"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
A website devoted to McGonagall describes him as a poet and tragedian of Dundee…widely hailed as the writer of the worst poetry in the English language.
A self-educated handloom weaver from Dundee, he discovered his discordant muse in 1877 and embarked upon a 25 year career as a working poet, delighting and appalling audiences across Scotland and beyond.
A public recitation of the above poem in 1888 met with a raucous response, according to a contemporary account:
An appeal to hear a recitation from the "renowned guest" was successful, and the "poet", bracing himself up, and striking a dramatic attitude, with one hand on his breast and the other on his sword, at once launched into the recital of a wonderful "poem" entitled "Tel-el-Kebir". Up to this point he had miraculously escaped the fierce fusilade that greeted his entrance; but his face, that had been liberally rouged in the dressing-room , now began to be streaked with white, and his tartan robes were bespattered with the yolks of eggs, and here and there pieces of shell clung to them. The first few lines of the "poems" were listened to, but when the "poet" raised his voice to a hoarse shout the gravity of his hearers gave way, and derisive cheers broke forth from all quarters, accompanied by another shower of flour, eggs and bread. Ignoring this byplay, the "poet" held bravely on, but a red herring for a second or two broke the continuity of his recitation. Wiping his face ruefully, he proceeeded to relate how :-
"Arabi's army were about 70,000 in all,
And virtually speaking, it was not very small."
This information invoked uproarious laughter, and brought forth another dozen or so eggs. One hit the "poet" on the shoulder, and the result he for a moment gingerly surveyed with puckered brows. The climax having now been reached, the McGonagal unsheathed his sword, an furiously slashed the air for a short time. The recitation ultimately being concluded, the "poet" waved his sword triumphantly, and strode with a majestic mein from the ring., accompanied by a parting volley of eggs. A storm of applause followed and after a rather lengthy "wait" the "poet" reappeared, and, bowing, rapidly retreated. The unusually quick movements of the "poet" rather took the spectators aback, and he had almost reached the exit of the arena before he was caught in a shower of missiles. An encore was enthuaiastically demanded, but the "poet" declined to comply…