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  • Gerald Mangan
William McGonagall, c. 1825 - 1902. Poet and actor
© Gerald Mangan

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William McGonagall, c. 1825 - 1902. Poet and actor April 1997

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
McGonagall has a reputation as a notoriously bad poet. He wrote over 200 poems during his lifetime of which, ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ is perhaps most famous - its opening line: “Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!” Born in Edinburgh, McGonagall’s family moved to Dundee where he became a hand-loom weaver. When he was about twenty he debuted his acting skills in the role of Macbeth, and his desire for performance remained with him throughout his life. He was in his early fifties before “a strong desire to write poetry” captured him. He wrote about various subjects but there was an underlying theme of man’s struggle against nature and the transience of life. This drawing shows McGonagall precariously walking along the Tay Bridge in full Highland regalia, holding a stick for balance.


  • Acc. No. PG 3427
  • Medium Black Indian ink on paper
  • Size 38.00 x 24.00 cm
  • Credit Purchased 2006