Sir Harry Lauder (1870 – 1950) was an internationally recognized Scottish entertainer. He toured the world during his career, composed many of his own songs, and appeared in three films.
Born in Portobello, Edinburgh, Lauder’s family moved to Arbroath when he was twelve after the death of his father. The family later moved to Lanarkshire where Harry went to work in the coal mines. He sang as he worked in the mines, and his coworkers encouraged him to sing in the local halls. Lauder eventually joined a concert party and toured Scotland singing comedic songs as well as songs from Ireland and Scotland. His success on this circuit allowed him to quit working in the mines and perform full time.
Irish comedians were popular at the time, and Lauder became recognized in that role with his first hit song, “Calligan-Call Again.” A turning point in his career occurred in 1898 at a concert at the Argyle Theatre in Birkenhead, England. After using all his Irish songs during the performance, he resorted to his Scottish material for his encore, which was equally well received. Lauder decided to write songs using the occasional Scottish word for flavor and to sing his songs in English with a Scottish accent.
After successful performances in London boosted his career and made him a star in Britain, Lauder toured America in 1907. He would eventually tour the States 22 times and also toured Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. Lauder was the first British performer to sell a million records and at one point was the highest paid performer in the world.
He became known as a Scottish comedian and usually performed in a Highland costume of a kilt, sporran, Tam O’Shanter, and twisted walking stick.
After World War I began, Lauder led fundraising efforts for charities, toured musical halls for recruitment, and even entertained troops on the frontlines. His only son, John Lauder, was killed in action in 1916. He wrote the song “Keep Right on to the End of the Road” after his son’s death. He was knighted in 1919 for his fundraising efforts to help veterans recover and return to civilian life.
Lauder announced his final retirement in 1935. However, he returned to entertain troops throughout World War II. Harry Lauder died on February 26, 1950.
Sources and Further Reading
Harry Lauder, Scottish Theatre Archive: http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/specialcollections/collectionsa-z/scottishtheatrearchive/stacollections/sirharrylauder/
Harry Lauder, Electric Scotland: http://www.electricscotland.com/webclans/htol/lauder3.htm
Harry Lauder, firstworldwar.com: http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/lauder.htm
Harry Lauder, STELLA: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/STARN/crit/WAGGLE/lauder.htm