How to find professor McGonagall's grave in Edinburgh

  1. Enter Greyfriars Kirkyard.
  2. Skirt to the right of the yellow church, aka 'Kirk'.
  3. Continue the loop around the church towards the Flodden wall arch.
  4. After passing through the arch continue straight ahead.
  5. At the gates of George Heriot's school turn left.
  6. Look for the glossy plaque on the wall with the fantastic hair. Here rests the worst poet in British history.

Edinburgh council has free wifi: EdiFreeWiFi

The gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard Edinburgh from George IV bridge
Greyfriars Kirkyard off Candlemaker Row
Inside Greyfriars Kirkyward Edinburgh facing Yellow Greyfriars Kirk
Skirt to the right of the yellow church (Kirk)
Heading right of Greyfriars Kirk
This way
Passing the glass foyer of Greyfriars Kirk
Stick to the loop passing the Kirk's main entrance
Having passed Greyfriars Kirk we approach the stone flodden wall arch
Continue beyond the Kirk towards the Flodden wall arch
Approaching George Heriots School
After passing through the arch continue on
The gates of George Heriots School
Proceed to the gates of George 'Hogwarts' Heriots
Turning left away from George Heriots School
Turn left
A plaque to poet William Mcgonagall, a pauper, he was actually buried without a grave
Tada! Britain's worst poet, so bad he's good.
Professor Mcgonagall studies a map of Privet Drive
He turned to smile at the tabby, but it had gone. Instead he was smiling at a rather severe-looking woman who was wearing square glasses exactly the shape of the markings the cat had had around its eyes. She, too, was wearing a cloak, an emerald one. Her black hair was drawn into a tight bun. She looked distinctly ruffled.
The Philosopher's Stone

Who is William Mcgonagall?

William Topaz Mcgonagall was born and died in Greyfriars parish Edinburgh. But he moved to Dundee finding work as a weaver. One day a strange feeling stole over him, and "a flame seemed to kindle up my entire frame with a strong desire to write poetry". A legend began.

Poet William Mcgonagall, who grew up in Greyfriars parish
McGonagall was born in 1825, 110 years before his relative Minerva; he has a long face & similar sharp features

Mcgonagall decided he needed a patron so wrote to Queen Victoria, a court functionary wrote back thanking him for his interest. Thanked by the Queen!

In 1879 during a visit to Dunfermline the Chief Templar mocked him and told him his poetry was very bad.
Robust McGonagall retorted that "it was so very bad that Her Majesty had thanked McGonagall for what the Chief Templar had condemned."

McGonagall decided that he needed to enhance his reputation further, and a live performance before her majesty would do it. In 1878 he walked the 97km from Dundee to Balmoral, over the Cairngorm mountains and through a violent thunderstorm to perform for Queen Victoria.

Mcgonagall presents to the Queen

When he arrived he announced "I am the Queen's Poet!"
The guards informed him "You're not the Queen's poet! Tennyson is the Queen's poet."
Mcgonagall presented his letter, but was refused entry and returned home.

He struggled for money and ended up working in a local circus reading his poems while the crowd chucked eggs, flour, herrings and stale bread. It got out of control and Dundee magistrates banned his performances.

William becomes immortal

Almost bankrupt he was finally published, striking a hit with a poem commemorating a horrific rail bridge collapse:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

A rush of books followed, suitably titled 'Poetic Gems' and the people of Dundee finally recognised him as "So giftedly bad, he backed unwittingly into genius"

JK Rowling said it was irrisistable that the great and brilliant Minerva, headmistress of Hogwarts, would somehow be distantly related to our brilliant buffon William.

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Why we cherish Professor Mcgonagall

A tall, black-haired witch in emerald-green robes stood there. She had a very stern face and Harry’s first thought was that this was not someone to cross.
Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone
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Why was Mcgonagall’s animagus form a tabby cat?

Ani-magi often transform into the same animal as their Patronus because the form is determined by the same inner-traits. Peter Pettigrew learned, or was probably coached, to become a rat foreshadowing the betrayal of his friends; while Minerva Mcgonagall is shrewd and intelligent.

Muggle studies 101


Between 1551-87 the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner wrote one of the earliest zoological texts. He was the first to use woodcuts for illustrations of animals, thus providing enough detail to identify them and his work jumped across the channel.

His English translator, Edward Topsell annotated his entry for felines with ‘The familiars (servants) of witches do most ordinarily appear in the shape of cats, which is an argument that the beast is dangerous to soul and body’. Elsewhere Gessner added ‘men have been known to lose their strength, perspire violents, and even faint at the sight of a cat’.

The page on cats from Historiae Animalium by Conrad Gessner
Historiae Animalium by Conrad Gessner

Well they can be spooky.

How did Mcgonagall become an animagus?

It requires supreme dedication to become an animagus, the process can take years and has ended in disaster, with permanent half-human half-animal mutations.

Drawing of Harry Potter's Mandrake plant
It begins by holding a Mandrake leaf in your mouth for an entire month

This is then spat into a vial within range of a ‘full moon’s pure rays’. If it’s a cloudy full moon it must start over.
There’s a whole bunch of wise, sensible, prudent preparation then it ends with the witch chanting the incantation “Amato Animo Animato Animagus” with the tip of their wand placed over the heart during an electrical storm.

Easy peasy.

Mcgonagall’s animagus form is, however, imperfect.

Mcgonagall as a tabby cat with square marks around her eyes reading the Daily Prophet
Minerva has square markings around her feline eyes where her spectacles sit, lending her a little extra air of authority.

Due to the complexity of the process to become an animagus, and it’s limited usefulness, there were only 7 Animagus in the 20th century.

The most influential unregistered, animagus is Rita Skeeter, she transforms into a nasty little beetle. “Appropriate for a reporter who scuttled merrily over the misfortune of others and fed on trash” - Pottermore.

The Daily Prophet leggy journalist Rita Skeeter interviews fraught Harry Potter

To learn more about the inspirations for the love of Harry’s life, Ms Skeeter, I'd love to meet you on my Harry Potter tour. But you don't have to, the internet is a treasure of information.

LUX life magazine awarded the Potter tour: Edinburgh's most magical pop culture tour
Book a loving Harry Potter Tour

Harry Potter sights nearby

Directions to the grave of He Who Shall Not Be Named.
Cast a disillusionment charm and watch the school previously known as Hogwarts materialise - why did the fans get it so wrong?

Art Credits
Warner Brothers for fantastic movies, cheers.
"It can't be, cats don't read maps or signs" by JesusAConde
Audrey Benjaminsen’s Mandrake Baby
Minerva McGonagall reading the Daily Prophet by sango562
Rita Skeeter & Harry Potter by Harry-Potter-Spain
Beautiful painting of Minerva Mcgonagall by Zsigmond Istvan

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