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John Laurie as The Great McGonagall

Released Page One Records


DJM Records (1974)


1969 Album Scan kindly provided by Dave Homewood.

The original cover artwork for John Laurie as The Great McGonagall, issued on the legendary Page One record label.

The 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

.In 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 of McGonagall.

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 alive!'

Dave Homewood
Thanks to Dave for kindly contributing this review!

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