LP "John Laurie as... The Great McGonagall"
is the most commonly found of his many albums. Most
of the others are as scarce as hen's teeth. This album is
subtitled "A selection of poems by William McGonagall".
The poet McGonagall has long been famously known as "the
best worst poet in Britain."
He was a weaver from Dundee who one day was struck with
the urge to write poetry, right out of the blue. Ever since
he first put pen to paper,
McGonagall has been derided for his attempts, especially
by the English.
However, John Laurie saw McGonagall differently. McGonagall
first came to John in the days when he used to recite poetry
for the famous Apollo Society. This was a society that John
had co-founded with John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft and others
to keep the spirit of Scottish poetry alive.
They would perform regularly, and John felt to end his gig
he needed something a little lighter than a border ballad
to finish on. So he decided to recite some McGonagall. In
those days the poet was all but forgotten. John's bringing
of the poetry of this man back to life stirred some interest.
Before long many reciters were doing McGonagall, and even
the likes of Spike Milligan got involved
January 1968 John starred as William McGonagall in a play
about the man written by the famous Scottish playwright,
Cliff Hanley. The play was called "Jack o' the Cudgel,
or, Hero of a Hundred Fights".
This LP can probably be considered something of a spin-off
from that play, because on the LP John is playing the role
He introduces the LP as the poet himself, and then launches
into a string of the man's most famous ballads. This record
is boosted by the background music track, written especially
to enhance the poetry, and also there are added sound effects.
These make the likes of the poem 'The Battle of Banarch
Burn' come alive, and if you can imagine John's recital
as being as enthusiastic and captivating as any of Private
Frazer's wild stories, you'll understand when I say this
record is an absolutely brilliant listen.
I doubt the poetry could ever be done as well by any other
reciter. John had an amazing gift, and he certainly deserved
his self appointed title of 'the best reciter of verse anywhere
Thanks to Dave for kindly
contributing this review!