the boats in wild despair,
While the cries of the women and children rent the air;
Oh, heaven! such a scene ! 'twas enough to make one weep,
To see mothers trying to save their children that were fast asleep.

Brave Captain Reeks stood on the bridge till the ship went down,
With his eyes uplifted towards heaven, and on his face no frown;
And some of the passengers jumped from the ship into the sea,
And tried hard to save their lives right manfully.

But the sufferings of the survivors are pitiful to hear,
And I think all Christian people for them will drop a tear,
Because the rowers of the boata were exhausted with damp and cold;
And the heroine of the wreck was Miss Greta Williams, be it told.

She remained in as open boat with her fellow-passengers and crew,
And sang "O rest in the Lord, and He will come to our rescue";
And for fourteen hours they were rowing on the mighty deep,
And when each man was done with his turn he fell asleep.

And about six o'clock in the morning a man shrieked out,
"There's a sailing boat coming towards us without any doubt";
And before the sailing boat could get near, a steamer hove in sight,
Which proved to be the steamer "Lynx," to their delight.

And they were conveyed to Guernsey without delay,
Poor souls, with their hearts in a state of joy and dismay;
But alas! more than eighty persons have been lost in the briny deep,
But I hope their souls are now in heaven in safe keep.

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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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    "The Wreck of the Steamer Stella" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 14 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41954/the-wreck-of-the-steamer-stella>.

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