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.

Sir Harry Lauder’s grave.  
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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