This poem begins, 'Down by the beautiful Lakes of Killarney, / Off times I have met my own dear Barney'. The sheet has been signed by the poet. The National Library of Scotland has two other signed McGonagall poems, 'The Burial of Mr Gladstone' and 'The Blind Girl'. A note at the top states the poem was composed in September 1899.
William McGonagall (the 'Sir' is an affectation), was born around 1825 in Edinburgh. He started writing poetry in his late forties. He is remembered today chiefly for the awfulness of his poems. However, though mocked publicly in his lifetime, he never lost faith in his own genius. This self-belief could partly explain his enduring appeal. It is likely that McGonagall himself hawked this sheet. Broadside publications of his works were his main source of income. He died in 1902.
In his autobiography, McGonagall records that the honourary title 'Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burma' was awarded to him in a letter by King Theebaw of Burmah and the Andaman Islands. King Theebaw was a real person, although it seems likely the title was a cruel hoax, albeit one which McGonagall believed for the rest of his life.
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