Between You and Me
Sir Harry Lauder
Part 3 out of 4
through it in their motor cars. And he'd aye be talking of what a bad
toon it was he dwelt in; how shiftless, how untidy. And a' the time,
mind you, his ain front yard would be full o' weeds, and the grass no
cut, and papers and litter o' a' sorts aboot.
Weel, is it no better for that man to clean his ain front yard first?
Then there'll be aye ane gude spot for strangers to see. And there'll
be the example for his neighbors, too. They'll be wanting their places
to look as well as his, once they've seen his sae neat and tidy. And
then, when they've begun tae go to work in sic a fashion, soon the
whole toon will begin to want to look weel, and the streets will look
as fine as the front yards.
When I hear an agitator, a man who's preaching against all things as
they are, I'm always afu' curious aboot that man. Has he a wife? Has
he bairns o' his ain? And, if he has, hoo does he treat them?
There's men, you know, who'll gang up and doon the land talkin' o'
humanity. But they'll no be kind to the wife, and their weans will run
and hide awa' when they come home. There's many a man has keen een for
the mote in his neighbor's eye who canna see the beam in his own--
that's as true to-day as when it was said first twa thousand years
I ken fine there's folk do no like me. I've stood up and talked to
them, from the stage, and I've heard say that Harry Lauder should
stick to being a comic, and not try to preach. Aye, I'm no preacher,
and fine I ken it. And it's no preaching I try to do; I wish you'd a'
understand that. I'm only saying, whiles I'm talking so, what I've
seen and what I think. I'm but one plain man who talks to others like
"Harry," I've had them say to me, in wee toons in America, "ca' canny
here. There's a muckle o' folk of German blood. Ye'll be hurtin' their
feelings if you do not gang easy----"
It was a lee! I ne'er hurt the feelings o' a man o' German blood that
was a decent body--and there were many and many o' them. There in
America the many had to suffer for the sins of the few. I've had
Germans come tae me wi' tears in their een and thank me for the way I
talked and the way I was helping to win the war. They were the true
Germans, the ones who'd left their native land because they cauldna
endure the Hun any more than could the rest of the world when it came
to know him.
But I couldna ha gone easy, had I known that I maun lose the support
of thousands of folk for what I said. The truth as I'd seen it and
knew it I had to tell. I've a muckle to say on that score.
It was as great a surprise tae me as it could ha' been to anyone else
when I discovered that I could move men and women by speakin' tae
them. In the beginning, in Britain, I made speeches to help the
recruiting. My boy John had gone frae the first, and through him I
knew much about the army life, and the way of it in those days. Sae I
began to mak' a bit speech, sometimes, after the show.
And then I organized my recruiting band--Hieland laddies, wha went up
and doon the land, skirling the pipes and beating the drum. The
laddies wad flock to hear them, and when they were brocht together so
there was easy work for the sergeants who were wi' the band. There's
something about the skirling of the pipes that fires a man's blood and
sets his feet and his fingers and a' his body to tingling.
Whiles I'd be wi' the band masel'; whiles I'd be off elsewhere. But it
got sae that it seemed I was being of use to the country, e'en though
they'd no let me tak' a gun and ficht masel'. When I was in America
first, after the war began, America was still neutral. I was ne'er one
o' those who blamed America and President Wilson for that. It was no
ma business to do sae. He was set in authority in that country, and
the responsibility and the authority were his. They were foolish
Britons, and they risked much, who talked against the President of the
United States in yon days.
I keened a' the time that America wad tak' her stand on the side o'
the richt when the time came. And when it came at last I was glad o'
the chance to help, as I was allowed tae do. I didna speak sae muckle
in favor of recruiting; it was no sae needfu' in America as it had
been in Britain, for in America there was conscription frae the first.
In America they were wise in Washington at the verra beginning. They
knew the history of the war in Britain, and they were resolved to
profit by oor mistakes.
But what was needed, and sair needed, in America, was to mak' people
who were sae far awa' frae the spectacle o' war as the Hun waged it
understand what it meant. I'd been in France when I came back to
America in the autumn o' 1917. My boy was in France still; I'd knelt
beside his grave, hard by the Bapaume road. I'd seen the wilderness of
that country in Picardy and Flanders. We'd pushed the Hun back frae a'
that country I'd visited--I'd seen Vimy Ridge, and Peronne, and a' the
I told what I'd seen. I told the way the Hun worked. And I spoke for
the Liberty Loans and the other drives they were making to raise money
in America--the Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A., the Salvation Army, the
Knights of Columbus, and a score of others. I knew what it was like,
over yonder in France, and I could tell American faithers and mithers
what their boys maun see and do when the great transports took them
It was for me, to whom folk would listen, tae tell the truth as I'd
seen it. It was no propaganda I was engaged in--there was nae need o'
propaganda. The truth was enow. Whiles, I'll be telling you, I found
trouble. There were places where folk of German blood forgot they'd
come to America to be free of kaisers and junkers. They stood by their
old country, foul as her deeds were. They threatened me, more than
once; they were angry enow at me to ha' done me a mischief had they
dared. But they dared not, and never a voice was raised against me
publicly--in a theatre or a hall where I spoke, I mean.
I went clear across America and back in that long tour. When I came
back it was just as the Germans began their last drive. Ye'll be
minding hoo black things looked for a while, when they broke our
British line, or bent it back, rather, where the Fifth Army kept the
watch? Mind you, I'd been over all that country our armies had
reclaimed frae the Hun in the long Battle o' the Somme. My boy John,
the wean I'd seen grow frae a nursling in his mither's arms, had focht
in that battle.
He'd been wounded, and come hame tae his mither to be nursed back to
health. She'd done that, and she'd blessed him, and kissed him gude
bye, and he'd gone oot there again. And--that time, he stayed. There's
a few words I can see, written on a bit o' yellow paper, each time I
close ma een.
"Captain John Lauder, killed, December 28. Official."
Aye, I'd gone all ower that land in which he'd focht. I'd seen the
spot where he was killed. I'd lain doon beside his grave. And then, in
the spring of 1918, as I travelled back toward New York, across
America, the Hun swept doon again through Peronne and Bapaume. He took
back a' that land British blood had been spilled like watter to regain
The pity of it! Sae I was thinking each day as I read the bulletins!
Had America come in tae late? I'd read the words of Sir Douglas Haig,
that braw and canny Scot wha held the British line in France, when he
said Britain was fichtin' wi' her back tae the wall. Was Ypres to be
lost, after four years? Was the Channel to be laid open to the Hun? It
lookit sae, for a time.
I was like a man possessed by a de'il, I'm thinking, in you days. I
couldna think of ought but the way the laddies were suffering in
France. And it filled me wi' rage tae see those who couldna or wouldna
understand. They'd sit there when I begged them to buy Liberty Bonds,
and they'd be sae slow to see what I was driving at. I lost ma temper,
sometimes. Whiles I'd say things to an audience that were no so, that
were unfair. If I was unjust to any in those days, I'm sorry. But they
maun understand that ma heart was in France, wi' them that was deein'
and suffering new tortures every day. I'd seen what I was talking of.
Whiles, in America, I was near to bein' ashamed, for the way I was
always seekin' to gain the siller o' them that came to hear me sing. I
was raising money for ma fund for the Scotch wounded. I'd a bit poem
I'd written that was printed on a card to be sold, and there were some
wee stamps. Mrs. Lauder helped me. Each day, as an audience went oot,
she'd be in the lobby, and we raised a grand sum before we were done.
And whiles, too, when I spoke on the stage, money would come raining
doon, so that it looked like a green snowstorm.
I maun no be held to account too strictly, I'm thinking, for the hard
things I sometimes said on that tour. I tak' back nothing that was
deserved; there were toons, and fine they'll ken themselves wi'oot ma
naming them, that ought to be ashamed of themselves. There was the
book I wrote. Every nicht I'd auction off a copy to the highest
bidder--the money tae gae tae the puir wounded laddies in Scotland. A
copy went for five thousand dollars ane nicht in New York!
That was a grand occasion, I'm tellin' ye. It was in the Metropolitan
Opera Hoose, that great theatre where Caruso and Melba and a' the
stars of the opera ha' sung sae often. Aye, Harry Lauder had sung
there tae--sung there that nicht! The hoose was fu', and I made my
And then I held up my book, "A Minstrel in France." I asked that they
should buy a copy. The bidding started low. But up and up it ran. And
when I knocked it doon at last it was for twenty-five hundred dollars
--five hundred poonds! But that wasna a'. I was weel content. But the
gentleman that bocht it lookit at it, and then sent it back, and tauld
me to auction it all ower again. I did, and this time, again, it went
for twenty-five hundred dollars. So there was five thousand dollars--a
thousand poonds--for ma wounded laddies at hame in Scotland.
Noo, think o' the contrast. There's a toon--I'll no be writing doon
its name--where they wadna bid but twelve dollars--aboot twa poond ten
shillings--for the book! Could ye blame me for being vexed? Maybe I
said more than I should, but I dinna think so. I'm thinking still
those folk were mean. But I was interested enough to look to see what
that toon had done, later, and I found oot that its patriotism must
ha' been awakened soon after, for it bocht its share and more o'
bonds, and it gave its siller freely to all the bodies that needed
money for war work. They were sair angry at old Harry Lauder that
nicht he tauld them what he thocht of their generosity, but it maybe
he did them gude, for a' that!
I'd be a dead man the noo, e'en had I as many lives as a dozen nine
lived cats, had a' the threats that were made against me in America
been carried oot. They'd tell me, in one toon after anither, that it
wadna be safe tae mak' ma talk against the Hun. But I was never
frightened. You know the old saying that threatened men live longest,
and I'm a believer in that. And, as it was, the towns where there were
most people of German blood were most cordial to me.
I ken fine how it was that that was so. All Germans are not Huns. And
in America the decent Germans, the ones who were as filled with horror
when the Lusitania was sunk as were any other decent bodies, were
anxious to do all they could to show that they stood with the land of
I visited many an American army camp. I've sung for the American
soldiers, as well as the British, in America, and in France as well.
And I've never seen an American regiment yet that did not have on its
muster rolls many and many a German name. They did well, those
American laddies wi' the German names. They were heroes like the rest.
It's a strange thing, the way it fell to ma lot tae speak sae much as
I did during the war. I canna quite believe yet that I was as usefu'
as my friends ha' told me I was. Yet they've come near to making me
believe it. They've clapped a Sir before my name to prove they think
so, and I've had the thanks of generals and ministers and state. It's
a comfort to me to think it's so. It was a sair grief tae me that when
my boy was dead I couldna tak' his place. But they a' told me I'd be
wasted i' the trenches.
A man must do his duty as he's made to see it. And that's what I tried
to do in the war. If I stepped on any man's toes that didna deserve
it, I'm sorry. I'd no be unfair to any man. But I think that when I
said hard things to the folk of a toon they were well served, as a
rule, and I know that it's so that often and often folk turned to
doing the things I'd blamed them for not doing even while they were
most bitter against me, and most eager to see me ridden oot o' toon
upon a rail, wi' a coat o' tar and feathers to cover me! Sae I'm not
minding much what they said, as long as what they did was a' richt.
All's well that ends well, as Wull Shakespeare said. And the war's
well ended. It's time to forget our ain quarrels the noo as to the way
o' winning; we need dispute nae mair as to that. But there's ane thing
we maun not forget, I'm thinking. The war taught us many and many a
thing, but none that was worth mair to us than this. It taught us that
we were invincible sae lang as we stood together, we folk who speak
the common English tongue.
Noo, there's something we knew before, did we no? Yet we didna act
upon our knowledge. Shall we ha' to have anither lesson like the one
that's past and done wi', sometime in the future? Not in your lifetime
or mine, I mean, but any time at a'? Would it no be a sair pity if
that were so? Would it no mak' God feel that we were a stupid lot, not
worth the saving?
None can hurt us if we but stand together, Britons and Americans.
We've a common blood and a common speech. We've our differences, true
enough. We do not do a' things i' the same way. But what matter's
that, between friends? We've learned we can be the best o' friends.
Our laddies learned that i' France, when Englishman and Scot, Yankee
and Anzac, Canadian and Irishman and Welshman, broke the Hindenburg
We've the future o' the world, that those laddies saved, to think o'
the noo. And we maun think of it together, and come to the problems
that are still left together, if we would solve them in the richt way,
and wi'oot havin' to spill more blood to do so.
When men ha' fought together and deed together against a common foe
they should be able to talk together aboot anything that comes up
between them, and mak' common cause against any foe that threatens
either of them. And I'm thinking that no foe will ever threaten any of
the nations that fought against the Hun that does no threaten them a'!
It's a turning point in the life of any artist like myself to mak' a
London success. Up tae that time in his career neithing is quite
certain. The provinces may turn on him; it's no likely, but they may.
It's true there's many a fine artist has ne'er been able to mak' a
London audience care for him, and he's likely to stay in the provinces
a' his life long, and be sure, always, o' his greetin' frae those
who've known him a lang time. But wi' London having stamped success
upon ye ye can be sure o' many things. After that there's still other
worlds to conquer, but they're no sae hard tae reach.
For me that first nicht at Gatti's old hall in the Westminster Bridge
road seems like a magic memory, even the noo. I'm sorry the wife was
no wi' me; had I been able to be sure o' getting the show Tom Tinsley
gied me I'd ha' had her doon. As it was it wad ha' seemed like
tempting Providence, and I've never been any hand tae do that. I'm no
superstitious, exactly--certainly I'm no sae for a Scot. But I dinna
believe it's a wise thing tae gave oot o' the way and look for
trouble. I'll no walk under a ladder if I can help it, I'll tell ye,
if ye ask me why, that I avoid a ladder because I've heard o' painters
dropping paint and costin' them that was beneath the price o' the
cleaning of their claes, and ye can believe that or no, as ye've a
Ye've heard o' men who went to bed themselves at nicht and woke up
famous. Weel, it was no like that, precisely, wi' me after the nicht
at Gatti's. I was no famous i' the morn. The papers had nowt to say o'
me; they'd not known Mr. Harry Lauder was to mak' his first appearance
in the metropolis. And, e'en had they known, I'm no thinking they'd
ha' sent anyone to write me up. That was tae come to me later on. Aye,
I've had my share of write-ups in the press; I'd had them then, in the
provincial papers. But London was anither matter.
Still, there were those who knew that a new Scotch comic had made an
audience like him. It's a strange thing how word o' a new turn flies
aboot amang those regulars of a hall's audiences. The second nicht
they were waiting for my turn, and I got a rare hand when I stepped
oot upon the stage--the nicht before there'd been dead silence i' the
hoose. Aye, the second nicht was worse than the first. The first nicht
success micht ha' been an accident; the second aye tells the tale.
It's so wi' a play. I've friends who write plays, and they say the
same thing--they aye wait till the second nicht before they cheer, no
matter how grand a success they think they ha' the first nicht, and
hoo many times they ha' to step oot before the curtain and bow, and
how many times they're called upon for a speech.
So when the second nicht they made me gie e'en more encores than the
first I began to be fair sure. And the word had spread, I learned, to
the managers o' other halls; twa-three of them were aboot to hear me.
My agent had seen to that; he was glad enough to promise me all the
London engagements I wanted noo that I'd broken the ice for masel'! I
didna blame him for havin' been dootfu'. He knew his business, and it
would ha' been strange had he ta'en me at my word when I told him I
could succeed where others had failed that had come wi' reputations
better than my own.
I think I'd never quite believed, before, the tales I'd heard of the
great sums the famous London artists got. It took the figures I saw on
the contracts I was soon being asked to sign for appearances at the
Pavilion and the Tivoli and all the other famous music halls to make
me realize that all I'd heard was true. They promised me more for
second appearances, and my agent advised me against making any long
term engagements then.
"The future's yours, now, Harry, my boy," he said. "Wait--and you can
get what you please from them. And then--there's America to think
I laughed at him when he said that. My mind had not carried me sae far
as America yet. It seemed a strange thing, and a ridiculous one, that
he who'd been a miner digging coal for fifteen shillings a week not so
lang syne, should be talking about making a journey of three thousand
miles to sing a few wee songs to folk who had never heard of him. And,
indeed, it was a far cry frae those early times in London to my
American tours. I had much to do before it was time for me to be
thinking seriously of that.
For a time, soon after my appearance at Gatti's, I lived in London. A
man can be busy for six months in the London halls, and singing every
nicht at more than one. There is a great ring of them, all about the
city. London is different frae New York or any great American city in
that. There is a central district in which maist of the first class
theatres are to be found, just like what is called Broadway in New
York. But the music halls--they're vaudeville theatres in New York, o'
coorse--are all aboot London.
Folk there like to gae to a show o' a nicht wi'oot travelling sae far
frae hame after dinner. And in London the distances are verra great,
for the city's spread oot much further than New York, for example. In
London there are mair wee hooses; folk don't live in apartments and
flats as much as they do in New York. So it's a pleasant thing for
your Londoner that he can step aroond the corner any nicht and find a
music hall. There are half a dozen in the East End; there are more in
Kensington, and out Brixton way. There's one in Notting Hill, and
Bayswater, and Fulham--aye, there a' ower the shop.
And it's an interesting thing, the way ye come to learn the sort o'
thing each audience likes. I never grow tired of London music-hall
audiences. A song that makes a great hit in one will get just the
tamest sort of a hand in another. You get to know the folk in each
hoose when you've played one or twa engagements in it; they're your
friends. It's like having a new hame everywhere you go.
In one hoose you'll find the Jews. And in another there'll be a lot o'
navvies in the gallery. Sometimes they'll be rough customers in the
gallery of a London music hall. They're no respecters of reputations.
If they like you you can do nae wrong; if they don't, God help you!
I've seen artists who'd won a great name on the legitimate stage booed
in the halls; I've been sorry for mair than one o' the puir bodies.
You maun never be stuck up if you'd mak' friends and a success in the
London halls. You maun remember always that it's the audience you're
facing can make you or break you. And, another thing. It's a fatal
mistake to think that because you've made a success once you're made
for life. You are--if you keep on giving the audience what you've made
it like once. But you maun do your best, nicht after nicht, or they'll
soon ken the difference--and they'll let you know they ken it, too.
I'm often asked if I'm no sorry I'm just a music hall singer. It's a
bonnie thing to be a great actor, appearing in fine plays. No one
admires a great actor in a great play more than I do, and one of the
few things that ever makes me sorry my work is what it is is that I
can sae seldom sit me doon in a stall in a theatre and watch a play
through. But, after a', why should I envy any other man his work? I do
my best. I study life, and the folk that live it, and in my small way
I try to represent life in my songs. It's my way, after a', and it's
been a gude way for me. No, I'm no sorry I'm just a music hall singer.
I've done a bit o' acting. My friend Graham Moffatt wrote a play I was
in, once, that was no sicca poor success--"A Scrape o' the Pen" it was
called. I won't count the revues I've been in; they're more like a
variety show than a regular theatrical performance, any nicht in the
I suppose every man that's ever stepped before the footlichts has
thought o' some day appearing in a character from Wull Shakespeare's
plays, and I'm no exception tae the rule. I'll gae further; I'll say
that every man that's ever been any sort of actor at a' has thought o'
playing Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. But I made up ma mind, lang ago,
that Hamlet was nae for me. Syne then, though, I've thought of another
o' Shakespeare's characters I'd no mind playing. It's a Scottish part
They've a' taken Macbeth too seriously that ha' played him. I'm
thinking Shakespeare's ghost maun laugh when it sees hoo all the great
folk ha' missed the satire o' the character. Macbeth was a Scottish
comedian like masel'--that's why I'd like to play him. And then, I'm
awfu' pleased wi' the idea o' his make-up. He wears great whiskers,
and I'm thinkin' they'd be a great improvement to me, wi' the style o'
beauty I have. I notice that when a character in one o' ma songs wears
whiskers I get an extra round o' applause when I come on the stage.
And then, while Macbeth had his faults, he was a verra accomplished
pairson, and I respect and like him for that. He did a bit o'
murdering, but that was largely because of his wife. I sympathize wi'
any man that takes his wife's advice, and is guided by it. I've done
that, ever since I was married. Tae be sure, I made a wiser choice
than did Macbeth, but it was no his fault the advice his lady gied him
was bad, and he should no be blamed as sair as he is for the way he
followed it. He was punished, tae, before ever Macduff killed him--
wasna he a victim of insomnia, and is there anything worse for a man
tae suffer frae than that?
Aye, if ever the time comes when I've a chance to play in one of Wull
Shakespeare's dramas, it's Macbeth I shall choose instead of Hamlet.
So I gie you fair warning. But it's only richt to say that the wife
tells me I'm no to think of doing any such daft thing, and that my
managers agree wi' her. So I think maybe I'll have to be content just
to be a music hall singer a' my days--till I succeed in retiring, that
is, and I think that'll be soon, for I've a muckle tae do, what wi
twa-three mair books I've promised myself to write.
Weel, I was saying, a while back, before I digressed again, that soon
after that nicht at Gatti's I moved to London for a bit. It was wiser,
it seemed tae me. Scotland was a lang way frae London, and it was
needfu' for me to be in the city so much that I grew tired of being
awa' sae much frae the wife and my son John. Sae, for quite a spell, I
lived at Tooting. It was comfortable there. It wasna great hoose in
size, but it was well arranged. There was some ground aboot it, and
mair air than one can find, as a rule, in London. I wasna quite sae
cramped for room and space to breathe as if I'd lived in the West End
--in a flat, maybe, like so many of my friends of the stage. But I
always missed the glen, and I was always dreaming of going back to
Scotland, when the time came.
It was then I first began to play the gowf. Ye mind what I told ye o'
my first game, wi' Mackenzie Murdoch? I never got tae be much more o'
a hand than I was then, nae matter hoo much I played the game. I'm a
gude Scot, but I'm thinkin' I didna tak' up gowf early enough in life.
But I liked to play the game while I was living in London. For ane
thing it reminded me of hame; for another, it gie'd me a chance to get
mair exercise than I would ha done otherwise.
In London ye canna walk aboot much. You ha' to gae tae far at a time.
Thanks to the custom of the halls, I was soon obliged to ha' a motor
brougham o' my ain. It was no an extravagance. There's no other way of
reaching four or maybe five halls in a nicht. You've just time to dash
from one hall, when your last encore's given, and reach the next for
your turn. If you depended upon the tube or even on taxicabs, you
could never do it.
It was then that my brother-in-law, Tom Vallance, began to go aboot
everywhere wi' me. I dinna ken what I'd be doing wi'oot Tom. He's been
all ower the shop wi' me--America, Australia, every where I gae. He
knows everything I need in ma songs, and he helps me tae dress, and
looks after all sorts of things for me. He packs all ma claes and ma
wigs; he keeps ma sticks in order. You've seen ma sticks? Weel, it's
Tom always hands me the richt one just as I'm aboot to step on the
stage. If he gied me the stick I use in "She's Ma Daisy" when I was
aboot to sing "I Love a Lassie" I believe I'd have tae ha' the curtain
rung doon upon me. But he never has. I can trust old Tom. Aye, I ca'
trust him in great things as well as sma'.
It took me a lang time to get used to knowing I had arrived, as the
saying is. Whiles I'd still be worried, sometimes, aboot the future.
But soon it got so's I could scarce imagine a time when getting an
engagement had seemed a great thing. In the old days I used to look in
the wee book I kept, and I'd see a week's engagement marked, a long
time ahead, and be thankfu' that that week, at least, there'd be
siller coming in.
And noo--well, the noo it's when I look in the book and see, maybe a
year ahead, a blank week, when I've no singing the do, that I'm
"Eh, Tom," I'll say. "Here's a bit o' luck! Here's the week frae
September fifteenth on next year when I've no dates!"
"Aye, Harry," he'll answer me. "D'ye no remember? We'll be on the
ocean then, bound for America. That's why there's no dates that week."
But the time will be coming soon when I can stop and rest and tak'
life easy. 'Twill no be as happy a time as I'd dreamed it micht be.
His mither and I had looked forward to settling doon when ma work was
done, wi' my boy John living nearby. I bought my farm at Dunoon that
he micht ha' a place o' his ain to tak' his wife tae when he married
her, and where his bairns could be brought up as bairns should be, wi'
glen and hill to play wi'. Aweel, God has not willed that it should be
sae. Mrs. Lauder and I canna have the grandchildren we'd dreamed aboot
to play at our knees.
But we've one another still, and there's muckle tae be thankfu' for.
One thing I liked fine aboot living in London as I did. I got to know
my boy better than I could ha' done had we stayed at hame ayant the
Tweed. I could sleep hame almost every nicht, and I'd get up early
enough i' the morning to spend some time wi' him. He was at school a
great deal, but he was always glad tae see his dad. He was a rare hand
wi' the piano, was John--a far better musician than ever I was or
shall be. He'd play accompaniments for me often, and I've never had an
accompanist I liked sae well. It's no because he was my boy I say that
he had a touch, and a way of understanding just what I was trying tae
do when I sang a song, that made his accompaniment a part of the song
and no just something that supported ma voice.
But John had no liking for the stage or the concert platform. It was
the law that interested him. That aye seemed a little strange tae me.
But I was glad that he should do as it pleased him. It was a grand
thing, his mother and I thought, that we could see him gae to
Cambridge, as we'd dreamed, once, many years before it ever seemed
possible, that he micht do. And before the country called him to war
he took his degree, and was ready to begin to read law.
We played many a game o' billiards together, John and I, i' the wee
hoose at Tooting. We were both fond o' the game, though I think
neither one of us was a great player. John was better than I, but I
was the stronger in yon days, and I'd tak' a great swipe sometimes and
pocket a' the balls. John was never quite sure whether I meant to mak'
some o' the shots, but he was a polite laddie, and he'd no like to be
accusing his faither o' just being lucky.
"Did ye mean that shot, pal" he'd ask me, sometimes. I'd aye say yes,
and, in a manner o' speaking, I had.
Aweel, yon days canna come again! But it's gude to think upon them.
And it's better to ha' had them than no, no matter what Tennyson sang
once. "A sorrow's crown of sorrow--to remember happier things." Was it
no sae it went? I'm no thinking sae! I'm glad o' every memory I have
of the boy that lies in France.
There was talk that I micht gae to America lang before the time came.
I'd offers--oh, aye! But I was uncertain. It was a tricky business,
tae go sae far frae hame. A body would be a fool to do sae unless he
waur sure and siccar against loss. All the time I was doing better and
better in Britain. And it seems that American visitors to Britain,
tourists and the like, came to hear me often, and carried hame
reports--to say nothing of the scouts the American managers always
Still, I was verra reluctant tae mak' the journey. I was no kennin'
what sort of a hand I'd be for an ocean voyage. And then, I was liking
my ain hame fine, and the idea of going awa' frae it for many months
was trying tae me. It was William Morris persuaded me in the end, of
course. There's a man would persuade a'body at a' tae do his will.
He'll be richt sae, often, you see, that you canna hault oot against
the laddie at all. I'm awfu' fond o' Wullie Morris. He should ha' been
He made me great promises. I didna believe them a', for it seemed
impossible that they could be true. But I liked the man, and I decided
that if the half of what he said was true it would be verra
interesting--verra interesting indeed. Whiles, when you deal w' a man
and he tells you more than you think he can do, you come to distrust
him altogether. It was not so that I felt aboot Wull Morris.
It was a great time when I went off to America at last. My friends
made a great to-do aboot my going. There were pipers to play me off--I
mind the way they skirled. Verra soft they were playing at the end,
ane of my favorite tunes--"Will ye no come back again?" And so I went.
I was a better sailor than I micht ha' thought. I enjoyed the voyage.
And I'll ne'er forget my first sicht o' New York. It's e'en more
wonderfu' the noo; there's skyscrapers they'd not dared dream of, so
high they are, when I was first there. Maybe they've reached the
leemit now, but I hae ma doots--I'm never thinking a Yankee has
reached a leemit, for I've ma doots that he has ane!
I kenned fine that they'd heard o' me in America. Wull Morris and
others had told me that. I knew that there'd be Scots there tae bid me
welcome, for the sake of the old country. Scots are clansmen, first
and last; they make much of any chance to keep the memory and the
spirit of Scotland fresh in a strange land, when they are far frae
hame. And so I thought, when I saw land, that I'd be having soon a bit
reception frae some fellow Scots, and it was a bonny thing to think
upon, sae far frae all I'd known all my life lang.
I was no prepared at a' for what really happened. The Scots were oot--
oh, aye, and they had pipers to greet me, and there were auld friends
that had settled doon in New York or other parts o' the United States,
and had come to meet me. Scots ha' a way o' makin' siller when they
get awa' frae Scotland, I'm findin' oot. At hame the competition is
fierce, sae there are some puir Scots. But when they gang away they've
had such training that no ithers can stand against them, and sae the
Scot in a foreign place is like to be amang the leaders.
But it wasna only the Scots turned oot to meet me. There were any
number of Americans. And the American reporters! Unless you've come
into New York and been met by them you've no idea of what they're
like, yon. They made rare sport of me, and I knew they were doing it,
though I think they thought, the braw laddies, they were pulling the
wool over my een!
There was much that was new for me, and you'll remember I'm a Scot.
When I'm travelling a new path, I walk cannily, and see where each
foot is going to rest before I set it doon. Sae it was when I came to
America. I was anxious to mak' friends in a new land, and I wadna be
saying anything to a reporter laddie that could be misunderstood. Sae
I asked them a' to let me off, and not mak' me talk till I was able to
give a wee bit o' thought to what I had tae say.
They just laughed at one another and at me. And the questions they
asked me! They wanted to know what did I think of America? And o' this
and o' that that I'd no had the chance tae see. It was a while later
before I came to understand that they were joking wi' themselves as
well as wi' me. I've learned, since then, that American reporters, and
especially those that meet the ships that come in to New York, have
had cause to form impressions of their ain of a gude many famous folk
that would no be sae flattering to those same folk as what they
usually see written aboot themselves.
Some of my best friends in America are those same reporters. They've
been good tae me, and I've tried to be fair wi' them. The American
press is an institution that seems strange to a Briton, but to an
artist it's a blessing. It's thanks to the papers that the people
learn sae much aboot an artist in America; it's thanks tae them that
they're sae interested in him.
I'm no saying the papers didn't rub my fur the wrang way once or
twice; they made mair than they should, I'm thinking, o' the jokes
aboot me and the way I'd be carfu' wi' ma siller. But they were aye
good natured aboot it. It's a strange thing, that way that folk think
I'm sae close wi' my money. I'm canny; I like to think that when I
spend my money I get its value in return. But I'm no the only man i'
the world feels sae aboot it; that I'm sure of. And I'll no hand oot
siller to whoever comes asking. Aye, I'll never do that, and I'd think
shame to masel' if I did. The only siller that's gude for a man to
have, the only siller that helps him, i' the end, is that which he's
worked hard to earn and get.
Oh, gi'e'n a body's sick, or in trouble o' some sair sort, that's
different; he deserves help then, and it's nae the same thing. But
what should I or any other man gie money to an able bodied laddie that
can e'en work for what he needs, the same as you and me? It fashes me
to ha' such an one come cadging siller frae me; I'd think wrong to
encourage him by gi'e'n it the him.
You maun work i' this world. If your siller comes tae you too easily,
you'll gain nae pleasure nor profit frae the spending on't. The things
we enjoy the maist are not those that are gi'e'n to us; they're those
that, when we look at, mean weeks or months or maybe years of work.
When you've to work for what you get you have the double pleasure. You
look forward for a lang time, while you're working, to what your work
will bring you. And then, in the end, you get it--and you know you're
beholden tae no man but yourself for what you have. Is that no a grand
Aweel, it's no matter. I'm glad for the laddies to hae their fun wi'
me. They mean no harm, and they do no harm. But I've been wishfu',
sometimes, that the American reporters had a wee bit less imagination.
'Tis a grand thing, imagination; I've got it masel, tae some extent.
But those New York reporters--and especially the first ones I met!
Man, they put me in the shade altogether!
I'd little to say to them the day I landed; I needed time tae think
and assort my impressions. I didna ken my own self just what I was
thinking aboot New York and America. And then, I'd made arrangements
wi' the editor of one of the great New York papers to write a wee
piece for his journal that should be telling his readers hoo I felt.
He was to pay me weel for that, and it seemed no more than fair that
he should ha' the valuable words of Harry Lauder to himself, since he
was willing to pay for them.
But did it mak' a wee bit of difference tae those laddies that I had
nought to say to them? That it did--not! I bade them all farewell at
my hotel. But the next morning, when the papers were brought to me,
they'd all long interviews wi' me. I learned that I thought America
was the grandest country I'd ever seen. One said I was thinking of
settling doon here, and not going hame to Scotland at a' any more! And
another said I'd declared I was sorry I'd not been born in the United
States, since, noo, e'en though I was naturalized--as that paper said
I meant tae be!--I could no become president of the United States!
Some folk took that seriously--folk at hame, in the main. They've an
idea, in America, that English folk and Scots ha' no got a great sense
of humor. It's not that we've no got one; it's just that Americans ha'
a humor of a different sort. They've a verra keen sense o' the
ridiculous, and they're as fond of a joke that's turned against
themselves as of one they play upon another pairson. That's a fine
trait, and it makes it easy to amuse them in the theatre.
I think I was mair nervous aboot my first appearance in New York than
I'd ever been in ma life before. In some ways it was worse than that
nicht in the old Gatti's in London. I'd come tae New York wi' a
reputation o' sorts, ye ken; I'd brought naethin' o' the sort tae New
When an artist comes tae a new country wi' sae much talk aboot him as
there was in America concerning me, there's always folk that tak' it
as a challenge.
"Eh!" they'll say. "So there's Harry Lauder coming, is there? And he's
the funniest wee man in the halls, is he? He'd make a graven image
laugh, would he? Well, I'll be seeing! Maybe he can make me laugh--
maybe no. We'll just be seeing."
That's human nature. It's natural for people to want to form their own
judgments aboot everything. And it's natural, tae, for them tae be
almost prejudiced against anyone aboot whom sae much has been said. I
realized a' that; I'd ha' felt the same way myself. It meant a great
deal, too, the way I went in New York. If I succeeded there I was sure
to do well i' the rest of America. But to fail in New York, to lose
the stamp of a Broadway approval--that wad be laying too great a
handicap altogether upon the rest of my tour.
In London I'd had nothing to lose. Gi'e'n I hadna made my hit that
first nicht in the Westminster Bridge Road, no one would have known
the difference. But in New York there'd be everyone waiting. The
critics would all be there--not just men who write up the music halls,
but the regular critics, that attend first nichts at the theatre. It
was a different and a mair serious business than anything I'd known in
It was a great theatre in which I appeared--one o' the biggest in New
York, and the greatest I'd ever played in, I think, up tae that time.
And when the nicht came for my first show the hoose was crowded; there
was not a seat to be had, e'en frae the speculators.
Weel, there's ane thing I've learned in my time on the stage. You
canna treat an audience in any verra special way, just because you're
anxious that it shall like you. You maun just do your best, as you've
been used to doing it. I had this much in my favor--I was singing auld
songs, that I knew weel the way of. And then, tae, many of that
audience knew me. There were a gude few Scots amang it; there were
American friends I'd made on the other side, when they'd been
visiting. And there was another thing I'd no gi'en a thocht, and that
was the way sae many o' them knew ma songs frae havin' heard them on
It wasna till after I'd been in America that I made sae many records,
but I'd made enough at lime for some of my songs tae become popular,
and so it wasna quite sicca novelty as I'd thought it micht be for
them to hear me. Oh, aye, what wi' one thing and another it would have
been my ain fault had that audience no liked hearing me sing that
But I was fairly overwhelmed by what happened when I'd finished my
first song. The house rose and roared at me. I'd never seen sic a
demonstration. I'd had applause in my time, but nothing like that.
They laughed frae the moment I first waggled my kilt at them, before I
did more than laugh as I came oot to walk aroond. But there were
cheers when I'd done; it was nae just clapping of the hands they gie'd
me. It brought the tears to my een to hear them. And I knew then that
I'd made a whole new countryful of friends that nicht--for after that
I couldna hae doots aboot the way they'd be receiving me elsewhere.
Even sae, the papers surprised me the next morning. They did sae much
more than just praise me! They took me seriously--and that was
something the writers at hame had never done. They saw what I was
aiming at wi' my songs. They understood that I was not just a
comedian, not just a "Scotch comic." I maun amuse an audience wi' my
songs, but unless I mak' them think, and, whiles, greet a bit, too,
I'm no succeeding. There's plenty can sing a comic song as weel as I
can. But that's no just the way I think of all my songs. I try to
interpret character in them. I study queer folk o' all the sorts I see
and know. And, whiles, I think that in ane of my songs I'm doing, on a
wee scale, what a gifted author does in a novel of character.
Aweel, it went straight to my heart, the way those critics wrote about
me. They were not afraid of lowering themselves by writing seriously
about a "mere music hall comedian." Aye, I've had wise gentlemen of
the London press speak so of me. They canna understand, yon gentry,
why all the fuss is made about Harry Lauder. They're a' for the Art
Theatre, and this movement and that. But they're no looking for what's
natural and unforced i' the theatre, or they'd be closer to-day to
having a national theatre than they'll ever be the gait they're using
They're verra much afraid of hurting their dignity, or they were, in
Britain, before I went to America. I think perhaps it woke them up to
read the New York reviews of my appearance. It's a sure thing they've
been more respectful tae me ever since. And I dinna just mean that
it's to me they're respectful. It's to what I'm trying tae do. I dinna
care a bit what a'body says or thinks of me. But I tak' my work
seriously. I couldna keep on doing it did I not, and that's what sae
many canna understand. They think a man at whom the public maun laugh
if he's to rate himsel' a success must always be comical; that he can
never do a serious thing. It is a mistaken idea altogether, yon.
I'm thinking Wull Morris must ha' breathed easier, just as did I, the
morning after that first nicht show o' mine. He'd been verra sure--
but, man, he stood to lose a lot o' siller if he'd found he'd backed
the wrang horse! I was glad for his sake as well as my own that he had
After the start my first engagement in New York was one long triumph.
I could ha' stayed much longer than I did, but there were twa reasons
against making any change in the plans that had been arranged. One is
that a long tour is easy to throw oot o' gear. Time is allotted long
in advance, and for a great many attractions. If one o' them loses
it's week, or it's three nichts, or whatever it may be, it's hard to
fit it in again. And when a tour's been planned so as to eliminate so
much as possible of doubling back in railway travel, everything may be
spoiled by being a week or so late in starting it.
Then, there was another thing. I was sure to be coming back to New
York again, and it was as weel to leave the city when it was still
hard to be buying tickets for my show. That's business; I could see it
as readily as could Wull Morris, who was a revelation tae me then as a
manager. He's my friend, as well as my manager, the noo, you'll ken; I
tak' his advice aboot many and many a thing, and we've never had
anything that sounded like even the beginnings of a quarrel.
Sae on I went frae New York. I was amazed at the other cities--Boston,
Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburgh--in a' o'
them the greeting New York had gi'en me was but just duplicated. They
couldna mak' enough of me. And everywhere I made new friends, and
found new reason to rejoice over having braved the hazardous adventure
of an American tour.
Did I tell you how I was warned against crossing the ocean? It was the
same as when I'd thought of trying ma luck in London. The same sort of
friends flocked about me.
"Why will you be risking all you've won, Harry?" they asked me. "Here
in Britain you're safe--your reputation's made, and you're sure of a
comfortable living, and more, as long as you care to stay on the
stage. There they might not understand you, and you would suffer a
great blow to your prestige if you went there and failed."
I didna think that, e'en were I to fail in America, it would prevent
me frae coming back to Britain and doing just as well as ever I had.
But, then, too, I didna think much o' that idea. Because, you see, I
was so sure I was going to succeed, as I had succeeded before against
odds and in the face of all the croakers and prophets of misfortune
had to say.
It was a hard thing for me to get used to thinking o' the great
distances of travel in America. In Britain aboot the longest trip one
wad be like to make wad be frae London tae Glasga or the other way
around. And that's but a matter of a day or a nicht. Wull Morris
showed me a route for my tour that meant travelling, often and often,
five hundred miles frae ane toon tae the next. I was afraid at first,
for it seemed that I'd ha' tae be travelling for months at a time. I'd
heard of the hotels in the sma' places, and I knew they couldna be tae
It's harder than one wha hasna done it can realize the travel and gie
twa shows a day for any length of time. If it was staying always a
week or mair in the ane city, it would be better. But in America, for
the first time, I had to combine long travelling wi' constant singing.
Folks come in frae long distances to a toon when a show they want to
see is booked to appear, and it's necessary that there should be a
matinee as well as a nicht performance whenever it's at a' possible.
They all told me not to fret; that I didna ken, until I'd seen for
myself, how comfortable travel in America could be made. I had my
private car--that was a rare thing for me to be thinking of. And,
indeed, it was as comfortable as anyone made me think it could be.
There was a real bedroom--I never slept in a berth, but in a brass
bed, just as saft and comfortable as ever I could ha' known in ma own
wee hoose at hame. Then there was a sitting room, as nice and hamely
as you please, where I could rest and crack, whiles we were waiting in
a station, wi' friends wha came callin'.
I wasna dependent on hotels at all, after the way I'd been led to fear
them. It was only in the great cities, where we stayed a week or mair,
that I left the car and stopped in a hotel. And even then it was mair
because the yards, where the car would wait, would be noisy, and would
be far awa' frae the theatre, than because the hotel was mair
comfortable, that we abandoned the car.
Our own cook travelled wi' us. I'm a great hand for Scottish cooking.
Mrs. Lauder will bake me a scone, noo and then, no matter whaur we
are. And the parritch and a' the other Scottish dishes tickle my
palate something grand. Still it was a revelation to me, the way that
negro cooked for us! Things I'd never heard of he'd be sending to the
table each day, and when I'd see him and tell him that I liked
something special he'd made, it was a treat to see his white teeth
shining oot o' his black face.
I love to sit behind the train, on the observation platform, while I'm
travelling through America. It's grand scenery--and there's sae much
of it. It's a wondrous sicht to see the sun rise in the desert. It
puts me in mind o' the moors at home, wi' the rosy sheen of the dawn
on the purple heather, but it's different.
There's no folk i' the world more hospitable than Americans. And
there's no folk prouder of their hames, and more devoted to them.
That's a thing to warm the cockles of a Scots heart. I like folk who
aren't ashamed to let others know the way they feel. An Englishman's
likely to think it's indelicate to betray his feelings. We Scots dinna
wear our hearts upon our sleeves, precisely, but we do love our hame,
and we're aye fond o' talking about it when we're far awa'.
In Canada, especially, I always found Scots everywhere I went. They'd
come to the theatre, whiles I was there; nearly every nicht I'd hear
the gude Scots talk in my dressing room after my turn. There'd be
dinners they'd gie me--luncheons, as a rule, rather, syne my time was
ta'en up sae that I couldna be wi' em at the time for the evening
meal. Whiles I'd sing a bit sang for them; whiles they'd ask me tae
speak to them.
Often there'd be some laddie I'd known when we were boys together;
once or twice I'd shake the hand o' one had worked wi' me in the pit.
Man, is there anything like coming upon an old friend far frae hame I
didna think sae. It's a feeling that you always have, no matter how
oft it comes to you. For me, I know weel, it means a lump rising in my
throat, and a bit o' moisture that's verra suspicious near my een, so
that I maun wink fast, sometimes, that no one else may understand.
I'm a great one for wearing kilts. I like the Scottish dress. It's the
warmest, the maist sensible, way of dressing that I ken. I used to
have mair colds before I took to wearing kilts than ever I've had
since I made a practice of gie'in up my troosers. And there's a
freedom aboot a kilt that troosers canna gie ye.
I've made many friends in America, but I'm afraid I've made some
enemies, too. For there's a curious trait I've found some Americans
have. They've an audacity, when they're the wrang sort, I've never
seen equalled in any other land. And they're clever, tae--oh, aye--
they're as clever as can be!
More folk tried tae sell me things I didna want on that first tour o'
mine. They'd come tae me wi' mining stocks, and tell me how I could
become rich overnicht. You'd no be dreaming the ways they'd find of
getting a word in my ear. I mind times when men wha wanted to reach
me, but couldna get to me when I was off the stage, hired themselves
as stage hands that they micht catch me where I could not get away.
Aye, they've reached me in every way. Selling things, books,
insurance, pictures; plain begging, as often as not. I've had men
drive cabs so they could speak to me; I mind a time when one, who was
to drive me frae the car, in the yards, tae the theatre, took me far
oot of ma way, and then turned.
"Now then, Harry Lauder!" he said. "Give me the thousand dollars!"
"And what thousand dollars wi' that be, my mannie?" I asked him.
"The thousand I wrote and told you I must have!" he said, as brash as
"Noo, laddie, there's something wrang," I said. "I've had nae letter
from you aboot that thousand dollars!"
"It's the mails!" he said, and cursed. "I'm a fule to trust to them.
They're always missending letters and delaying them. Still, there's no
harm done. I'm telling you now I need a thousand dollars. Have you
that much with you?"
"I dinna carrie sae muckle siller wi' me, laddie," I said. I could see
he was but a salt yin, and none to be fearing. "I'll gie you a dollar
And, d'ye ken, he was pleased as Punch? It was a siller dollar I gie'd
him, for it was awa' oot west this happened, where they dinna have the
paper money so much as in the east.
That's a grand country, that western country in America, whichever
side of the line you're on, in Canada or in the States. There's land,
and there's where real men work upon it. The cities cannot lure them
awa'--not yet, at any rate. It's an adventure to work upon one of
those great farms. You'll see the wheat stretching awa' further than
the een can reach. Whiles there'll be a range, and you can see maybe
five thousand head o' cattle that bear a single brand grazing, wi' the
cowboys riding aboot here and there.
I've been on a round up in the cattle country in Texas, and that's
rare sport. Round up's when they brand the beasties. It seems a cruel
thing, maybe, to brand the bit calves the way they do, but it's
necessary, and it dosna hurt them sae much as you'd think. But ot's
the life that tempts me! It's wonderfu' to lie oot under the stars on
the range at nicht, after the day's work is done. Whiles I'd sing a
bit sang for the laddies who were my hosts, but oft they'd sing for me
instead, and that was a pleasant thing. It made a grand change.
I've aye taken it as a great compliment, and as the finest thing I
could think aboot my work, that it's true men like those cowboys, and
like the soldiers for whom I sang sae much when I was in France, o'
all the armies, who maist like to hear me sing. I've never had
audiences that counted for sae much wi' me. Maybe it's because I'm
singing, when I sing for them, for the sheer joy of doing it, and not
for siller. But I think it's mair than that. I think it's just the
sort of men they are I know are listening tae me. And man, when you
hear a hundred voices--or five thousand!--rising in a still nicht to
join in the chorus of a song of yours its something you canna forget,
if you live to any age at a'.
I've had strange accompaniments for my stings, mair than once. Oot
west the coyote has played an obligato for me; in France I've had the
whustling o' bullets over my head and the cooming of the big guns,
like the lowest notes of some great organ. I can always sing, ye ken,
wi'oot any accompaniments frae piano or band. 'Deed, and there's one
song o' mine I always sing alone. It's "The Wee Hoose Amang the
Heather." And every time I appear, I think, there's some one asks for
Whiles I think I've sung a song sae often everyone must be tired of
it. I'm fond o' that wee song masel', and it was aye John's favorite,
among all those in my repertory. But it seems I canna sing it often
enough, for more than once, when I've not sung it, the audience hasna
let me get awa' without it. I'll ha' gie'n as many encores as I
usually do; I'll ha' come back, maybe a score of times, and bowed. But
a' over the hoose I'll hear voices rising--Scots voices, as a rule.
"Gie's the wee hoose, Harry," they'll roar. And: "The wee hoose 'mang
the heather, Harry," I'll hear frae another part o' the hoose. It's
many years since I've no had to sing that song at every performance.
Sometimes I've been surprised at the way my audiences ha' received me.
There's toons in America where maist o' the folk will be foreigners--
places where great lots o' people from the old countries in Europe ha'
settled doon, and kept their ain language and their ain customs. In
Minnesota and Wisconsin there'll be whole colonies of Swedes, for
example. They're a fine, God fearing folk, and, nae doot, they've a
rare sense of humor o' their ain. But the older ones, sometimes, dinna
understand English tae well, and I feel, in such a place, as if it was
asking a great deal to expect them to turn oot to hear me.
And yet they'll come. I've had some of my biggest audiences in such
places, and some of my friendliest. I'll be sure, whiles I'm singing,
that they canna understand. The English they micht manage, but when I
talk a wee bit o' Scots talk, it's ayant them altogether. But they'll
laugh--they'll laugh at the way I walk, I suppose, and at the waggle
o' ma kilts. And they'll applaud and ask for mair. I think there's
usually a leaven o' Scots in sic a audience; just Scots enough so I'll
ha' a friend or twa before I start. And after that a's weel.
It's a great sicht to see the great crowds gather in a wee place
that's happened to be chosen for a performance or twa because there's
a theatre or a hall that's big enough. They'll come in their motor
cars; they'll come driving in behind a team o' horses; aye, and
there's some wull come on shanks' mare. And it's a sobering thing tae
think they're a' coming, a' those gude folk, tae hear me sing. You
canna do ought but tak' yourself seriously when they that work sae
hard to earn it spend their siller to hear you.
I think it was in America, oot west, where the stock of the pioneers
survives to this day, that I began to realize hoo much humanity
counted for i' this world. Yon's the land of the plain man and woman,
you'll see. Folk live well there, but they live simply, and I think
they're closer, there, to living as God meant man tae do, than they
are in the cities. It's easier to live richtly in the country. There's
fewer ways to hand to waste time and siller and good intentions.
It was in America I first came sae close to an audience as to hae it
up on the stage wi' me. When a hoose is sair crowded there they'll put
chairs aroond upon the stage--mair sae as not to disappoint them as
may ha' made a lang journey tae get in than for the siller that wad be
lost were they turned awa'. And it's a rare thing for an artist to be
able tae see sae close the impression that he's making. I'll pick some
old fellow, sometimes, that looks as if nothing could mak' him laugh.
And I'll mak' him the test. If I canna make him crack a smile before
I'm done my heart will be heavy within me, and I'll think the
performance has been a failure. But it's seldom indeed that I fail.
There's a thing happened tae me once in America touched me mair than
a'most anything I can ca' to mind. It was just two years after my boy
John had been killed in France. It had been a hard thing for me to gae
back upon the stage. I'd been minded to retire then and rest and nurse
my grief. But they'd persuaded me to gae back and finish my engagement
wi' a revue in London. And then they'd come tae me and talked o' the
value I'd be to the cause o' the allies in America.
When I began my tour it was in the early winter of 1917. America had
not come into the war yet, wi' her full strength, but in London they
had reason to think she'd be in before long--and gude reason, tae, as
it turned oot. There was little that we didna ken, I've been told,
aboot the German plans; we'd an intelligence system that was better by
far than the sneaking work o' the German spies that helped to mak' the
Hun sae hated. And, whiles I canna say this for certain, I'm thinking
they were able to send word to Washington frae Downing street that
kept President Wilson and his cabinet frae being sair surprised when
the Germans instituted the great drive in the spring of 1918 that came
sae near to bringing disaster to the Allies.
Weel, this was the way o' it. I'll name no names, but there were those
who knew what they were talking of came tae me.
"It's hard, Harry," they said. "But you'll be doing your country a
good service if you'll be in America the noo. There's nae telling when
we may need all her strength. And when we do it'll be for her
government to rouse the country and mak' it realize what it means to
be at war wi' the Hun. We think you can do that better than any man
we could be sending there--and you can do it best because you'll no be
there just for propaganda. Crowds will come to hear you sing, and
they'll listen to you if you talk to them after your performance, as
they'd no be listening to any other man we might send."
In Washington, when I was there before Christmas, I saw President
Wilson, and he was maist cordial and gracious tae me. Yon' a great
man, for a' that's said against him, and there was some wise men he
had aboot him to help him i' the conduct of the war. Few ken, even the
noo, how great a thing America did, and what a part she played in
ending the war when it was ended. I'm thinking the way she was making
ready saved us many a thousand lives in Britain and in France, for she
made the Hun quit sooner than he had a mind to do.
At any rate, they made me see in Washington that they agreed wi' those
who'd persuaded me to make that tour of America. They, too, thought
that I could be usefu', wi' my speaking, after what I'd seen in
France. Maybe, if ye'll ha' heard me then, ye'll ha' thought I just
said whatever came into my mind at the moment. But it was no so. The
things I said were thought oot in advance; their effect was calculated
carefully. It was necessary not to divulge information that micht ha'
been of value to the enemy, and there were always new bits of German
propoganda that had tae be met and discounted without referring to
them directly. So I was always making wee changes, frae day to day.
Sometimes, in a special place, there'd be local conditions that needed
attention; whiles I could drop a seemingly careless or unstudied
suggestion that would gain much more notice than an official bulletin
or speech could ha' done.
There's an art that conceals art, I'm told. Maybe it was that I used
in my speaking in America during the war. It may be I gave offence
sometimes, by the vehemence of my words, but I'm hoping that all true
Americans understood that none was meant. I'd have to be a bit harsh,
whiles, in a toon that hadna roused itself to the true state of
affairs. But what's a wee thing like that between friends and allies?
It's the New Year's day I'm thinking of, though. New Year's is aye a
sacred day for a' us Scots. When we're frae hame we dinna lik it; it's
a day we'd fain celebrate under our ain rooftree. But for me it was
mair so than for maist, because it was on New Year's day I heard o' my
Weel, it seemed a hard thing tae ha' the New Year come in whiles I was
journeying in a railroad car through the United States. But here's the
thing that touched me sae greatly. The time came, and I was alane wi'
the wife. Tom Vallance had disappeared. And then I heard the skirl o'
the pipes, and into the car the pipers who travelled wi' me came
marching. A' the company that was travelling wi' me followed them, and
they brocht wee presents for me and for the wife. There were tears in
our een, I'm telling you; it was a kindly thought, whoever amang them
had it, and ane I'll ne'er forget. And there, in that speeding car, we
had a New Year's day celebration that couldna ha' been matched ootside
But, there, I've aye found folk kindly and thoughtfu' tae me when I've
had tae be awa' frae hame on sic a day, And it happens often, for it's
just when folk are making holiday that they'll want maist to see and
hear me in their theatres, and sae it's richt seldom that I can mak'
my way hame for the great days o' the year. But I wull, before sae
lang--I'm near ready to keep the promise I've made sae often, and
retire. You're no believing I mean that? You've heard the like of that
tale before? Aye, I ken that fine. But I mean it!
I've had much leisure to be thinking of late. A man has time to wonder
and to speculate concerning life and what he's seen o' it when he's
taking a long ocean voyage. And I've been meditating on some curious
contrasts. I was in Australia when I heard of the coming of the war.
My boy John was with me, then; he'd come there tae meet his mither and
me. He went hame, straight hame; I went to San Francisco.
Noo I'm on ma way hame frae Australia again, and again I've made the
lang journey by way of San Francisco and the States. And there's a
muckle to think upon in what I've seen. Sad sichts they were, a many
of them. In yon time when I was there before the world was a' at
peace. Men went aboot their business, you in Australia, underneath the
world, wi' no thought of trouble brewing. But other men, in Europe,
thousands of miles way, were laying plans that meant death and the
loss of hands and een for those braw laddies o' Australia and New
Zealand that I saw--those we came to ken sae weel as the gallant
It makes you realize, seeing countries so far awa' frae a' the war,
and yet suffering so there from, how dependent we all are upon one
another. Distance makes no matter; differences make none. We cannot
escape the consequences of what others do. And so, can we no be
thinking sometimes, before we act, doing something that we think
concerns only ourselves, of all those who micht suffer for what we
I maun think of labor when I think of the Anzacs. Yon is a country
different frae any I have known. There's no landed aristocracy in the
land of the Anzac. Yon's a country where all set out on even terms.
That's truer there, by far, than in America, even. It's a young
country and a new country, still, but it's grown up fast. It has the
strength and the cities of an old country, but it has a freshness of
And there labor rules the roost. It's one of the few places in the
world where a government of labor has been instituted. And yet, I'm
wondering the noo if those labor leaders in Australia have reckoned on
one or twa things I think of? They're a' for the richts of labor--and
so am I. I'd be a fine one, with the memory I have of unfairness and
exploitation of the miners in the coal pits at Hamilton, did I not
agree that the laboring man must be bound together with his fellows to
gain justice and fair treatment from his employers.
But there's a richt way and a wrong way to do all things. And there
was a wrong way that labor used, sometimes, during the war, to gain
its ends. There was sympathy for all that British labor did among
laboring men everywhere, I'm told--in Australia, too. But let's bide a
wee and see if labor didn't maybe, mak' some mistakes that it may be
threatening to mak' again noo that peace has come.
Here's what I'm afraid of. Labor used threats in the war. If the
government did not do thus and so there'd be a strike. That was
meanin' that guns would be lacking, or shell, or rifles, or hand
grenades, or what not in the way of munitions, on the Western front.
But the threat was sae vital that it won, tae often I'm no saying it
was used every time. Nor am I saying labor did not have a richt to
what it asked. It's just this--canna we get alang without making
threats, one to the other?
And there were some strikes that had serious consequences. There were
strikes that delayed the building of ships, and the making of cannon
and shell. And as a result of them men died, in France, and in
Gallipoli, and in other places, who need no have died. They were
laddies who'd dropped all, who'd gi'en up all that was dear to them,
all comfort and safety, when the country called.
They had nae voice in the matters that were in dispute. None thought,
when sic a strike was called, of hoo those laddies in the trenches wad
be affected. That's what I canna forgie. That's what makes me wonder
why the Anzacs, when they reach home, don't have a word to say
themselves aboot the troubles that the union leaders would seem to be
gaein' to bring aboot.
We're in a ficht still, even though peace has come. We're in a ficht
wi' poverty, and disease, and all the other menaces that still
threaten our civilization. We'll beat them, as we ha' beaten the other
enemies. But we'll no beat them by quarrelling amang oorselves, any
more than we'd ever have beaten the Hun if France and Britain had
stopped the war, every sae often, to hae oot an argument o' their own.
We had differences with our gude friends the French, fraw time to
time. Sae did the Americans, and whiles we British and our American
cousins got upon ane anither's nerves. But there was never real
trouble or difficulty, as the result and the winning of the war have
Do you ken what it is we've a' got to think of the noo? It's
production. We must produce more than we ha' ever done before. It's no
a steady raise in wages that will help. Every time wages gang up a
shilling or twa, everything else is raised in proportion. The
workingman maun mak' more money; everyone understands that. But the
only way he can safely get more siller is to earn more--to increase
production as fast as he knows how.
It's the only way oot--and it's true o' both Britain and America. The
more we mak' the more we'll sell. There's a market the noo for all we
English speaking folk can produce. Germany is barred, for a while at
least; France, using her best efforts and brains to get back upon her
puir, bruised feet, canna gae in avily for manufactures for a while
yet. We, in Britain, have only just begun to realize that the war is
over. It took us a long time to understand what we were up against at
the beginning, and what sort of an effort we maun mak' if we were to
win the war.
And then, before we'd done, we were doing things we'd never ha dreamed
it was possible for us tae do before the need was upon us. We in
Britain had to do without things we'd regarded as necessities and we
throve without them. For the sake of the wee bairns we went without
milk for our tea and coffee, and scarce minded it. Aye, in a thousand
little ways that had not seemed to us to matter at all we were
deprived and harried and hounded.
Noo, what I'm thinking sae often is just this. We had a great problem
to meet in the winning of the war. We solved it, though it was greater
than any of those we were wont to call insoluble. Are there no
problems left? There's the slum. There's the sort of poverty that
afflicts a man who's willing tae work and can nicht find work enough
tae do tae keep himself and his family alive and clad. There's all
sorts of preventible disease. We used to shrug our shoulders and speak
of such things as the act of God. But I'll no believe they're acts of
God. He doesna do things in such a fashion. They're acts of man, and
it's for man to mak' them richt and end what's wrong wi' the world he
They used to shrug their shoulders in Russia, did those who had enough
to eat and a warm, decent hoose tae live in. They'd hear of the
sufferings of the puir, and they'd talk of the act of God, and how
he'd ordered it that i' this world there maun always be some
And see what's come o' that there! The wrong sort of man has set to
work to mak' a wrong thing richt, and he's made it worse than it ever
was. But how was it he had the chance to sway the puir ignorant bodies
in Russia? How was it that those who kenned a better way were not at
work long agane? Ha' they anyone but themselves to blame that Trotzky
and the others had the chance to persuade the Russian people tae let
them ha' power for a little while'?
Oh, we'll no come to anything like that in Britain and America. I've
sma' patience wi' those that talk as if the Bolsheviki would be ruling
us come the morrow. We're no that sort o' folk, we Britons and
Americans. We've settled our troubles our ain way these twa thousand
years, and we'll e'en do sae again. But we maun recognize that there
are things we maun do tae mak' the lot of the man that's underneath a
happier and a better one.
He maun help, tae. He maun realize that there's a chance for him. I'm
haulding mysel' as one proof of that--it's why I've told you sae
muckle in this book of myself and the way that I've come frae the pit
tae the success and the comfort that I ken the noo.
I had to learn, lang agane, that my business was not only mine. Maybe
you'll think that I'm less concerned with others and their affairs
than maist folk, and maybe that's true, tae. But I. canna forget
others, gi'en I would. When I'm singing I maun have a theatre i' which
to appear. And I canna fill that always by mysel'. I maun gae frae
place to place, and in the weeks of the year when I'm no appearing
there maun be others, else the theatre will no mak' siller enough for
its owners to keep it open.
And then, let's gie a thought to just the matter of my performance.
There must be an orchestra. It maun play wi' me; it maun be able to
accompany me. An orchestra, if it is no richt, can mak' my best song
sound foolish and like the singing o' some one who dinna ken ane note
of music frae the next. So I'm dependent on the musicians--and they on
me. And then there maun be stage hands, to set the scenes. Folk
wouldna like it if I sang in a theatre wi'oot scenery. There maun be
those that sell tickets, and tak' them at the doors, and ushers to
show the folk their seats.
And e'en before a'body comes tae the hoose to pay his siller for a
ticket there's others I'm dependent upon. How do they ken I'm in the
toon at a'? They've read it in the papers, maybe--and there's
reporters and printers I've tae thank. Or they've seen my name and my
picture on a hoarding, and I've to think o' the men who made the
lithograph sheets, and the billposters who put them up. Sae here's
Harry Lauder and a' the folk he maun have tae help him mak' a living
and earn his bit siller! More than you'd thought' Aye, and more than
I'd thought, sometimes.
There's a michty few folk i' this world who can say they're no
dependant upon others in some measure. I ken o' none, myself. It's a
fine thing to mind one's ain business, but if one gies the matter
thought one will find, I think, that a man's business spreads oot more
than maist folk reckon it does.
Here, again. In the States there's been trouble about the men that
work on the railways. Can I say it's no my business? Is it no? Suppose
they gae oot on strike? How am I to mak' my trips frae one toon the
the next? And should I no be finding oot, if there's like that
threatening to my business, where the richt lies? You will be finding
it's sae, too, in your affairs; there's little can come that willna
affect you, soon or late.
We maun all stand together, especially we plain men and women. It was
sae that we won the war--and it is sae that we can win the peace noo
that it's come again, and mak' it a peace sae gude for a' the world
that it can never be broken again by war. There'd be no wars i' the
world if peace were sae gude that all men were content. It's
discontented men who stir up trouble in the world, and sae mak' wars
We talk much, in these days, of classes. There's a phrase it sickens
me tae hear--class consciousness. It's ane way of setting the man who
works wi' his hands against him who works wi' his brain. It's no the
way a man works that ought to count--it's that he works at all. Both
sorts of work are needful; we canna get along without either sort.
Is no humanity a greater thing than any class? We are all human. We
maun all be born, and we maun all die in the end. That much we ken,
and there's nae sae much more we can be siccar of. And I've often
thought that the trouble with most of our hatreds an' our envy and
malice is that folk do not know one another well enough. There's fewer
quarrels among folk that speak the same tongue. Britain and America
dwelt at peace for mair than a hundred years before they took the
field together against a common enemy. America and Canada stand side
by side--a great strong nation and a small one. There's no fort
between them; there are no fichting ships on the great lakes, ready to
loose death and destruction.
It's easier to have a good understanding when different peoples speak
the same language. But there's a hint o' the way things must be done,
I'm thinking, in the future. Britain and France used tae have their
quarrels. They spoke different tongues. But gradually they built up a
gude understanding of one another, and where's the man in either
country the noo that wadna laugh at you if you said there was danger
they micht gae tae war?
It's harder, it may be, to promote a gude understanding when there's a
different language for a barrier. But walls can be climbed, and
there's more than the ane way of passing them. We've had a great
lesson in that respect in the war. It's the first time that ever a
coalition of nations held together. Germany and Austria spoke one
language. But we others, with a dozen tongues or mair to separate us,
were forged into one mighty confederation by our peril and our
consciousness of richt, and we beat doon that barrier of various
languages, sae that it had nae existence.
And it's not only foreign peoples that speak a different tongue at
times. Whiles you'll find folk of the same family, the same race, the
same country, who gie the same words different meanings, and grow
confused and angry for that reason. There's a way they can overcome
that, and reach an understanding. It's by getting together and talking
oot all that confuses and angers them. Speech is a great solvent if a
man's disposed any way at all to be reasonable, and I've found, as
I've gone about the world, that most men want to be reasonable.
They'll call me an optimist, maybe. I'll no be ashamed of that title.
There was a saying I've heard in America that taught me a lot. They've
a wee cake there they call a doughnut--awfu' gude eating, though no
quite sae gude as Mrs. Lauder's scones. There's round hole in the
middle of a doughnut, always. And the Americans have a way of saying:
"The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist sees the hole." It's a
wise crack, you, and it tells you a good deal, if you'll apply it.
There's another way we maun be thinking. We've spent a deal of blood
and siller in these last years. We maun e'en have something to show
for all we've spent. For a muckle o' the siller we've spent we've just
borrowed and left for our bairns and their bairns to pay when the time
comes. And we maun leave the world better for those that are coming,
or they'll be saying it's but a puir bargain we've made for them, and
what we bought wasna worth the price.
There's no sadder sicht my een have ever seen than that of the maimed
and wounded laddies that ha' come hame frae this war that is just
over. I ken that there's been a deal of talk aboot what we maun do for
them that ha' done sae much for us. But I'm thinking we can never
think too often of those laddies, nor mak' too many plans to mak' life
easier for them. They didna think before they went and suffered. They
couldna calculate. Jock could not stand, before the zero hour came in
the trenches, and talk' wi' his mate.
He'd not be saying: "Sandy, man, we're going to attack in twa-three
meenits. Maybe I'll lose a hand, Sandy, or a leg. Maybe it'll be
you'll be hit. What'll we be doing then? Let's mak' our plans the noo.
How'll we be getting on without our legs or our arms or if we should
No, it was not in such fashion that the laddies who did the fichting
thought or talked wi' one another. They'd no time, for the one thing.
And for another, I think they trusted us.
Weel, each government has worked out its own way of taking care of the
men who suffered. They're gude plans, the maist of them. Governments
have shown more intelligence, more sympathy, more good judgment, than
ever before in handling such matters. That's true in America as well
as in Britain. It's so devised that a helpless man will be taken care
of a' his life lang, and not feel that he's receiving any charity.
It's nae more than richt that it should be so; it would be a black
shame, indeed, if it were otherwise. But still there's more tae be
done, and it's for you and me and all the rest of us that didna suffer
sae to do it.
There's many things a laddie that's been sair wounded needs and wants
when he comes hame. Until he's sure of his food and his roof, and of
the care of those dependent on him, if such there be, he canna think
of anything else. And those things, as is richt and proper, his
country will take in its charge.
But after that what he wants maist is tae know that he's no going to
be helpless all his days. He wants to feel that he's some use in the
world. Unless he can feel sae, he'd raither ha' stayed in a grave in
France, alongside the thousands of others who have stayed there. It's
an awfu' thing to be a laddie, wi' maist of the years of your life
still before you to be lived, and to be thinking you micht better be
I know what I'm talking aboot when I speak of this. Mind ye, I've
passed much time of late years in hospitals. I've talked to these
laddies when they'd be lying there, thinking--thinking. They'd a' the
time in the world to think after they began to get better. And they'd
be knowing, then, that they would live--that the bullet or the shell
or whatever it micht be that had dropped them had not finished them.
And they'd know, too, by then, that the limb was lost for aye, or the
een or whatever it micht be.
Noo, think of a laddie coming hame. He's discharged frae the hospital
and frae the army. He's a civilian again. Say he's blind. He's got his
pension, his allowance, whatever it may be. There's his living. But is
he to be just a hulk, needing some one always to care for him? That's
a' very fine at first. Everyone's glad tae do it. He's a hero, and a
romantic figure. But let's look a wee bit ahead.
Let's get beyond Jock just at first, when all the folks are eager to
see him and have him talk to them. They're glad to sit wi' him, or tae
tak' him for a bit walk. He'll no bore them. But let's be thinking of
Jock as he'll be ten years frae noo. Who'll be remembering then hoo
they felt when he first came home? They'll be thinking of the nuisance
it is tae be caring for him a' the time, and of the way he's always
aboot the hoose, needing care and attention.
What I'm afraid of is that tae many of the laddies wull be tae tired
to fit themselves tae be other than helpless creatures, despite their
wounds or their blindness. They can do wonders, if we'll help them. We
maun not encourage those laddies tae tak' it tae easy the noo. It's a
cruel hard thing to tell a boy like yon that he should be fitting
himself for life. It seems that he ought to rest a bit, and tak'
things easy, and that it's a sma' thing, after all he's done, to
promise him good and loving care all his days.
Aye, and that's a sma' thing enough--if we're sure we can keep our
promise. But after every war--and any old timer can tell ye I'm
tellin' ye the truth the noo--there have been crippled and blinded men
who have relied upon such promises--and seen them forgotten, seen
themselves become a burden. No man likes to think he's a burden. It
irks him sair. And it will be irksome specially tae laddies like those
who have focht in France.
It's no necessary that any man should do that. The miracles of to-day
are all at the service of the wounded laddies. And I've seen things
I'd no ha' believed were possible, had I had to depend on the
testimony o' other eyes than my own. I've seen men sae hurt that it
didna seem possible they could ever do a'thing for themselves again.
And I've seen those same men fend for themselves in a way that was as
astonishing as it was heart rending.
The great thing we maun all do wi' the laddies that are sae maimed and
crippled is never tae let them ken we're thinking of their
misfortunes. That's a hard thing, but we maun do it. I've seen sic a
laddie get into a 'bus or a railway carriage. And I've seen him wince
when een were turned upon him. Dinna mistake me. They were kind een
that gazed on him. The folk were gude folk; they were fu' of sympathy.
They'd ha' done anything in the world for the laddie. But--they were
doing the one thing they shouldna ha' done.
Gi'en you're an employer, and a laddie wi' a missing leg comes tae ye
seeking a job. You've sent for him, it may be; ye ken work ye can gie
him that he'll be able tae do. A' richt--that's splendid, and it's
what maun be done. But never let him know you're thinking at a' that
his leg's gone. Mak' him feel like ithers. We maun no' be reminding
the laddies a' the time that they're different noo frae ither folk.
That's the hard thing.
Gi'en a man's had sic a misfortune. We know--it's been proved a
thousand times ower--that a man can rise above sic trouble. But he
canno do it if he's thinking of it a' the time. The men that have
overcome the handicaps of blindness and deformity are those who gie no
thought at all to what ails them--who go aboot as if they were as well
and as strong as ever they've been.
It's a hard thing not to be heeding such things.
But it's easier than what these laddies have had to do, and what they
must go on doing a' the rest of their lives. They'll not be able to
forget their troubles very long; there'll be plenty to remind them.
But let's not gae aboot the streets wi' our een like a pair of looking
glasses in which every puir laddie sees himsel' reflected.
It's like the case of the lad that's been sair wounded aboot the head;
that's had his face sae mangled and torn that he'd be a repulsive
sicht were it not for the way that he became sae. If he'd been
courting a lassie before he was hurt wadna the thought of how she'd be
feeling aboot him be amang his wairst troubles while he lay in
hospital? I've talked wi' such, and I know.
Noo, it's a hard thing to see the face one loves changed and altered
and made hideous. But it's no sae hard as to have tha face! Who wull
say it is? And we maun be carefu' wi' such boys as that, tae. They're
verra sensitive; all those that have been hurt are sensitive. It's
easy to wound their feelings. And it should be easy for all of us to
enter into a conspiracy amang ourselves to hide the shock of surprise
we canna help feeling, whiles, and do nothing that can make a lad-die
wha's fresh frae the hospital grow bitter over the thocht that he's
nae like ither men the noo.
Yon's a bit o' a sermon I've been preaching, I'm afraid. But, oh,
could ye ha' seen the laddies as I ha' seen them, in the hospitals,
and afterward, when they were waiting tae gae hame! They wad ask me
sae often did I think their ain folk could stand seeing them sae
"Wull it be sae hard for them, Harry?" they've said the me, over and
over again. "Whiles I've thocht it would ha' been better had I stayed
Weel, I ken that that's nae sae. I'd gie a' the world tae ha' my ain
laddie back, no matter hoo sair he'd been hurt. And there's never a
faither nor a mither but wad feel the same way--aye, I'm sure o' that.
Sae let us a' get together and make sure that there's never a look in
our een or a shrinking that can gie' any o' these laddies, whether
they're our kin or no, whether we saw them before, the feeling that
there's any difference in our eyes between them and ourselves.
The greatest suffering any man's done that's been hurt is in his
spirit, in his mind--not in his body. Bodily pain passes and is
forgotten. But the wounds of the human spirit lie deep, and it takes
them a lang time tae heal. They're easily reopened, tae; a careless
word, a glance, and a' a man has gone through is brought back to his
memory, when, maybe, he'd been forgetting. I've seen it happen too
I've said sae muckle aboot myself in this book that I'm a wee bit
reluctant tae say mair. But still, there's a thing I've thought about
a good deal of late, what wi' all this talk of hoo easy some folk have
it, and how hard others must work. I think there's no one makes a
success of any sort wi'oot hard work--and wi'oot keeping up hard work,
what's mair. I ken that's so of all the successful men I've ever
known, all over the world. They work harder than maist folk will ever
realize, and it's just why they're where they are.
Noawadays it's almost fashionable to think that any man that's got
mair than others has something wrong about him. I know folks are
always saying to me that I'm sae lucky; that all I have tae do is to
sing twa-three songs in an evening and gae my ain gait the rest of my
time. If they but knew the way I'm working!
Noo, I'd no be having anyone think I'm complaining. I love my work.
It's what I'd rather do, till I retire and tak' the rest I feel I've
earned, than any work i' a' the world. It's brought me happiness, my
work has, and friends, and my share o' siller. But--it's _work_.
It's always been work. It's work to-day. It'll be work till I'm ready
to stop doing it altogether. And, because, after all, a man knows more
of his own work than of any other man's, I think I'll tell you just
hoo I do work, and hoo much of my time it takes beside the hour or two
I'll be in the theatre during a performance.
Weel, to begin with, there's the travelling. I travel in great
comfort. But I dinna care how comfortable ye are, travel o' the sort I
do is bound tae be a tiring thing. It's no sae hard in England or in
Scotland. Distances are short. There's seldom need of spending a nicht
on a train. So there it's easy. But when it comes to the United States
and Canada it's a different matter.
There it's almost always a case of starting during the nicht, after a
performance. That means switching the car, coupling it to a train. I'm
a gude sleeper, but I'll defy any man tae sleep while his car is being
hitched to a train, or whiles it's being shunted around in a railroad
yard. And then, as like as not, ye'll come tae the next place in the
middle of the nicht, or early in the morning, whiles you're taking
your beauty sleep. The beauty sleeps I've had interrupted in America
by having a switching engine come and push and haul me aboot! 'Is it
any wonder I've sae little o' my manly beauty left?
There's a great strain aboot constant travelling, too. There will aye
be accidents. No serious ones, maist of them, but trying tae the
nerves and disturbing tae the rest. And there's aye some worry aboot
being late. Unless you've done such work as mine, you canna know how I
dread missing a performance. I've the thought of all the folk turning
oot, and having them disappointed. There's a sense of responsibility
one feels toward those who come oot sae to hear one sing. One owes
them every care and thought.
Sae it's the nervous strain as much as the actual weariness of travel
that I'm thinking of. It's a relief, on a long tour, tae come to a
city where one's booked for a week. I'm no ower fond of hotels, but
there's comfort in them at such times. But still, that's another
thing. I miss my hame as every man should when he's awa frae it. It's
hard work to keep comfortable and happy when I'm on tour so much.
Oh, aye, I can hear what you're saying to yourself! You're saying I've
talked sae much about hoo fond I am of travelling. You'll be thinking,
maybe, you'd be glad of the chance to gae all around the world,
travelling in comfort and luxury. Aye, and so am I. It's just that I
want you to understand that it's all wear and tear. It all takes it
out of me.
But that's no what I'm meaning when I talk of the work I do. I'm
thinking of the wee songs themselves, and the singing of them. Hoo do
you think I get the songs I sing? Do you think they're just written
richt off? Weel, it's not so.
A song, for me, you'll ken, is muckle mair than just a few words and a
melody. It must ha' business. The way I'll dress, the things I do, the
way I'll talk between verses--it's all one. A song, if folks are going
to like it, has to be thought out wi' the greatest care.
I keep a great scrapbook, and it gaes wi' me everywhere I go. In it I
put doon everything that occurs tae me that may help to make a new
song, or that will make an old one go better. I'll see a queer yin in
the street, maybe. He'll do something wi' his hands, or he'll stand in
a peculiar fashion that makes me laugh. Or it'll be something funny
aboot his claes.
It'll be in Scotland, maist often, of course, that I'll come upon
something of the sort, but it's no always there. I've picked up
business for my songs everywhere I've ever been. My scrap book is
almost full now--my second one, I mean. And I suppose that there must
be ideas buried in it that are better by far than any I've used, for I
must confess that I can't always read the notes I've jotted down. I
dash down a line or two, often, and they must seem to me to be
important at the time, or I'd no be doing it. But later, when I'm
browsing wi' the old scrapbook, blessed if I can make head or tail of
them! And when I can't no one else can; Mrs. Lauder has tried, often
enough, and laughed at me for a salt yin while she did it.
But often and often I've found a treasure that I'd forgotten a' aboot
in the old book. I mind once I saw this entry----
"Think about a song called the 'Last of the Sandies'."
I had to stop and think a minute, and then I remembered that I'd seen
the bill of a play, while I was walking aboot in London, that was
called "The Last of the Dandies." That suggested the title for a song,
and while I sat and remembered I began to think of a few words that
would fit the idea.
When I came to put them together to mak' a song I had the help of my
old Glasga friend, Rob Beaton, who's helped me wi' several o' my
songs. I often write a whole song myself; sometimes, though, I can't
seem to mak' it come richt, and then I'm glad of help frae Beaton or
some other clever body like him. I find I'm an uncertain quantity when
it comes to such work; whiles I'll be able to dash off the verses of a
song as fast as I can slip the words doon upon the paper. Whiles,
again, I'll seem able never to think of a rhyme at a', and I just have
to wait till the muse will visit me again.
There's no telling how the idea for a song will come. But I ken fine
how a song's made when once you have the idea! It's by hard work, and
in no other way. There's nae sic a thing as writing a song easily--not
a song folk will like. Don't let anyone tell you any different--or
else you may be joining those who are sae sure I've refused the best
song ever written--theirs!
The ideas come easily--aye! Do you mind a song I used to sing called
"I Love a Lassie?" I'm asked ower and again to sing it the noo, so I'm
thinking perhaps ye'll ken the yin I mean. It's aye been one of the
songs folk in my audiences have liked best. Weel, ane day I was just
leaving a theatre when the man at the stage door handed me a letter--a
letter frae Mrs. Lauder, I'll be saying.
"A lady's handwriting, Harry," he said, jesting. "I suppose you love
"Oh, aye--ye micht say so," I answered. "At least--I'm fond o' all the
lassies, but I only love yin."
And I went off thinking of the bonnie lassie I'd loved sae well sae
"I love ma lassie," I hummed to myself. And then I stopped in my
tracks. If anyone was watching me they'd ha' thought I was daft, no
"I love a lassie!" I hummed. And then I thocht: "Noo--there's a bonny
idea for a bit sang!"
That time the melody came to me frae the first. It was wi' the words I
had the trouble. I couldna do anything wi' them at a' at first. So I
put the bit I'd written awa'. But whiles later I remembered it again,
and I took the idea to my gude friend Gerald Grafton. We worked a long
time before we hit upon just the verses that seemed richt. But when
we'd done we had a song that I sang for many years, and that my
audiences still demand from me.
That's aye been one great test of a song for me. Whiles I'll be a wee
bit dootful aboot a song-in my repertory for a season. Then I'll stop
singing it for a few nichts. If the audiences ask for it after that I
know that I should restore it to its place, and I do.
I do not write all my own songs, but I have a great deal to do with
the making of all of them. It's not once in a blue moon that I get a
song that I can sing exactly as it was first written. That doesna mean
it's no a good song it may mean that I'm no just the man tae sing it
the way the author intended. I've my ain ways of acting and singing,
and unless I feel richt and hamely wi' a song I canna do it justice.
Sae it's no reflection on an author if I want to change his song
I keep in touch with several song writers--Grafton, J. D. Harper and
several others. So well do they understand the way I like to do that
they usually send me their first rough sketch of a song--the song the
way it's born in their minds, before they put it into shape at all.
They just give an outline of the words, and that gives me a notion of
the story I'll have to be acting out to sing the song.
If I just sang songs, you see, it would be easy enough. But the song's
only a part of it. There must aye be a story to be told, and a
character to be portrayed, and studied, and interpreted. I always
accept a song that appeals to me, even though I may not think I can
use it for a long time to come. Good ideas for songs are the scarcest
things in the world, I've found, and I never let one that may possibly
suit me get away from me.
Often and often there'll be nae mair than just the bare idea left
after we get through rebuilding and writing a new song. It may be just
a title-a title counts for a great deal in a song with me.
I get a tremendous lot of songs frae ane year's end tae the other. All
sorts of folk that ha' heard me send me their compositions, and though
not one in fifty could possibly suit me I go through them a'. It
doesna tak' much time; I can tell by a single glance at the verses, as
a rule, if it's worth my while tae go on and finish reading. At the
same time it has happened just often enough that a good song has come
to me so, frae an author that's never been heard of before, that I
wullna tak' the chance of missing one.
It may be, you'll understand, that some of the songs I canna use are
very good. Other singers have taken a song I have rejected and made a
great success wi' it. But that means just nothing at a' tae me. I'm
glad the song found it's place--that's all. I canna put a song on
unless it suits me--unless I feel, when I'm reading it, that here's
something I can do so my audience will like to hear me do it. I
flatter myself that I ken weel enough what the folk like that come to
hear me--and, in any case, I maun be the judge.
But, every sae oft, there'll be a batch of songs I've put aside to
think aboot a wee bit more before I decide. And then I'll tell my
wife, of a morning, that I'd like tae have her listen tae a few songs
that seemed to me micht do.
"All richt," she'll say. "But hurry up I'm making scones the day."
She's a great yin aboot the hoose, is Mrs. Lauder. We've to be awa'
travelling sae much that she says it rests her to work harder than a
scullery maid whiles she's at hame. And it's certain I'd rather eat
scones of her baking than any I've ever tasted.
I always sit sae that I can watch her whiles I'm reading. She never
lets me get very far wi'oot some comment.
"No bad," she'll murmur, whiles, and I'll gae on, for that means a
muckle frae her. Then, maybe, instead o' that, she'll just listen, and
I'll see she's no sure. If she mutters a little I'll gae on, too, for
that still means she's making up her mind. But when she says, "Stop
yer ticklin'!" I always stop. For that means the same thing they meant
in Rome when they turned their thumbs doon toward a gladiator. And her
judgments aye been gude enow for me.
Sometimes I'll get long letters frae authors wha send me their songs--
but nearly always they're frae those that wad be flattered tae be
called authors, puir bodies who've no proper notion of how to write or
how to go aboot getting what they've written accepted when they've
done it. I mind a man in Lancashire who sent me songs for years. The
first was an awfu' thing--it had nae meaning at a' that I could see.
But his letter was a delight.
"Dear Harry," he wrote. "I've been sorry for a long time that so
clever a man as you had such bad songs to sing. And so, though I'm
busy most of the time, I've written one for you. I like you, so I'll
only charge you a guinea for every time you sing it, and let you set
your own music to it, too!"
It was a generous offer, surely, but I did not see my way clear to
accept it, and the song went back immediately. A little later I got
another. He wrote a very dignified letter this time; he'd evidently
made up his mind to forgie me for the way I'd insulted him and his
song before, but he wanted me to understand he'd have nae nonsense
frae me. But this time he wanted only fifteen shilling a performance.
Weel, he kept on sending me songs, and each one was worse than the one
before, though you'd never have thought it possible for anything to be
worse than any one of them if you'd seen them! And each time his price
went doon! The last one was what he called a "grand new song."
"I'm hard up just now, Harry," he said, "and you know how fond I've
always been of you. So you can have this one outright for five
shillings, _cash down_."
D'ye ken, I thought his persistence deserved a reward of some sort,
sae I sent him the five shillings, and put his song in the fire. I
rather thought I was a fool tae do sae, because I expected he'd be
bombarding me wi' songs after that bit of encouragement. But it was
not so; I'm thankfu' to say I've never heard of him or his songs frae
that day tae this.
I've had many a kind word said tae me aboot my songs and the way I
sing them. But the kindest words have aye been for the music. And it's
true that it's the lilt of a melody that makes folk remember a song.
That's what catches the ear and stays wi' those who have heard a song
It would be wrong for me to say I'm no proud of the melodies that I
have introduced with the songs I've sung. I have never had a music
lesson in my life. I can sit doon, the noo, at a piano, and pick out a
harmony, but that's the very limit of my powers wi' any instrument.
But ever since I can remember anything I have aye been humming at some
lilt or another, and it's been, for the maist part, airs o' my ain
that I've hummed. So I think I've a richt to be proud of having
invented melodies that have been sung all over the world, considering
how I had no musical education at a'.
Certainly it's the melody that has muckle tae do wi' the success of
any song. Words that just aren't quite richt will be soon overlooked
if the melody is one o' the sort the boys in the gallery pick up and
whustle as they gae oot.
I'm never happy, when a gude verse comes tae me, till I've wedded a
melody tae the words. When the idea's come tae me I'll sit doon at the
piano and strum it ower and ower again, till I maun mak' everyone else
i' the hoose tired. 'Deed, and I've been asked, mair than once, tae
gie the hoose a little peace.
I dinna arrange my songs, I needn't say, having no knowledge of the
principles. But always, after a song's accompaniment has been arranged
for the orchestra, I'll listen carefully at a rehearsal, and often I
can pick out weak spots and mak' suggestions that seem to work an
improvement. I've a lot of trouble, sometimes, wi' the players, till
they get sae that they ken the way I like my accompaniment tae be. But
after that we aye get alang fine together, the orchestra and me.
I've talked a muckle i' this book aboot what I think. Do you know why?
It's because I'm a plain man, and I think the way plain men think all
ower this world. It was the war taught me that I could talk to folk as
well as sing tae them. If I've talked tae much in this book you maun
forgie me--and you maun think that it's e'en yor ain fault, in a way.
During the war, whiles I'd speak aboot this or that after my show,
people paid an attention tae me that wad have been flattering if I
hadn't known sae well that it was no to me they were listening. It
wasna old Harry Lauder who interested them--it was what he had to tell
them. It was a great thing to think that folk would tak' me seriously.
I've been amusing people for these many years. It seemed presumptuous,
at first, when I set out to talk to them of other and more serious
"Hoots!" I said, at first, when they wanted me tae speak for the war
and the recruiting or a loan. "They'll no be wanting to listen tae me.
I'm just a comedian."
"You'll be a relief to them, Harry," I was told. "There's been too
much serious speaking already."
Weel, I ken what they meant. It's serious speaking I've done, and
serious thinking. But there's nae harm if I crack a bit joke noo and
again; it makes the medicine gae doon the easier. And noo the
medicine's swallowed. There's nae mair fichting tae be done, thank
God! We've saved the hoose our ancestors built.
But its walls are crackit here and there. The roof's leaking. There's
paint needed on all sides. There's muckle for us tae do before the'
hoose we've saved is set in order. It's like a hoose that's been
afire. The firemen come and play their hose upon it. They'll put oot
the fire, a' richt. But is it no a sair sicht, the hoose they leave
behind them when they gae awa'?
Ye'll see a wee bit o' smoke, an hour later, maybe, coming frae some
place where they thocht it was a' oot. And ye'll have tae be taking a
bucket of water and putting oot the bit o' fire that they left
smouldering there, lest the whole thing break oot again. And here and
there the water will ha' done a deal of damage. Things are better than
if the fire had just burnt itself oot, but you've no got the hoose you
had before the fire! 'Deed, and ye have not!
Nor have we. We had our fire--the fire the Kaiser lighted. It was
arson caused our fire--it was a firebug started it, no spontaneous
combustion, as some wad ha' us think. And we called the firemen--the
braw laddies frae all the world, who set to work and never stopped
till the fire was oot. Noo they've gaed hame aboot their other
business. We'll no be wanting to call them oot again. It was a cruel,
hard task they had; it was a terrible ficht they had tae make.
It's sma' wonder, after such a conflagration, that there's spots i'
the world where there's a bit of flame still smouldering. It's for us
tae see that they're a' stamped oot, those bits of fire that are still
burning. We can do that ourselves--no need to ca' the tired firemen
oot again. And then there's the hoose itself!
Puir hoose! But how should it have remained the same? Man, you'd no
expect to sleep in your ain hoose the same nicht there'd been a fire
to put out? You'd be waiting for the insurance folks. And you'd know
that the furniture was a' spoiled wi' water, and smoke. And there'll
be places where the firemen had to chop wi' their axes. They couldna
be carfu' wi' what was i' the hoose--had they been sae there'd be no a
hoose left at a' the noo.
Sae are they no foolish folk that were thinking that sae soon as peace
came a' would be as it was before yon days in August, 1914? Is it but
five years agane? It is--but it'll tak' us a lang time tae bring the
world back to where it was then. And it can't be the same again. It
can't. Things change.
Here's what there is for us tae do. It's tae see that the change is in
the richt direction. We canna stand still the noo. We'll move. We'll
move one way or the other--forward or back.
And I say we dare not move back. We dare not, because of the graves
that have been filled in France and Gallipoli and dear knows where
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