This poem begins: 'Success to Colonel Baden-Powell and his praises loudly sing, / For being so brave in relieving Mafeking'. The piece was composed in June 1900, after the success of Colonel Baden-Powell's (1857-1941) operation against the Boers in South Africa.
The taking of Mafeking was not particularly important strategically, although it played a huge part in boosting morale and was remembered fondly for the courage and determination of Baden-Powell and his troops. They were outnumbered four to one and were besieged for 216 days. This was also where Baden-Powell's Scout Movement began: he recruited a garrison of boys to act as messengers and orderlies, thereby releasing men to fight. He also devised other clever strategies to call the enemy's bluff. These included making imitation forts to draw enemy fire, and loudly shouting orders to non-existent attack troops!
McGonagall (c. 1830-1902) has gone down in history as one of the worst poets in the English language. Born in Dundee in 1830, he began his working life as a handloom weaver and it was not until 1877, when he was in his late forties, that he 'found his muse'. Throughout his 25-year career, he always remained convinced of his own genius. This is especially evident in the messages included at the top of the page, from the Queen and Prince of Wales.
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1900 shelfmark: APS.4.90.32
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