This pic of McGonagall’s Walk on Riverside Drive in Dundee reminds me of both Superman and Queen Victoria an unlikely combination of the Zeus of super heroes a Scots hand loom weaver poet and tragedian and the British monarch who was allegedly challenged in the sense of humour department as in “We are not amused”. We’ll come to the Empress of India in a minute but what’s it got to do with Superman?
Well I loved those comics as a kid and so when they made the first of the movies in the early 80s I eagerly devoured it and all the surrounding publicity. Christopher Reeve who moonlighted as Clark Kent was soon on a chat show and talked about filming in a New York street. To give the impression that the big ‘S’ was defying gravity and scaling the side of a skyscraper they had him crawl along the street in his blue tights with red pants outside sped up the film and turned the camera on its side. Such was the technology at the time. Reeve added that hundreds of New Yorkers walked past and around this ridiculous sight without batting an eyelid.
But standing filming the ground in Dundee today I got a few funny looks from joggers and passers-by I can tell you unlike in the Big Apple. A dog and some seagulls also gave me a wide berth. But it was nothing like the consumer resistance McGonagall encountered when bringing culture to Dundee pubs in Victorian times. But he should not be confused with someone who cared about audience response. Or the er….., aura surrounding royalty.
He once walked from Dundee to Balmoral (around two hours by train) to present a poem to HRH having been gulled into thinking she actually wanted to see him and read it! He was of course given short shrift at the gates of Balmoral and had to walk all the way back to Dundee. What a man! The Walk named after him is much shorter though and takes you to the Tay Rail Bridge. About which the man wrote his most famous poem!