In post about celebrity funerals I published the other day, I noted that many of them are said to have been attended by one hundred thousand mourners. However, sometimes the turnout, though smaller, is just as impressive in a different way, by virtue of the great emotion being felt by all. An example is the funeral of the Reverend George Gilfillan of Dundee, to which thirty thousand people came.
This great occasion was well commemorated in a poem by William Topaz McGonagall. The news that some autographed poems of his fetched large sums at auction recently gives me an excuse for quoting it in full:
The Burial of the Reverend George Gilfillan
On the Gilfillan burial day,
In the Hill o' Balgay,
It was a most solemn sight to see,
Not fewer than thirty thousand people assembled in Dundee,
All watching the funeral procession of Gilfillan that day,
That death had suddenly taken away,
And was going to be buried in the Hill o' Balgay.
There were about three thousand people in the procession alone,
And many were shedding tears, and several did moan,
And their bosoms heaved with pain,
Because they knew they would never look upon his like again.
There could not be fewer than fifty carriages in the procession that day,
And gentlemen in some of them that had come from far away,
And in whispers some of them did say,
As the hearse bore the precious corpse away,
Along the Nethergate that day.
I'm sure he will be greatly missed by the poor,
For he never turned them empty-handed away from his door;
And to assist them in distress it didn't give him pain,
And I'm sure the poor will never look upon his like again.
On the Gilfillan burial day, in the Hill o' Balgay,
There was a body of policemen marshalled in grand array
And marched in front of the procession all the way;
Also the relatives and friends of the deceas'd,
Whom I hope from all sorrows has been releas'd,
And whose soul I hope to heaven has fled away,
To sing with saints above for ever and aye.
The provost, magistrates, and town council were in the procession that day;
Also Mrs Gilfillan, who cried and sobbed all the way
For her kind husband, that was always affable and gay,
Which she will remember until her dying day.
When the procession arrived in the Hill o' Balgay,
The people were almost as hush as death, and many of them did say
--As long as we live we'll remember the day
That the great Gilfillan was buried in the Hill o'Balgay.
When the body of the great Gilfillan was lowered into the grave,
'Twas then the people's hearts with sorrow did heave;
And with tearful eyes and bated breath,
Mrs Gilfillan lamented her loving husband's death.
Then she dropped a ringlet of immortelles into his grave,
Then took one last fond look, and in sorrow did leave;
And all the people left with sad hearts that day,
And that ended the Gilfillan burial in the Hill o' Balgay.
"The other day" isn't quite right, as the previous post was published one year ago today but I ain't going to mess with Pater's words. I think it is a coincidence that two of the remaining draft posts that Tony left were about funerals. He was not a maudlin fellow and these were not drafted at a time when such things were especially on his mind. Anyway, no more funeral posts after this one. Not a vintage post, this, composed as it is mainly of someone else's work. But he was always an admirer of the work of others – from a safe distance – something he passed on to me.