From today’s Times. One William Topaz McGonagall is apparently known as the world’s worst poet. His most famous piece is The Tay Bridge Disaster, which includes the lines: “Alas! I am very sorry to say / That ninety lives have been taken away / On the last Sabbath day of 1879 / Which will be remember’d for a very long time.”
Now, a play has been discovered in a Dundee archive, written in 1886 and never performed or published. It is a three-act melodrama, probably written as a tribute to Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays called Jack o’the Cudgel. "Set in the court of Edward III, it tells the story of Jack, a “noble Saxon” who rises from pauper to royal knight and vanquishes his enemies by clubbing them over the head with an enormous cudgel. In one memorable scene, he stops a giant from attacking a minstrel, declaring: “Leave the minstrel, thou pig-headed giant, or I’ll make you repent/For thou must know my name is Jack, and I hail from Kent.” "
McGonagall himself, an enthusiastic if dreadful actor, intended to play the main role but never got around to it. But even in advance of the play’s publication next month, there is much excitement among McGonagall’s cult following, who are looking forward to "the usual banalities, execrable rhymes and appalling scansion."