William McGonagall, c. 1825 - 1902. Poet and actor (April 1997)
About this artwork
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.
- title: William McGonagall, c. 1825 - 1902. Poet and actor
- accession number: PG 3427
- artist: Gerald ManganScottish (born 1951)
- depicted: William McGonagall
- gallery: Scottish National Portrait Gallery(Print Room)
- object type: Work on paper
- subject: Writing and literature Bridges
- materials: Black Indian ink on paper
- date created: April 1997
- measurements: 38.00 x 24.00 cm
- credit line: Purchased 2006
Gerald Mangan has had an eclectic and successful career as a poet, playwright, journalist, painter and cartoonist. Born in Glasgow, he worked as a writer-in-residence at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee and at Theatre Workshop in Edinburgh, where he was also an actor and designer. During the 1970s Mangan was based in Ireland. He now lives in France, reviewing and illustrating for the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ alongside other journals.