The Mutiny at the Margins series takes a fresh look at the revolt of 1857 from original and unusual perspectives, focusing in particular on neglected socially marginal groups and geographic areas which have hitherto tended to be unrepresented in studies of this cataclysmic event in British imperial and Indian historiography.
Chapter 1: A British Griot: William McGonagall and his Indian Mutiny Poems
A British Griot: William McGonagall and his Indian Mutiny Poems
WILLIAM McGonagall was the son of an Irish handloom weaver and grew up in Scotland. He had a hankering for the stage and appeared at the Mr Giles Penny Theatre in Dundee, achieving some local success providing amusement as a ‘dramatic reader’. He is said to have received a letter from one C. Macdonald, Poet Laureate of Burmah (now Myanmar), informing him that by the order of King Thibaw of Burmah and the Andaman Islands, the title of ‘Sir Wm Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah’ had been bestowed on him. Enclosed with the letter was a silver elephant. He used the ...