Sir Harry Lauder

Harry Lauder.
Sir Harry Lauder 1870-1950.

Sir Henry “Harry” Lauder was born on the  4 August 1870. He was a Scottish Music Hall and vaudeville theatre singer and comedian, and a substantial landowner.

He was perhaps best known for his long-standing hit “I Love a Lassie” and for his international success. He was described by Sir Winston Churchill as “Scotland’s greatest ever ambassador!” He became a familiar world-wide figure promoting images like the kilt and the cromach (walking stick) to huge acclaim, especially in America. Other songs followed, including “Roamin’ in the Gloamin”, “A Wee Deoch-an-Doris”, and “The End of the Road”.

By 1911, Lauder had become the highest-paid performer in the world, and was the first Scottish artist to sell a million records. He raised vast amounts of money for the war effort  during World War I, for which he was subsequently knighted in 1919. He went into semi-retirement in the mid-1930s, but briefly emerged to entertain troops in World War II. By the late-1940s he was suffering from long periods of ill-health and died in Scotland in 1950.

Lauder was born in his maternal grandfather’s house in Bridge Street Portobello Edinburgh, the eldest of seven children to John Lauder, a Master Potter, and his wife Isabella Urquhart Macleod née McLennan. John Lauder, was a descendent of Lauders of the Bass and Isabella was born in Arbroath to a family from the Black Isle Lauder’s father moved to Newbold, Derbyshire in early 1882 to take up a job designing chine, but died of pneumonia on April 20. Upon his death, Isabella, left short of money (the £15 Life Assurance Policy of her husband not going far), moved the family to Arbroath. Education beyond the age of 11 then requiring payment, Harry worked part-time at the local flaxmill to fund that. In 1884 the family moved to live with Harry’s maternal uncle, Alexander McLennan, in Hamilton, where his uncle found him employment at Eddlewood Colliery at a weekly wage of ten shillings, a job which he maintained for the next decade.

Lauder leased the Glenbranter estate in Argyll to the Forestry Commission and spent his last years at Lauder Ha (or Hall), his  Strathaven home, where he died on 26 February 1950, in his 80th year. His funeral was widely reported, notably by Pathé newsreels. One of the chief mourners was the Duke of Hamilton, a close family friend, who led the funeral procession through Hamilton, and read The Lesson. The largest wreath came from the Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (who shared her birthday with him) followed by one almost as large from Mr & Mrs Winston Churchill. Sir Harry was interred with his mother and brother at Bent Cemetery, Hamilton.

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Sir Harry Lauder’s grave.  
HARRY LAUDER FUNERAL.
The cortège was coming up the Bent Brae heading for the Bent cemetery.

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Wilma Bolton recalls Harry’s funeral, she wrote: “The cortège was coming up the Bent Brae heading for the Bent cemetery. I remember being in the crowd watching it with my mother and Mrs Alexander our next door neighbour. I was six at the time. The gasometer in the background was in Tuphall Road and the old gas light brings back memories of climbing them to turn the gas off.”

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THE STORY OF THE HIGGINS FAMILY OF HAMILTON

The Higgins Brothers from Cadzow, Hamilton, were great characters who exemplified the courage and hardship of the time in and after the First World War. Miners and fighters all.

They lived in the Miners rows and also lived upstairs from the Ranche Bar, a famed miners pub in Eddlewood. There was 13 of them, including the children! Mary Higgins the mother, was Mary Murphy before she married and was a bleach-field worker in the Paisley mills. Her parents were Irish. Dominick Higgins, the father, came from an Irish family who moved into Hamilton probably at the time of the Irish famine.

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They typify the families of the area, resilient, real characters, miners, and Irish. Mary Higgins, my grandmother, also worked at the pit-head and was every bit as tough (with a heart of gold). She moved to Hall Street and then to Arden Court before she died. She was a great character and lived until she was 93. Jim Higgins became British and Empire bantamweight champion in 1920 and won the Lonsdale belt outright in 1921 in a record time of under one year (the win and two defenses) which stood until the nineteen fifties when Peter Keenan missed the chance the to break it, but he didn’t do it, so it was never matched or broken.

It is said he was robbed of a lot of his winnings from his fights by his manager. It is said he sold his Lonsdale belt to an American sailor and is now in the states somewhere. It is unique, because it was the last belt won under the British and Empire Championship (before this was changed to just British). It is said the Higgins’s laid the foundation for boxing in Hamilton and one of the brothers maybe Jim or Terrance set up a boxing club there, where a Joe Gans, father of Walter McGowan learned from Jim Higgins. Jimmy died in his sixties after acting as a bouncer in a bookies shop in the Gallowgate in Glasgow.

Jim Higgins British and Empire Bantamweight champion
Jim Higgins
British and Empire Bantamweight champion

Tommy (Mouse) Higgins, a younger brother was also a famed boxer from Cadzow in the 1930s winning many professional and national championships. He was called Mouse because he was under five foot and weighed in at seven stone six pounds. A flyweight, he fought Benny Lynch for the British championship and he was only beaten by points decision, even though Benny was nine pounds heavier. He fought Lynch three times and Benny went on to win the World championship. Harry Lauder was in the Cadzow pits and he may have worked alongside the Higgins’s.

Tommy (Mouse) Higgins.
Tommy (Mouse) Higgins.

There are newspaper cuttings from 1932 which tells of Harry Lauder taking him under his wing, Tommy becoming his protégé. Terence Higgins lived in Millgate in Fairhill and died at the age of 88. He was a great character, an old tough miner with a great spirit. His mother Mary (Murphy) Higgins sent him a postcard (attached) when he was at the Front in France, during the First World War, it says: “My Dear Son Terence Higgins. Only a Post card from your mother in Hamilton to let you know we all well. Hopping you are the same and hope to God, seeing by the Papers, the Gordons have led the way in this big charge. I only hope to God, my son, you are one of the lively lads and God has spared you to pull your hard Battle through . My Son Terrence May God Guide and Protect you and send you a safe return to you mother. Good night son and good luck and god bless you and I will have for you. Terry night and day so cheer up son and have a good heart and will rite soon again. Hoping to hear from you soon. Kiss From Mother.

Postcard from Mary Higgins to her son Terrence.
Postcard from Mary Higgins to her son Terrence.

This is so poignant because when she wrote the post card she wouldn’t have known whether he was alive or dead.

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He came home though, even although he lost an eye! His granddaughter advised that Terry (Higgins) had told his son (David Higgins) that out of ten pals that joined up only two came back Terry Higgins and Terry Murphy (his cousin) both had been shot four times. He said a young man called Kit Rocks was the youngest soldier from Cadzow to be killed.

Terrence Higgins was always proud of the fact that he was the only man in two wars to survive being shot “6 o’clock in the bull” which was the term used to describe a shot between the eyes! That was in 1914, he went back to war and lost his eye after being shot again in 1918!