Part 2 out of 4
couple who had a wee cottage all covered wi' ivy, no sae far from the
Solway Firth. I was glad o' that; I've aye loved the water.
It was nae mair than four o'clock o' the afternoon when I reached the
cottage and found my landlady and her white-haired auld husband
waitin' to greet me. They made me as welcome as though I'd been their
ain son; ye'd ne'er ha' thocht they were just lettin' me a bit room
and gie'n me bit and sup for siller. 'Deed, an' that's what I like
fine about the Scots folk. They're a' full o' kindness o' that sort.
There's something hamely aboot a Scots hotel ye'll no find south o'
the border, and, as for a lodging, why there's nowt to compare wi'
Scotland for that. Ye feel ye're ane o' the family so soon as ye set
doon yer traps and settle doon for a crack wi' the gude woman o' the
This was a fine, quiet, pawky pair I found at Gatehouse-of-Fleet. I
liked them fine frae the first, and it was a delight to think of them
as a typical old Scottish couple, spending the twilight years of their
lives at hame and in peace. They micht be alane, I thocht, but wi'
loving sons and daughters supporting them and caring for them, even
though their affairs called them to widely scattered places.
Aweel, I was wrong. We were doing fine wi' our talk, when a door burst
open, and five beautiful children came running in.
"Gie's a piece, granny," they clamored. "Granny--is there no a piece
for us? We're so hungry ye'd never ken----"
They stopped when they saw me, and drew awa', shyly.
But they need no' ha' minded me. Nor did their granny; she knew me by
then. They got their piece--bread, thickly spread wi' gude, hame made
jam. Then they were off again, scampering off toward the river. I
couldna help wonderin' about the bairns; where was their mither? Hoo
came it they were here wi' the auld folks? Aweel, it was not my affairs.
"They're fine bairns, yon," I said, for the sake of saying something.
"Oh, aye, gude enow," said the auld man. I noticed his gude wife was
greetin' a bit; she wiped her een wi' the corner of her apron. I
thocht I'd go for a bit walk; I had no mind to be preying into the
business o' the hoose. So I did. But that nicht, after the bairns were
safe in bed and sound asleep, we all sat aboot the kitchen fire. And
then it seemed the auld lady was minded to talk, and I was glad enow
to listen. For ane thing I've always liked to hear the stories folk
ha' in their lives. And then, tae, I know from my ane experience, how
it eases a sair heart, sometimes, to tell a stranger what's troublin'
ye. Ye can talk to a stranger where ye wouldna and couldna to ane near
and dear to ye. 'Tis a strange thing, that--I mind we often hurt those
who love us best because we can talk to ithers and not to them. But so
"I saw ye lookin' at the bairns the day," she said. "Aye, they're no
mine, as ye can judge for yersel'. It was our dochter Lizzie bore
them. A fine lassie, if I do say so. She's in service the noo at a big
hoose not so far awa' but that she can slip over often to see them and
us. As for her husband----"
Tears began to roll doon her cheeks as she spoke. I was glad the puir
mither was no deed; it was hard enough, wi' such bonny bairns, to ha'
to leave them to others, even her ane parents, to bring up.
"The father o' the bairns was a bad lot--is still, I've no doot, if
he's still living. He was wild before they were wed, but no so bad,
sae far as we knew then. We were no so awfu' pleased wi' her choice,
but we knew nothing bad enough aboot him to forbid her tak' him. He
was a handsome lad, and a clever yin. Everyone liked him fine, forbye
they distrusted him, too. But he always said he'd never had a chance.
He talked of how if one gie a dog a bad name one micht as well droon
him and ha' done. And we believed in him enow to think he micht be
richt, and that if he had the chance he'd settle doon and be a gude
He' ye no heard that tale before? The man who's never had a chance! I
know a thousand men like that. And they've had chances you and I wad
ha' gie'n whatever we had for and never had the manhood to tak' them!
Eh, but I was sair angry, listening to her.
She told o' how she and her husband put their heads togither. They
wanted their dochter to have a chance as gude as' any girl. And so
what did they do but tak' all the savings of their lives, twa hundred
pounds, and buy a bit schooner for him. He was a sailor lad, it seems,
from the toon nearby, and used to the sea.
"'Twas but a wee boat we bought him, but gude for his use in
journeying up and doon the coast wi' cargo. His first trip was fine;
he made money, and we were all sae happy, syne it seemed we'd been
richt in backing him, for a' the neighbors had called us fools. But
then misfortune laid sair hands upon us a'. The wee schooner was
wrecked on the rocks at Gairliestone. None was lost wi' her, sae it
kicht ha' been worse--though I dinna ken, I dinna ken!
"We were a' sorry for the boy. It was no his fault the wee boat was
lost; none blamed him for that. But, d'ye ken, he came and brocht
himsel' and his wife and his bairns, as they came along, to live wi'
us. We were old. We'd worked hard all our lives. We'd gie'n him a'
we had. Wad ye no think he'd have gone to work and sought to pay us
back? But no. Not he. He sat him doon, and was content to live upon
us--faither and me, old and worn out though he knew we were.
"And that wasna the worst. He asked us for siller a' the time, and he
beat Lizzie, and was cruel to the wee bairns when we wouldna or
couldna find it for him. So it went on, for the years, till, in the
end, we gied him twenty pounds more we'd put awa' for a rainy day
that he micht tak' himself' off oot o' our sicht and leave us be in
peace. He was aff tae Liverpool at once, and we've never clapped een
upon him syne then.
"Puir Lizzie! She loves him still, for all he's done to her and to
us. She says he'll come back yet, rich and well, and tak' her out o'
service, and bring up the bairns like the sons and dochters of
gentlefolk. And we--weel, we say nowt to shake her. She maybe happier
thinking so, and it's a sair hard time she's had, puir lass. D'ye
mind the wee lassie that was sae still till she began to know ye--the
weest one of them a'? Aye? Weel, she was born six months after her
faither went awa', and I think she's our favorite among them a'."
"And ye ha' the care and the feedin' and the clothin' o' all that
brood?" I said. "Is it no cruel hard'?"
"Hard enow," said the auld man, breaking his silence. "But we'd no be
wi'oot them. They brichten up the hoose it'd be dull' and drear
wi'oot them. I'm hoping that daft lad never comes back, for all o'
Lizzie's thinking on him!"
And I share his hope. Chance! Had ever man a greater chance than that
sailor lad? He had gone wrong as a boy. Those old folk, because their
daughter loved him, gave him the greatest chance a man can have--the
chance to retrieve a bad start, to make up for a false step. How many
men have that? How many men are there, handicapped as, no doubt, he
was, who find those to put faith in them? If a man may not take
advantage of sicca chance as that he needs no better chance again
than a rope around his neck with a stone tied to it and a drop into
the Firth o' Forth!
I've a reminder to this day of that wee hoose at Gatehouse-of-Fleet.
There was an old fashioned wag-at-the-wa' in the bedroom where I
slept. It had a very curiously shaped little china face, and it took
my fancy greatly. Sae, next morning, I offered the old couple a good,
stiff price for it mair than it was worth, maybe, but not mair than
it was worth to me. They thought I was bidding far too much, and wanted
to tak' half, but I would ha' my ain way, for sae I was sure neither of
was being cheated. I carried it away wi' me, and the little clock wags
awa' in my bedroom to this very day.
There's a bit story I micht as weel tell ye mesel', for yell hear it
frae Mac in any case, if ever ye chance to come upon him. It's the
tale o' Kirsty Lamont and her rent box. I played eavesdropper, or I
wouldna know it to pass it on to ye, but it's tae gude tae lose, for
a' that. I'll be saying, first, that I dinna know Kirsty Lamont,
though I mak' sae free wi' her name, gude soul!
It was in Kirremuir, and there'd been a braw concert the nicht before.
I was on my way to the post office, thinking there'd be maybe a bit
letter from the wife--she wrote to me, sometimes, then, when I was
frae hame, oor courtin' days not being so far behind us as they are
noo. (Ah, she travels wi' me always the noo, ye ken, sae she has nae
need to write to me!) Suddenly I heard my own name as I passed a bunch
o' women gossiping.
"What thocht ye o' Harry Lauder?" one of them asked another.
And the one she asked was no slow to say! "I think this o' Harry
Lauder, buddies!" she declared, vehemently. "I think it's a dirty
trick he's played on me, the wee deeil. I'm not sayin' it was
altogither his fault, though--he's not knowing he did it!"
"How was the way o' that, Kirsty Lamont?" asked another.
"I'm tellin' ye. Fan the lassies came in frae the mull last nicht they
flang their working things frae them as though they were mad.
"'Fat's all the stushie?' I asked them. They just leuch at me, and
said they were hurryin' so they could hear Harry Lauder sing. They
said he was the comic frae Glasga, and they asked me was I no gang wi'
them tae the Toon Ha' to hear his concert.
"'No,' I says. 'All the siller in the hoose maun gang for the rent,
and it's due on Setterday. Fat wad the neighbors be sayin' if they
saw Kirsty Lamont gang to a concert in a rent week--fashin' aboot
"But Phem--that's my eldest dochter, ye ken--she wad ha' me gang
alang. She bade me put on my bonnet and my dolman, and said she'd pay
for me, so's to leave the siller for the rent. So I said I'd gang,
since they were so keen like, and we set oot jist as John came hame
for his tea. I roort at him that he could jist steer for himself for a
nicht. And he asked why, and I said I was gang to hear Harry Lauder.
"'Damn Harry Lauder!" he answers, gey short. "Ye'll be sorry yet for
this nicht's work, Kirsty Lamont. Leavin' yer auld man tae mak' his
ain tea, and him workin' syne six o'clock o' the morn!'"
"I turn't at that, for John's a queer ane when he tak's it intil's
head, but the lassies poo'd me oot th' door and in twa-three meenits
we were at the ha'. Fat a crushin' a fechtin' the get in. The bobby at
the door saw me--savin' that we'd no ha' got in. But the bobby kens me
fine--I've bailed John oot twice, for a guinea ilka time, and they
recognize steady customers there like anywheres else!
"The concert was fine till that wee man Harry came oot in his kilt.
And then, losh, I startit to laugh till the watter ran doon my cheeks,
and the lassies was that mortified they wushed they had nae brocht me.
I'm no ane to laugh at a concert or a play, but that wee Harry made
ithers laugh beside me, so I was no the only ane to disgrace mysel'.
"It was eleven and after when we got hame. And there was no sogn o'
John. I lookit a' ower, and he wisna in the hoose. Richt then I knew
what had happened. I went to the kist where I kep' the siller for the
rent. Not a bawbee left! He'll be spendin' it in the pubs this meenit
I'm talkie' to ye, and we'll no see him till he hasna a penny left to
his name. So there's what I think of yer Harry Lauder. I wish I wis
within half a mile o' him this meenit, and I'd tell him what I thocht
o' him, instead o' you! It's three months rent yer fine Harry Lauder
has costit me! Had he na been here in Kirrie last nicht de ye think
I'd ever ha' left the rent box by its lane wi' a man like our Jock in
You may be sure I did not turn to let the good Kirsty see my face. She
wasna sae angry as she pretended, maybe, but I'm thinkin' she'd maybe
ha' scratched me a bit in the face o' me, just to get even wi' me, had
she known I was so close!
I've heard such tales before and since the time I heard Kirsty say
what she thocht o' me. Many's the man has had me for an explanation of
why he was sae late. I'm sorry if I've made trouble t'wixt man and
wife, but I'm flattered, too, and I may as well admit it!
Ye can guess hoo Mac took that story. I was sae unwise as tae tell it
to him, and he told it to everyone else, and was always threatening me
with Kirsty Lamont. He pretended that some one had pointed her oot to
him, so that he knew her by sicht, and he wad say that he saw her in
the audience. And sometimes he'd peep oot the stage door and say he
saw her waiting for me.
And, the de'il! He worked up a great time with the wife, tellin' aboot
this Kirsty Lamont that was so eager to see me, till Nance was
jealous, almost, and I had to tell her the whole yarn before she'd
forgie me! Heard ye ever the like o' such foolishness? But that was
Mac's way. He could distil humor from every situation.
Yon were grand days, that I spent touring aboot wi' Mac, singing in
concerts. It was an easy going life. The work was light. My audiences
were comin' to know me, and to depend on me. I had no need, after a
time, to be worrying; we were always sure of a good hoose, wherever we
went. But I was no quite content. I was always being eaten, in yon
time, wi' a lettle de'il o' ambition, that gnawed at me, and wadna gie
"Man, Harry," he'd say, "I ken weel ye're doin' fine! But, man canna
ye do better? Ca' canny, they'll be tellin' ye, but not I! Ye maun do
as well as ye can. There's the wife to think of, and the bairn John--
the wee laddie ye and the wife are so prood on!"
It was so, and I knew it. My son John was beginning to be the greatest
joy to me. He was so bricht, sae full o' speerit. A likely laddie he
was. His mither and I spent many a lang evening dreaming of his future
and what micht be coming his way.
"He'll ne'er ha' to work as a laddie as his faither did before him," I
used to say. "He shall gang to schule wi' the best in the land."
It was the wife had the grandest dream o' all.
"Could we no send him to the university?" she said. "I'd gie ma een
teeth, Harry, to see him at Cambridge!"
I laughed at her, but it was with a twist in the corners o' ma mooth.
There was money coming in regular by then, and there was siller piling
up in the bank. I'd nowt to think of but the wee laddie, and there was
time enow before it would be richt to be sending him off--time enow
for me to earn as muckle siller as he micht need. Why should he no be
a gentleman? His blood was gude on both sides, frae his mither and
frae me. And, oh, I wish ye could ha' seen the bonnie laddie as his
mither and I did! Ye'd ken, then, hoo it was I came to be sae
ambitious that I paid no heed to them that thocht it next door to
sinfu' for me to be aye thinkin' o' doing even better than I was!
There were plenty like that, ye'll ken. Some was a wee bit jealous.
Some, who'd known me my life lang, couldna believe I could hope to do
the things it was in my heart and mind to try. They believed they were
giving me gude advice when they bade me be content and not tempt
"Man, Harry, listen to me," said one old friend. "Ye've done fine.
Ye're a braw laddie, and we're all prood o' ye the noo. Don't seek to
be what ye can never be. Ye'll stand to lose all ye've got if ye let
pride rule ye."
I never whispered my real ambition to anyone in yon days--saving the
wife, and Mackenzie Murdoch. Indeed, and it was he who spoke first.
"Ye'll not be wasting all yer time in the north country, Harry," he
said. "There's London calling to ye!"
"Aye--London!" I said, a bit wistfully, I'm thinking. For me, d'ye
ken, a Scots comic, to think o' London was like an ordinary man
thinkin' o' takin' a trip to the North Pole. "My time's no come for
"Maybe no," said Mac. "But it will come--mark my words, Harry. Ye've
got what London'll be as mad to hear as these folk here. Ye've a way
wi' ye, Harry, my wee man!"
'Deed, and I did believe that mysel'! It's hard for a man like me to
know what he can do, and say so when the time comes, wi'oot making
thoughtless folk think he's conceited. An artist's feeling aboot such
things is a curious one, and hard for any but artists to understand.
It's a grand presumption in a man, if ye look at it in one way, that
leads him to think he's got the right to stand up on a stage and ask a
thousand people, or five thousand, to listen to him--to laugh when he
bids them laugh, greet when he would ha' them sad.
To bid an audience gather, gie up its plans and its pursuits, tak' an
hoor or two of its time--that's a muckle thing to ask! And then to
mak' them pay siller, too, for the chance to hear you! It's past
belief, almost, how we can do it, in the beginning. I'm thinking, the
noo, how gude a thing it was I did not know, when I first quit the pit
and got J. C. MacDonald to send me oot, how much there was for me to
learn. I ken it weel the noo--I ken how great a chance it was, in yon
But when an artist's time has come, when he has come to know his
audiences, and what they like, and why--then it is different. And by
this time I was a veteran singer, as you micht say. I'd sung before
all sorts of folk. They'd been quick enough to let me know the things
they didn't like. In you days, if a man in a gallery didna like a song
or the way I sang it, he'd call oot. Sometimes he'd get the crowd wi'
him--sometimes they'd rally to me, and shout him doon.
"Go on, Harry--sing yer own way--gang yer ain gait!" I've heard
encouraging cries like that many and many a time. But I've always
learned from those that disapproved o' me. They're quieter the noo. I
ha' to watch folk, and see, from the way they clap, and the way they
look when they're listening, whether I'm doing richt or wrong.
It's a digression, maybe, but I micht tell ye hoo a new song gets into
my list. I must add a new song every sae often, ye ken. An' I ha'
always a dozen or mair ready to try. I help in the writing o' my ain
songs, most often, and so I ken it frae the first. It's changed and
changed, both in words and music, over and over again. Then, when I
think it's finished, I begin to sing it to mysel'. I'll sing while I'm
shaving, when I tak' my bath, as I wander aboot the hoose or sit still
in a railway train. I try all sorts of different little tricks,
shadings o' my voice, degrees of expression.
Sometimes a whole line maun be changed so as to get the right sort o'
sound. It makes all the difference in the world if I can sing a long
"oh" sound, sometimes, instead o' a clippit e or a short a. To be able
to stand still, wi' ma moth open, big enow for a bird to fly in, will
mak' an audience laugh o' itself.
Anyway, it's so I do wi' a new song. I'll ha' sung it maybe twa-three
thousand times before ever I call it ready to try wi' an audience. And
even then I'm just beginning to work on it. Until I know how the folk
in front tak' it I can't be sure. It may strike them in a way quite
different from my idea o' hoo it would. Then it may be I'll ha' to
change ma business. My audiences always collaborate wi' me in my new
songs--and in my old ones, too, bless 'em. Only they don't know it,
and they don't realize how I'm cheating them by making them pay to
hear me and then do a deal o' my work for me as well.
It's a great trick to get an audience to singing a chorus wi' ye. Not
in Britain--it's no difficult there, or in a colony where there are
many Britons in the hoose. But in America I must ha' been one o' the
first to get an audience to singing. American audiences are the
friendliest in the world, and the most liberal wi' applause ye could
want to find. But they've always been a bit shy aboot singin' wi ye.
They feel it's for ye to do that by yer lane.
But I've won them aroond noo, and they help me more than they ken.
Ye'll see that when yer audience is singing wi' ye ye get a rare idea
of hoo they tak' yer song. Sometimes, o' coorse, a song will be richt
frae the first time I sing it on the stage; whiles it'll be a week or
a month or mair before it suits me. There's nae end to the work if
ye'd keep friends wi' those who come oot to hear ye, and it's just
that some singers ha' never learned, so that they wonder why it is
ithers are successfu' while they canna get an engagement to save them.
They blame the managers, and say a man can't get a start unless he
have friends at coort. But it's no so, and I can prove it by the way I
won my way.
I had done most of my work in Scotland when Mac and I and the wife
began first really to dream aloud aboot my gae'in to London. Oh, aye,
I'd been on tours that had crossed the border; I'd been to Sunderland,
and Newcastle on Tyne, but everywhere I'd been there was plenty Soots
folk, and they knew the Scots talk and were used to the flutter o' ma
kilts. Not that they were no sae in England, further south, too--'deed,
and the trouble was they were used too well to Scotch comedians there.
There'd been a time when it was enow for a man to put on a kilt and a
bit o' plaid and sing his song in anything he thocht was Scottish.
There'd been a fair wave o' such false Scottish comics in the English
halls, until everyone was sick and tired o' 'em. Sae it was the
managers all laughed at the idea of anither, and the one or twa faint
tries I made to get an engagement in or near London took me nowheres
Still and a' I was set upon goin' to the big village on the Thames
before I deed, and I'm an awfu' determined wee man when ma mind's well
made up. Times I'd whisper a word to a friend in the profession, but
they all laughed at me.
"Stick to where they know ye and like ye, Harry," they said, one and
a'. "Why tempt fortune when you're doin' so well here?"
It did seem foolish. I was successful now beyond any dreams I had had
in the beginning. The days when a salary of thirty five shillings a
week had looked enormous made me smile as I looked back upon them. And
it would ha' been a bold manager the noo who'd dared to offer Harry
Lauder a guinea to sing twa-three songs of a nicht at a concert.
Had the wife been like maist women, timid and sair afraid that things
wad gang wrang, I'd be singing in Scotland yet, I do believe. But she
was as bad as me. She was as sure as I was that I couldna fail if ever
I got the chance to sing in London.
"There's the same sort of folks there as here, Harry," she said.
"Folks are the same, here and there, the wide world ower. Tak' your
chance if it comes--ye'll no be losin' owt ye've got the noo if ye
fail. But ye'll not fail, laddie--I ken that weel."
Still, resolving to tak' a chance if it came was not ma way. It's no
man's way who gets anywheres in this world, I've found. There are men
who canna e'en do so much--to whom chances come they ha' neither the
wit to see nor the energy to seize upon. Such men one can but pity;
they are born wi' somethin' lacking in them that a man needs. But
there is anither sort, that I do not pity--I despise. They are the men
who are always waiting for a chance. They point to this man or to
that, and how he seized a chance--or how, perhaps, he failed to do so.
"If ever an opportunity like that comes tae me," ye'll hear them say,
"just watch me tak' it! Opportunity'll ne'er ha' to knock twice upon
All well and good. But opportunity is no always oot seekin doors to
knock upon. Whiles she'll be sittin' hame, snug as a bug in a rug,
waitin' fer callers, her ear cocked for the sound o' the knock on
_her_ door. Whiles the knock comes she'll lep' up and open, and that
man's fortune is made frae that day forth. Ye maun e'en go seekin'
opportunity yersel, if so be she's slow in coming to ye. It's so at
any rate, I've always felt. I've waited for my chance to come, whiles,
but whiles I've made the chance mysel', as well.
It was after the most successful of the tours Mac and I got up
together, one of those in Galloway, that I got a week in Birkenhead.
Anither artist was ill, and they just wired wad I come? I was free at
the time, and glad o' the siller to be made, for the offer was a gude
one, so I just went. That was firther south than I'd been yet; the
audiences were English to the backbone wi' no Scots to speak of amang
No Scots, I say! But what audience ha' I e'er seen that didna hae its
sprinklin' o' gude Scots? I've sang in 'most every part o' the world,
and always, frae somewhere i' the hoose, I'll hear a Scots voice
callin' me by name. Scots ha' made their way to every part o' the
world, I'm knowin' the noo, and I'm sure of at least ane friend in any
audience, hoo'ever new it be to me.
So, o' coorse, there were some Scots in that audience at Birkenhead.
But because in that Mersey town most of the crowd was sure to be
English, wi' a sprinkling o' Irish, the management had suggested that
I should leave out my Scottish favorites when I made up my list o'
songs. So I began wi' a sentimental ballad, went on wi' an English
comic song, and finished with "Calligan-Call-Again," the very
successful Irish song I had just added to my list.
Ye'Il ken, mebbe, if ye've heard me, that I can sing in English as
good as the King's own when I've the mind to do it. I love my native
land. I love Scots talk, Scots food, Scots--aweel, I was aboot to say
something that would only sadden many of my friends in America. Hoots,
though mebbe they'll no put me in jail if I say I liked a wee drappie
o' Scottish liquor noo and again!
But it was no a hard thing for me not to use my Scottish tongue when I
was singing there in Birkenhead, though it went sair against ma
judgment. And one nicht, at the start of ma engagement, they were
clamorous as I'd ne'er seen them sae far south.
"Gi'es more, Harry," I heard a Scottish voice roar. I'd sung my three
songs; I'd given encores; I was bowing acknowledgment of the
continuing applause. But I couldna stop the applauding. In America
they say an artist "stops" the show when the audience applauds him so
hard that it will not let the next turn go on, and that was what had
happened that nicht in Birkenhead. I didna want to sing any of ma
three songs ower again, and I had no main that waur no Scottish.
So I stood there, bowing and scraping, wi' the cries of "Encore,"
"Sing again, Harry," "Give us another," rising in all directions from
a packed house. I raised ma hand, and they were still.
"Wad ye like a little Scotch?" I asked,
There was a roar of laughter, and then one Scottish voice bawled oot
"Aye, thank ye kindly, man Harry," it roared. "I'll tak' a wee drappie
The house roared wi' laughter again, and learned doon and spoke to the
orchestra leader. It happened that I'd the parts for some of my ain
songs wi' me, so I could gie them "Tobermory" and then "The Lass o'
Weel, the Scots songs were far better received than ever the English
ones or the Irish melody had been. I smiled to mysel' and went back to
ma dressin' room to see what micht be coming. Sure enough 'twas but
twa-three meenits when the manager came in.
"Harry," he said, "you knocked them dead with those Scotch songs. Now
do you see I was right from the start when I said you ought to sing
I looked at the man and just smiled. He richt frae the start! It was
he had told me not to sing ma Scottish songs--that English audiences
were tired o' everything that had to do wi' a kilt or a pair o'
brogues! But I let it pass.
"Oh, aye," I said, "they liked them fine, didn't they? So ye're
thinkin' I'd better sing more Scotch the rest o' the week?"
"Better?" he said, and he laughed. "You'll have no choice, man. What
one audience has heard the next one knows about. They'll make you sing
those songs again, whether or no."
I've found that that is so--'deed, I knew it before he did. I never
appear but that I've requests for practically every song I've ever
sung. Some one remembers hearing me before when I was including them,
or they've heard someone speak. I've been asked within a year to sing
"Torralladdie"--the song I won a medal wi' at Glasga while I was still
workin' in the pit at Hamilton! No evening is lang enow to sing all my
songs in--all those I've gi'en my friends in my audiences at one time
and anither in all these nearly thirty years I've been upon the stage.
Else I'd be tryin' it, for the gude fun it wad be.
Anyway, every nicht after that the audience wanted its wee drappie o'
Scotch, and got it, in good measure, for I love to sing the Scottish
songs. And when the week was at an end I was promptly re-engaged for a
return visit the next season, at the biggest salary that had yet been
offered to me. I was a prood man the day; I felt it was a great thing
that had come to me, there on the banks o' the Mersey, sae far frae
hame and a', in the England they'd a' tauld me was hae nane o' me and
And that week was a turning point in ma life, tae. It chanced that,
what wi' ane thing and anither, I was free for the next twa-three
weeks. I'd plenty of engagements I could get, ye'll ken, but I'd not
closed ma time yet wi' anyone. Some plans I'd had had been changed. So
there I was. I could gang hame, and write a letter or twa, and be off
in a day or so, singing again in the same auld way. Or--I could do
what a' my friends tauld me was madness and worse to attempt. What did
I do? I bocht a ticket for London!
There was method in my madness, tho', ye'll ken. Here was I, nearer far
to London, in Birkenhead than I was in Glasga. Gi'en I was gae'in
there some time, I could save my siller by going then. So off I went--
resolved to go and look for opportunity where opportunity lived.
Ye'll ken I could see London was no comin' after me--didna like the
long journey by train, maybe. So I was like Mahomet when the mountain
wouldna gang to him. I needed London mair then than London needed me,
and 'twas no for me to be prood and sit twiddlin' my thumbs till times
I was nervous, I'll admit, when I reached the great toon. I was wrong
to lash mysel', maybe, but it means a great deal to an artist to ha'
the stamp o' London's approval upon him. 'Tis like the hall mark on a
bit o' siller plate. Still and a' I could no see hoo they made oot I
was sae foolish to be tryin' for London. Mebbe they were richt who
said I could get no opening in a London hall. Mebbe the ithers were
richt, too, who said that if I did the audience would howl me down and
they'd ring doon the curtain on me. I didna believe that last, though,
I'm tellin' ye--I was sure that I'd be as well received in London as I
had been in Birkenhead, could I but mak' a manager risk giving me a
Still I was nervous. The way it lookit to me, I had a' to gain and
nothin' much tae lose. If I succeeded--ah, then there were no bounds
to the future I saw before me! Success in London is like no success
in the provinces. It means far more. I'd ha' sung for nothin'--'deed,
and I'd ha' paid oot ma own good siller to get a turn at one of the
I had a London agent by that time, a mannie who booked engagements for
me in the provinces. That was his specialty; he did little business in
London itself. He was a decent body; he'd got me the week in
Birkenhead, and I liked him fine. When I went to his office he jumped
up and shook hands with me.
"Glad to see you, Lauder," he said. "Wish more of you singers and
performers from the provinces would run up to London for a visit from
time to time."
"I'm no precisely here on a veesit," I said, rather dryly. "What's
chances of finding a shop here?"
"Lord, Lord have you got that bee in your bonnet, too, Harry," he
asked, with a sigh. "You all do. You're doing splendidly in the
provinces, Harry. You're making more money than some that are doing
their turns at the Pay. and the Tiv. Why can't you be content?"
"I'm just not, that's a'," I said. "You think there's nae a chance for
me here, then?"
"Not a chance in the world," he said, promptly. "It's no good, Harry,
my boy. They don't want Scotch comics here any more. No manager would
give you a turn now. If he did he'd be a fool, because his audience
wouldn't stand for you. Stay where you belong in Scotland and the
north. They can understand you, there, and know what you're singing
I could see there was no use arguing wi' him. And I could see
something else, too. He was a good agent, and it was to his interest
to get me as many engagements, and as good ones, as he could, since he
got a commission on all I earned through him. But if he did not
believe I could win an audience, what sort of man was he to be
persuading a manner to gang against his judgment and gie me a chance
in his theatre?
So I determined that I must see the managers mysel'. For, as I've taul
ye before, I'm an awfu' persistent wee man when my mind's made up, and
no easily to be moved from a resolution I've once ta'en. I was shaken
a bit by the agent, I'll not mind tellin' ye, for it seemed to me he
must know better than I. Who was Harry Lauder, after a', to set his
judgment against that o' a man whose business it was to ken all aboot
such things? Still, I was sae sure that I went on.
Next morning I met Mr. Walter F. Munroe, and he was gude enow to
promise to introduce me to several managers. He took me off wi' him
then and there, and we made a round o' all the music hall offices, and
saw the managers, richt enow. Yell mind they were all agreeable and
pleasant tae me. They said they were glad tae see me, and wrote me
passes for their halls, and did a' they could tae mak' me feel at
hame. But they wouldna gie me the turn I was asking for!
I think Munroe hadna been verra hopefu' frae the first, but he did a'
I wanted o' him--gie'd me the opportunity to talk to the managers
mysel'. Still, they made me feel my agent had been richt. They didna
want a Scot on any terms at a', and that was all to it.
I was feelin' blue enow when it came time for lunch, but I couldna do
less than ask Munroe if he'd ha' bit and sup wi' me, after the
kindness he'd shown me. We went into a restaurant in the Strand. I was
no hungry; I was tae sair at heart, for it lookit as if I maun gang
hame and tell the wife my first trip to London had been a failure.
"By George--there's a man we've not seen!" said Munroe, suddenly, as
we sat, verra glum and silent.
"Who's that?" I asked.
"Tom Tinsley--the best fellow in London. You'll like him, whether he
can do anything for you or not. I'll hail him----"
He did, and Mr. Tinsley came over toward our table. I liked his looks.
"He's the manager of Gatti's, in the Westminster Bridge Road,"
whispered Munroe. "Know it?"
I knew it as one of the smaller halls, but one with a decided
reputation for originality and interesting bills, owing to the
personality of its manager, who was never afraid to do a new thing
that was out of the ordinary. I was glad I was going to meet him.
"Here's Harry Lauder wants to meet you, Tom," said Munroe. "Shake
hands with him. You're both good fellows."
Tinsley was as cordial as he could be. We sat and chatted for a bit,
and I managed to banish my depression, and keep up my end of the
conversation in gude enow fashion, bad as I felt. But when, Munroe put
in a word aboot ma business in London I saw a shadow come over
Tinsley's face. I could guess how many times in a day he had to meet
ambitious, struggling artists.
"So you're here looking for a shop, hey?" he said, turning to me. His
manner was still pleasant enough, but much of his effusive cordiality
had vanished. But I was not to be cast down. "What's your line?"
"Scotch comedian," I said. "I----"
He raised his hand, and laughed.
"Stop right there--that's done the trick! You've said enough. Now,
look here, my dear boy, don't be angry, but there's no use. We've had
Scotch comedians here in London before, and they're no good to us. I
wish I could help you, but I really can't risk it."
"But you've not heard me sing," I said. "I'm different frae them ye
talk of. Why not let me sing you a bit song and see if ye'll not think
"I tell ye it's no use," he said, a little impatiently. "I know What
my audiences like and what they don't. That's why I keep my hall going
But Munroe spoke up in my favor, too; discouraging though he was we
were getting more notice from Tinsley than we had had frae any o' the
ithers! Ye can judge by that hoo they'd handled us.
"Oh, come, Tom," said Munroe. "It won't take much of your time to hear
the man sing a song you do as much for all sorts of people every week.
As a favor to me--come, now----"
"Well, if you put it like that," said Tinsley, reluctantly. He turned
to me. "All right, Scotty," he said. "Drop around to my office at half
past four and I'll see what's to be done for you. You can thank this
nuisance of a Munroe for that--though it'll do you no good in the long
run, you'll find, and just waste your time as well as mine!"
There was little enough incentive for me to keep that appointment. But
I went, naturally. And, when I got there, I didn't sing for Tinsley.
He was too busy to listen to me.
"You're in luck, just the same, Scotty," he said. "I'm a turn short,
because someone's got sick. Just for to-night. If you'll bring your
traps down about ten o'clock you can have a show. But I don't expect
you to catch on. Don't be too disappointed if you don't. London's
tired of your line."
"Leave that to me, Mr. Tinsley," I said. "I've knocked 'em in the
provinces and I'll be surprised if I don't get a hand here in London.
Folks must be the same here as in Birkenhead or Glasga!"
"Don't you ever believe that, or it will steer you out of your way,"
he answered. "They're a different sort altogether. You've got one of
the hardest audiences in the world to please, right in this hall. I
don't blame you for wanting to try it, though. If you should happen to
bring it off your fortune's made."
I knew that as well as he. And I knew that now it was all for me to
settle. I didn't mean to blame the audience if I didn't catch on; I
knew there would be no one to blame but myself. If I sang as well as I
could, if I remembered all my business, if, in a word, I did here what
I'd been doing richt along at hame and in the north of England, I
needn't be afraid of the result, I was sure.
And then, I knew then, as I know noo, that when ye fail it's aye yer
ain fault, one way or anither.
I wadna ha' been late that nicht for anything. 'Twas lang before ten
o'clock when I was at Gatti's, waiting for it to be my turn. I was
verra tired; I'd been going aboot since the early morn, and when it
had come supper time I'd been sae nervous I'd had no thought o' food,
nor could I ha' eaten any, I do believe, had it been set before me.
Weel, waitin' came to an end, and they called me on. I went oot upon
the stage, laughin' fit to kill mysel', and did the walk aroond. I was
used, by that time, to havin' the hoose break into laughter at the
first wee waggle o' my kilt, but that nicht it was awfu' still. I
keened in that moment what they'd all meant when they'd tauld me a
London audience was different frae any ever I'd clapped een upon. Not
that my een saw that one--the hoose micht ha' been ampty, for ought I
knew! The stage went around and around me.
I began wi' "Tobermory," a great favorite among my songs in yon days.
And at the middle o' the first verse I heard a sound that warmed me
and cheered me--the beginnings of a great laugh. The sound was like
wind rising in the trees. It came down from the gallery, leaped across
the stalls from the pit--oh, but it was the bonny, bonny sound to ma
ears! It reached my heart--it went into my feet as I danced, it raised
my voice for me!
"Tobermory" settled it--when they sang the chorus wi' me on the second
voice, in a great, roaring measure, I knew I was safe. I gave them
"Calligan-Vall-Again" then, and ended with "The Lass o' Killicrankie."
I'd been supposed to ha' but a short turn, but it was hard for me to
get off the stage. I never had an audience treat me better. 'Tis a
great memory to this day--I'll ne'er forget that night in Gatti's old
hall, no matter hoo lang I live.
But I was glad when I heard the shootin' and the clappin' dee doon,
and they let the next turn go on. I was weak----I was nigh to faintin'
as I made my way to my dressing room. I had no the strength to be
changin' ma clothes, just at first, and I was still sittin' still,
tryin' to pull mysel' together, when Tinsley came rushing in. He
clapped his hand on my shoulder.
"Lauder, my lad, you've done it!" he cried. "I never thought you
could--you've proved every manager in London an ass to-night!"
"You think I'll do?" I asked.
He was a generous man, was Tinsley.
"Do!" he said. "You've made the greatest hit of the week when the news
gets out, and you'll be having the managers from the West End halls
camping on your doorstep. I've seen nothing like it in years. All
London will be flocking here the rest in a long time."
I needn't say, I suppose, that I was immediately engaged for the rest
of that week at Gatti's. And Tinsley's predictions were verified, for
the managers from the west end came to me as soon as the news of the
hit I had made reached them. I bore them no malice, though some of
them had been ruder than they need ha' been when I went to see them.
They'd had their chance; had they listened to me and recognized what I
could do, they could ha' saved their siller. I'd ha' signed a contract
at a pretty figure less the day after I reached London than I was
willin' to consider the morning after I'd had my show at Gatti's.
I made verra profitable and happy arrangements wi' several halls,
thanks to the London custom that's never spread much to America, that
lets an artist appear at sometimes as many as five halls in a nicht.
The managers were still surprised; so was my agent.
"There's something about you they take to, though I'm blowed if I see
what it is!" said one manager, with extreme frankness.
Noo, I'm a modest man, and it's no for me to be tellin' them that feel
as he did what it is, maybe, they don't see. 'Deed, and I'm no sure I
know mysel'. But here's a bit o' talk I heard between two costers as
I was leavin' Gatti's that first nicht.
"Hi, Alf, wot' jer fink o' that Scotch bloke?" one of them asked his
The other began to laugh.
"Blow me, 'Ennery, d'ye twig what 'e meant? I didn't," he said. "Not
'arf! But, lu'mme, eyen't he funny?"
Weel, after a', a manager can no do mair than his best, puir chiel.
They thocht they were richt when they would no give me a turn. They
thocht they knew their audiences. But the two costers could ha' told
them a thing or two. It was just sicca they my agent and the managers
and a' had thocht would stand between me and winning a success in
London. And as it's turned out it's the costers are my firmest friends
in the great city!
Real folk know one anither, wherever they meet. If I just steppit oot
upon the stage and sang a bit song or twa, I'd no be touring the world
to-day. I'd be by hame in Scotland, belike I'd be workin' in the pit
still. But whene'er I sing a character song I study that character. I
know all aboot him. I ken hoo he feels and thinks, as weel as hoo he
looks. Every character artist must do that, whether he is dealing with
Scottish types or costers or whatever.
It was astonishin' to me hoo soon they came to ken me in London, so
that I wad be recognized in the streets and wherever I went. I had an
experience soon after I reached the big toon that was a bit scary at
the first o' it.
I was oot in a fog. Noo, I'm a Scot, and I've seen fogs in my time,
but that first "London Particular" had me fair puzzled. Try as I would
I couldna find ma way down Holborn to the Strand. I was glad tae see a
big policeman looming up in the mist.
"Here, ma chiel," I asked him, "can ye not put me in the road for the
He looked at me, and then began to laugh. I was surprised.
"Has onything come ower you?" I asked him. I could no see it was a
laughing matter that I should be lost in a London fog. I was beginning
to feel angry, too. But he only laughed louder and louder, and I
thocht the man was fou, so I made to jump away, and trust someone else
to guide me. But he seized my arm, and pulled me back, and I decided,
as he kept on peering at my face, that I must look like some criminal
who was wanted by the police.
"Look here--leave me go!" I cried, thoroughly alarmed. "You've got the
wrong man. I'm no the one you're after."
"Are ye no?" he asked me, laughing still. "Are ye no Harry Lauder? Ye
look like him, ye talk like him! An' fancy meetin' ye here! Last time
I saw ye was in New Cumnock--gie's a shak o' yer haund!"
I shook hands wi' him gladly enough, in my relief, even though he
nearly shook the hand off of me. I told him where I was playing the
"Come and see me," I said. "Here's a bob to buy you a ticket wi'."
He took it, and thanked me. Then, when he had put it awa', he leaned
"Can ye no gie me a free pass for the show, man Harry?" he whispered.
Oh, aye, there are true Scots on the police in London!
Many a strange experience has come to me frae the way it's so easy for
folk's that ha' seen me on the stage, or ha' nae mair than seen my
picture, maybe, to recognize me. 'Tis an odd thing, too, the
confidences that come to me--and to all like mysel', who are known to
the public. Folks will come to me, and when I've the time to listen,
they'll tell me their most private and sacred affairs. I dinna quite
ken why--I know I've heard things told to me that ha' made me feel as
a priest hearing confession must.
Some of the experiences are amusing; some ha' been close to being
tragic--not for me, but for those who came to me. I'm always glad to
help when I can, and it's a strange thing how often ye can help just
by lendin' a fellow creature the use o' your ears for a wee space.
I've a time or two in mind I'll be tellin' ye aboot.
But it's the queer way a crowd gathers it took me the longest to grow
used to. It was mair sae in London than I'd ever known it before. In
Scotland they'd no be followin' Harry Lauder aboot--a Scot like
themselves! But in London, and in special when I wore ma kilt, it was
It wasna lang, after I'd once got ma start in London, before I was
appearing regularly in the East End halls. I was a great favorite
there; the Jews, especially, seemed to like me fine. One Sunday I was
down Petticoat Lane, in Whitechapel, to see the sichts. I never thocht
anyone there wad recognize me, and I stood quietly watching a young
Jew selling clothes from a coster's barrow. But all at once another
Jew came up to me, slapped me on the back, and cried oot: "Ach, Mr.
Lauder, and how you vas to-day? I vish there vas a kilt in the Lane--
you would have it for nothing!"
In a minute they were flocking around me. They all pulled me this way,
and that, slapped me on the back, embraced me. It was touching, but--
weel, I was glad to get awa', which I did so soon as I could wi'oot
hurtin' the feelings of my gude friends the Hebrews.
The Hebrews are always very demonstrative. I'm as fond o' them as,
thank fortune, they are o' me. They make up a fine and appreciative
audience. They know weel what they like, and why they like it, and
they let you ken hoo they feel. They are an artistic race; more so
than most others, I think. They've had sair misfortunes to bear, and
they've borne them weel.
One nicht I was at Shoreditch, playing in the old London Music Hall.
The East Enders had gi'en me a fairly terrific reception that evening,
and when it was time for me to be off to the Pavilion for my next turn
they were so crowded round the stage door that I had to ficht ma way
to ma brougham. It was a close call for me, onyway, that nicht, and I
was far frae pleased when a young man clutched me by the hand.
"Let me get off, my lad!" I cried, sharply. "I'm late for the 'Pav.'
the noo! Wait till anither nicht----"
"All right, 'Arry," he said, not a bit abashed. "I vas just so glad to
know you vas doing so vell in business. You're a countryman of mine,
and I'm proud o' you!"
Late though I was, I had to laugh at that. He was an unmistakable Jew,
and a Londoner at that. But I asked him, as I got into my car, to what
country he thought we both belonged.
"Vy! I'm from Glasgow!" he said, much offended. "Scotland forever!"
So far as I know the young man had no ulterior motive in claiming to
be a fellow Scot. But to do that has aye been a favorite trick of
cadgers and beggars. I mind weel a time when I was leaving a hall, and
a rare looking bird collared me. He had a nose that showed only too
plainly why he was in trouble, and a most unmistakably English voice.
But he'd taken the trouble to learn some Scots words, though the
accent was far ayant him.
"Eh, Harry, man," he said, jovially. "Here's the twa o' us, Scots far
frae hame. Wull ye no lend me the loan o' a twopence?"
"Aye," I said, and gi'ed it him. "But you a Scot! No fear! A Scot wad
ha' asked me for a tanner--and got it, tae!"
He looked very thoughtful as he stared at the two broad coppers I left
on his itching palm. He was reflecting, I suppose, on the other
fourpence he might ha' had o' me had he asked them! But doubtless he
soon spent what he did get in a pub.
There were many times, though, and are still, when puir folk come to
me wi' a real tale o' bad luck or misfortune to tell. It's they who
deserve it the most are most backward aboot asking for a loan; that
I've always found. It's a sair thing to decide against geevin' help;
whiles, though, you maun feel that to do as a puir body asks is the
worst thing for himsel'.
I mind one strange and terrible thing that came to me. It was in
Liverpool, after I'd made my London success--long after. One day,
while I was restin' in my dressing room, word was brocht to me that a
bit lassie who looked as if she micht be in sair trouble wad ha' a
word wi' me. I had her up, and saw that she was a pretty wee creature
--no more than eighteen. Her cheeks were rosy, her eyes a deep blue,
and very large, and she had lovely, curly hair. But it took no verra
keen een to see she was in sair trouble indeed. She had been greetin'
not sae lang syne, and her een were red and swollen frae her weeping.
"Eh, my, lassie," I said, "can I help ye, then? But I hope you're no
"Oh, but I am, Mr. Lauder!" she cried. "I'm in the very greatest
trouble. I can't tell you what it is--but--you can help me. It's about
your cousin--if you can tell me where I can find him----"
"My cousin, lassie?" I said. "I've no cousin you'd be knowing. None of
my cousins live in England--they're all beyond the Tweed."
"But--but--your cousin Henry--who worked here in Liverpool--who always
stayed with you at the hotel when you were here?"
Oh, her story was too easy to read! Puir lassie--some scoundrel had
deceived her and betrayed her. He'd won her confidence by pretending
to be my cousin--why, God knows, nor why that should have made the
lassie trust him. I had to break the truth to her, and it was
terrible to see her grief.
"Oh!" she cried. "Then he has lied to me! And I trusted him utterly--
with everything I could!"
It was an awkward and painful position for me--the worst I can bring
to mind. That the scoundrel should have used my name made matters
worse, from my point of view. The puir lassie was in no condition to
leave the theatre when it came time for my turn, so I sent for one o'
the lady dressers and arranged for her to be cared for till later.
Then, after my turn, I went back, and learned the whole story.
It was an old story enough. A villain had betrayed this mitherless
lassie; used her as a plaything for months, and then, when the
inevitable happened, deserted her, leaving her to face a stern father
and a world that was not likely to be tender to her. The day she came
to me her father had turned her oot--to think o' treatin' one's ain
flesh and blood so!
There was little enow that I could do. She had no place to gae that
nicht, so I arranged wi' the dresser, a gude, motherly body, to gie
her a lodging for the nicht, and next day I went mysel' to see her
faither--a respectable foreman he turned oot to be. I tault him hoo it
came that I kenned aboot his dochter's affairs, and begged him would
he no reconsider and gie her shelter? I tried to mak' him see that
onyone micht be tempted once to do wrong, and still not be hopelessly
lost, and asked him would he no stand by his dochter in her time o'
He said ne'er a word whiles I talked. He was too quiet, I knew. But
then, when I had said all I could, he told me that the girl was no
longer his dochter. He said she had brought disgrace upon him and upon
a godly hoose, and that he could but hope to forget that she had ever
lived. And he wished me good day and showed me the door.
I made such provision for the puir lassie as I could, and saw to it
that she should have gude advice. But she could no stand her troubles.
Had her faither stood by her--but, who kens, who kens? I only know
that a few weeks later I learned that she had drowned herself. I would
no ha' liked to be her faither when he learned that.
Thank God I ha' few such experiences as that to remember. But there's
a many that were more pleasant. I've made some o' my best friends in
my travels. And the noo, when the wife and I gang aboot the world,
there's good folk in almost every toon we come to to mak' us feel at
hame. I've ne'er been one to stand off and refuse to have ought to do
wi' the public that made me and keeps me. They're a' my friends, that
clap me in an audience, till they prove that they're no'--and
sometimes it's my best friends that seem to be unkindest to me!
There's no way better calculated to get a crowd aboot than to be
hurryin' through the streets o' London in a motor car and ha' a
breakdoon! I've been lucky as to that; I've ne'er been held up more
than ten minutes by such trouble, but it always makes me nervous when
onything o' the sort happens. I mind one time I was hurrying from the
Tivoli to a hall in the suburbs, and on the Thames Embankment
something went wrang.
I was worried for fear I'd be late, and I jumped oot to see what was
wrang. I clean forgot I was in the costume for my first song at the
new hall--it had been my last, tae, at the Tiv. I was wearin' kilt,
glengarry, and all the costume for the swab germ' corporal o'
Hielanders in "She's Ma Daisy." D'ye mind the song? Then ye'll ken hoo
I lookit, oot there on the Embankment, wi' the lichts shinin' doon on
me and a', and me dancin' aroond in a fever o' impatience to be off!
At once a crowd was aroond me--where those London crowds spring frae
I've ne'er been able to guess. Ye'll be bowlin' alang a dark, empty
street. Ye stop--and in a second they're all aboot ye. Sae it was that
nicht, and in no time they were all singin', if ye please! They sang
the choruses of my songs--each man, seemingly, picking a different
yin! Aye, it was comical--so comical it took my mind frae the delay.
I was crackin' yin or twa the noo aboot them that touch ye for a
bawbee noo and then. I ken fine the way folks talk o' me and say I'm
close fisted. Maybe I am a' that. I'm a Scot, ye ken, and the Scots
are a close fisted people. I'm no sayin' yet whether yon's a fault or
a virtue. I'd fain be talkin' a wee bit wi' ye aboot it first.
There's aye ither things they're fond o' saying aboot a Scot. Oh, aye,
I've heard folk say that there was but the ane way to mak' a Scot see
a joke, an' that was to bore a hole in his head first. They're sayin'
the Scots are a folk wi'oot a sense o' humor. It may be so, but ye'll
no be makin' me think so--not after all these years when they've been
laughin' at me. Conceited, is that? Weel, ha' it yer ane way.
We Scots ha' aye lived in a bonny land, but a land that made us work
hard for what it gie'd us. It was no smiling, easy going southern
country like some. It was no land where it was easy to mak' a living,
wi' bread growing on one tree, and milk in a cocoanut on another, and
fruits and berries enow on all sides to keep life in the body of ye,
whether ye worked or no.
There's no great wealth in Scotland. Her greatest riches are her braw
sons and daughters, the Scots folk who've gone o'er a' the world. The
land is full o' rocks and hills. The man who'd win a crop o' rye or
oats maun e'en work for the same. And what a man works hard for he's
like to value more than what comes easy to his hand. Sae it's aye been
with the Scots, I'm thinking. We've had little, we Scottish folk,
that's no cost us sweat and labor, o' one sort or anither. We've had
to help ourselves, syne there was no one else had the time to gie us
Noo, tak' this close fisted Scot they're a' sae fond o' pokin' fun at.
Let's consider ane o' the breed. Let's see what sort o' life has he
been like to ha' led. Maybe so it wull mak' us see hoo it came aboot
that he grew mean, as the English are like to be fond o' calling him.
Many and many the canny Scot who's made a great place for himsel' in
the world was born and brocht up in a wee village in a glen. He'd see
poverty all aboot him frae the day his een were opened. It's a hard
life that's lived in many a Scottish village. A grand life, aye--ne'er
think I'm not meaning that. I lived hard masel', when I was a bit
laddie, but I'd no gie up those memories for ought I could ha' had as
a rich man's son. But a hard life.
A laddie like the one I ha' in mind would be seein' the auld folk
countin' every bawbee because they must. He'd see, when he was big
enow, hoo the gude wife wad be shakin' her head when his faither
wanted, maybe, an extra ounce or twa o' thick black.
"We maun think o' the bairn, Jock," she'd be saying. "Put the price of
it in the kist, Jock--ye'll no be really needin' that."
He'd see the auld folk makin' auld clothes do; his mither patching and
mending; his faither getting up when there was just licht to see by in
the morn and working aboot the place to mak' it fit to stand the
storms and snows and winds o' winter, before he went off to his long
day's work. And he'd see all aboot him a hard working folk, winning
from a barren soil that they loved because they had been born upon it.
Maybe it's meanness for folk like that to be canny, to be saving, to
be putting the bawbees they micht be spending on pleasure in the kist
on the mantel where the pennies drop in one by one, sae slow but sure.
But your Scot's seen sickness come in the glen. He kens fine that
sometimes there'll be those who couldna save, no matter how they
tried. And he'll remember, aye, most Scots will be able to remember,
how the kists on a dozen mantels ha' been broken into to gie help to a
neighbor in distress wi'oot a thocht that there was ought else for a
body to do but help when there was trouble and sorrow in a neighbor's
Aye, I've heard hard jokes cracked aboot the meanness o' the Scot.
Your Scot, brocht up sae in a glen, will gang oot, maybe, and fare
into strange lands to mak' his living when he's grown--England, or the
colonies, or America. Where-over he gaes, there he'll tak' wi' him the
canniness, the meanness if ye maun call it such, his childhood taught
him. He'll be thrown amang them who've ne'er had to gie thocht to the
morrow and the morrow's morrow; who, if ever they've known the pinch
o' poverty, ha' clean forgotten.
But wull he care what they're thinkin' o' him, and saying, maybe,
behind his back? Not he, if he be a true Scot. He'll gang his ain
gait, satisfied if he but think he's doing richt as he sees and
believes the richt to be. Your Scot wad be beholden to no man. The
thocht of takin' charity is abhorrent to him, as to few ither folk on
earth. I've told of hoo, in a village if trouble comes to a hame,
there'll be a ready help frae ithers no so muckle better off. But
that's no charity, ye ken! For ilka hoose micht be the next in
trouble; it's one for a' and a' for one in a Scottish glen. Aye, we're
a clannish folk, we Scots; we stand together.
I ken fine the way they're a' like to talk o' me. There's a tale they
tell o' me in America, where they're sae fond o' joking me aboot ma
Scotch closefistedness. They say, yell ken, that I was playing in a
theatre once, and that when the engagement was ended I gie'd
photographs o' masel to all the stage hands picture postcards. I
called them a' together, ye ken, and tauld them I was gratefu' to them
for the way they'd worked wi' me and for me, and wanted to gie 'em
something they could ha' to remember me by.
"Sae here's my picture, laddies," I said, "and when I come again next
year I'll sign them for you."
Weel, noo, that's true enough, nae doot--I've done just that, more
than the ane time. Did I no gie them money, too? I'm no saying did I
or did I no. But ha' I no the richt to crack a joke wi' friends o'
mine like the stage hands I come to ken sae well when I'm in a theatre
for a week's engagement?
I've a song I'm singing the noo. In it I'm an auld Scottish sailor.
I'm pretendin', in the song, that I'm aboot to start on a lang voyage.
And I'm tellin' my friends I'll send them a picture postcard noo and
then frae foreign parts.
"Yell ken fine it's frae me," I tell my friends, "because there'll be
no stamp on the card when it comes tae ye!"
Always the audience roars wi' laughter when I come to that line. I ken
fine they're no laughin' at the wee joke sae much as at what they're
thinkin' o' me and a' they've heard o' my tightness and closeness. Do
they think any Scot wad care for the cost of a stamp? Maybe it would
anger an Englishman did a postcard come tae him wi'oot a stamp. It wad
but amuse a Scot; he'd no be carin' one way or anither for the bawbee
the stamp wad cost. And here's a funny thing tae me. Do they no see
I'm crackin' a joke against masel'? And do they think I'd be doing
that if I were close the way they're thinkin' I am?
Aye, but there's a serious side tae all this talk o' ma being sae
close. D'ye ken hoo many pleas for siller I get each and every day o'
ma life? I could be handin' it out frae morn till nicht! The folk that
come tae me that I've ne'er clapped een upon! The total strangers who
think they've nowt to do but ask me for what they want! Men will ask
me to lend them siller to set themselves up in business. Lassies tell
me in a letter they can be gettin' married if I'll but gie them siller
to buy a trousseau with. Parents ask me to lend them the money to
educate their sons and send them to college.
And, noo, I'll be asking you--why should they come tae me? Because I'm
before the public--because they think they know I ha' the siller? Do
they nae think I've friends and relatives o' my ain that ha' the first
call upon me? Wad they, had they the chance, help every stranger that
came tae them and asked? Hoo comes it folk can lose their self-respect
There's folk, I've seen them a' ma life, who put sae muckle effort
into trying to get something for nowt that they ha' no time or leisure
to work. They're aye sae busy writin' begging letters or working it
aroond sae as to get to see a man or a woman they ken has mair siller
than he or she needs that they ha' nae the time to mak' any effort by
their ain selves. Wad they but put half the cleverness into honest
toil that they do into writin' me a letter or speerin' a tale o' was
to wring my heart, they could earn a' the siller they micht need for
In ma time I've helped many a yin. And whiles I've been sorry, I've
been impressed by an honest tale o' sorrow and distress. I've gi'en
its teller what he asked, or what I thocht he needed. And I've seen
the effect upon him. I've seen hoo he's thocht, after that, that there
was aye the sure way to fill his needs, wi'oot effort or labor.
'T'is a curious thing hoo such things hang aboot the stage. They're
aye an open handed lot, the folks o' the stage. They help one another
freely. They're always the first to gie their services for a benefit
when there's a disaster or a visitation upon a community. They'll earn
their money and gie it awa' to them that's in distress. Yet there's
few to help them, save themselves, when trouble comes to them.
There's another curious thing I've foond. And that's the way that many
a man wull go tae ony lengths to get a free pass for the show. He'll
come tae me. He'll be wanting tae tak' me to dinner, he'll ask me and
the wife to ride in a motor, he'll do ought that comes into his head--
and a' that he may be able to look to me for a free ticket for the
playhoose! He'll be seekin' to spend ten times what the tickets wad
cost him that he may get them for nothing. I canna understand that in
a man wi' sense enough to mak' a success in business, yet every actor
kens weel that it's sae.
What many a man calls meanness I call prudence. I think if we talked
more o' that virtue, prudence, and less o' that vice, meanness--for
I'm as sure as you can be that meanness is a vice--we'd come nearer
to the truth o' this matter, mayhap.
Tak' a savage, noo. He'll no be mean or savin': He'll no be prudent,
either. He lives frae hand tae mooth. When mankind became a bit more
prudent, when man wanted to know, any day, where the next day's living
was to come frae, then civilization began, and wi' it what many
miscall meanness. Man wad be laying aside some o' the food frae a day
o' plenty against the time o' famine. Why, all literature is fu' o'
tales o' such things. We all heard the yarn o' the grasshopper and the
ant at our mither's knee. Some o' us ha' ta'en profit from the same;
some ha' nicht. That's the differ between the prudent man and the
reckless yin. And the prudent man can afford to laugh when the ither
calls him mean. Or sae I'll gae on thinkin' till I'm proved wrong, at
I've in mind a man I know weel. He's a sociable body. He likes fine to
gang aboot wi' his friends. But he's no rich, and he maun be carefu'
wi' his siller, else the wife and the bairns wull be gae'in wi'oot
things he wants them to have. Sae, when he'll foregather, of an
evening, wi' his friends, in a pub., maybe, he'll be at the bar. He's
no teetotaller, and when some one starts standing a roond o' drinks
he'll tak' his wi' the rest. And he'll wait till it comes his turn to
stand aroond, and he'll do it, too.
But after he's paid for the drinks, he'll aye turn toward the door,
and nod to all o' them, and say:
"Weel, lads, gude nicht. I'll be gae'n hame the noo."
They'll be thinking he's mean, most like. I've heard them, after he's
oot the door, turn to ane anither, and say:
"Did ye ever see a man sae mean as Wully?"
And he kens fine the way they're talking, but never a bean does he
care. He kens, d'ye see, hoo he maun be using his money. And the
siller a second round o' drinks wad ha' cost him went to his family--
and, sometimes, if the truth be known, one o' them that was no sae
"mean" wad come aroond to see Wully at his shop.
"Man, Wull," he'd say. "I'm awfu' short. Can ye no lend me the loan o'
five bob till Setterday?"
And he'd get the siller--and not always be paying it back come
Setterday, neither. But Wull wad no be caring, if he knew the man
needed it. Wull, thanks to his "meanness," was always able to find the
siller for sicca loan. And I mind they did no think he was so close
then. And he's just one o' many I've known; one o' many who's heaped
coals o' fire on the heads of them that's thocht to mak' him a
I'm a grand hand for saving. I believe in it. I'll preach thrift, and
I'm no ashamed to say I've practiced it. I like to see it, for I ken,
ye'll mind, what it means to be puir and no to ken where the next
day's needs are to be met. And there's things worth saving beside
siller. Ha' ye ne'er seen a lad who spent a' his time a coortin' the
wee lassies? He'd gang wi' this yin and that. Nicht after nicht ye'd
see him oot--wi' a different lassie each week, belike. They'd a' like
him fine; they'd be glad tae see him comin' to their door. He'd ha' a
reputation in the toon for being a great one wi' the lassies, and
ither men, maybe, wad envy him.
Oftimes there'll be a chiel o' anither stamp to compare wi' such a one
as that. They'll ca' him a woman hater, when the puir laddie's nae
sicca thing. But he's no the trick o' making himsel' liked by the bit
lassies. He'd no the arts and graces o' the other. But all the time,
mind ye, he's saving something the other laddie's spending.
I mind twa such laddies I knew once, when I was younger. Andy could
ha' his way wi' any lassie, a'most, i' the toon. Just so far he'd
gang. Ye'd see him, in the gloamin', roamin' wi' this yin and that
one. They'd talk aboot him, and admire him. Jamie--he was reserved and
bashfu', and the lassies were wont to laugh at him. They thocht he was
afraid of them; whiles they thocht he had nae use for them, whatever,
and was a woman hater. It was nae so; it was just that Jamie was
waiting. He knew that, soon or late, he'd find the yin who meant mair
to him than a' the ither lassies i' the world put together.
And it was sae. She came to toon, a stranger. She was a wee, bonnie
creature, wi' bricht een and bright cheeks; she had a laugh that was
like music in your ears. Half the young men in the toon went coortin'
her frae the moment they first clapped een upon her. Andy and Jamie
was among them--aye, Jamie the woman hater, the bashfu' yin!
And, wad ye believe it, it was Jamie hung on and on when all the
ithers had gie'n up the chase and left the field to Andy? She liked
them both richt weel; that much we could all see. But noo it was that
Andy found oot that he'd been spending what he had wi' tae free a
hand. Noo that he loved a lassie as he'd never dreamed he could love
anyone, he found he could say nowt to her he had no said to a dozen or
a score before her. The protestations that he made rang wi' a familiar
sound in his ain ears--hoo could he mak' them convincing to her?
And it was sae different wi' Jamie; he'd ne'er wasted his treasure o'
love, and thrown a wee bit here and a wee bit there. He had it a' to
lay at the feet o' his true love, and there was little doot in ma
mind, when I saw hoo things were gae'in, o' what the end on't wad be.
And, sure enow, it was no Andy, the graceful, the popular one, who
married her--it was the puir, salt Jamie, who'd saved the siller o'
his love--and, by the way, he'd saved the ither sort o' siller, tae,
sae that he had a grand little hoose to tak' his bride into, and a
hoose well furnished, and a' paid for, too.
Aye, I'll no be denyin' the Scot is a close fisted man. But he's close
fisted in more ways than one. Ye'll ca' a man close fisted and mean by
that just that he's slow to open his fist to let his siller through
it. But doesna the closed fist mean more than that when you come to
think on't? Gie'n a man strike a blow wi' the open hand--it'll cause
anger, maybe a wee bit pain. But it's the man who strikes wi' his fist
closed firm who knocks his opponent doon. Ask the Germans what they
think o' the close fisted Scots they've met frae ane end o' France to
And the Scot wull aye be slow to part wi' his siller. He'll be wanting
to know why and hoo comes it he should be spending his bawbees. But
he'll be slow to part wi' other things, too. He'll keep his
convictions and his loyalty as he keeps his cash. His love will no be
lyin' in his open palm for the first comer to snatch awa'. Sae wull it
be, tae, wi' his convictions. He had them yesterday; he keeps them to-
day; they'll still be his to-morrow.
Aye, the Scott'll be a close fisted, hard man--a strang man, tae, an'
one for ye to fear if you're his enemy, but to respect withal, and to
trust. Ye ken whaur the man stands who deals wi' his love and his
friends and his siller as does the Scot. And ne'er think ye can fash
him by callin' him mean.
Wull it sound as if I were boastin' if I talk o' what Scots did i' the
war? What British city was it led the way, in proportion to its
population, in subscribing to the war loans? Glasga, I'm tellin' ye,
should ye no ken for yersel'. And ye'll no be needing me to tell ye
hoo Scotland poured out her richest treasure, the blood of her sons,
when the call came. The land that will spend lives, when the need
arises, as though they were water, is the land that men ha' called
mean and close! God pity the man who canna tell the difference between
closeness and common sense!
There's nae merit in saving, I'll admit, unless there's a reason
for't. The man who willna spend his siller when the time comes I
despise as much as can anyone. But I despise, too, or I pity, the poor
spendthrift who canna say "No!" when it wad be folly for him to spend
his siller. Sicca one can ne'er meet the real call when it comes; he's
bankrupt in the emergency. And that's as true of a nation as of a man
In the wartime men everywhere came to learn the value o' saving--o'
being close fisted. Men o' means went proodly aboot, and showed their
patched clothes, where the wife had put a new seat in their troosers--
't'was a badge of honor, then, to show worn shoes, old claes.
Weel, was it only then, and for the first time, that it was patriotic
for a man to be cautious and saving? Had we all practiced thrift
before the war, wad we no hae been in a better state tae meet the
crisis when it came upon us? Ha' we no learned in all these twa
thousand years the meaning o' the parable o' the wise virgin and her
It's never richt for a man or a country tae live frae hand to mooth,
save it be necessary. And if a man breaks the habit o' sae doin' it's
seldom necessary. The amusement that comes frae spendin' siller
recklessly dinna last; what does endure is the comfort o' kennin' weel
that, come what may, weel or woe, ye'll be ready. Siller in the bank
is just a symbol o' a man's ain character; it's ane o' many ways ither
man have o' judging him and learnin' what sort he is.
So I'm standing up still for Scotland and my fellow countrymen.
Because they'd been close and near in time of plenty they were able to
spend as freely as was needfu' when the time o' famine and sair
trouble came. So let's be havin' less chattering o' the meanness o'
the Scot, and more thocht o' his prudence and what that last has meant
to the Empire in the years o' war.
Folk ask me, whiles, hoo it comes that I dwell still sae far frae the
centre o' the world--as they've a way o' dubbin London! I like London,
fine, ye'll ken. It's a grand toon. I'd be an ungrateful chiel did I
no keep a warm spot for the place that turned me frae a provincial
comic into what I'm lucky enow to be the day. But I'm no wishfu' to
pass my days and nichts always in the great city. When I've an
engagement there, in the halls or in a revue, 'tis weel enow, and I'm
happy. But always and again there'll be somethin' tae mak' me mindfu'
o' the Clyde and ma wee hoose at Dunoon, and ma thochts wull gae
fleein' back to Scotland.
It's ma hame--that's ane thing. There's a magic i' that word, for a'
it's sae auld. But there's mair than that in the love I ha' for Dunoon
and all Scotland. The city's streets--aye, they're braw, whiles, and
they've brocht me happiness and fun, and will again, I'm no dootin'.
Still--oh, listen tae me whiles I speak o' the city and the glen! I'm
a loon on that subject, ye'll be thinkin', maybe, but can I no mak' ye
see, if ye're a city yin, hoo it is I feel?
London's the most wonderfu' city i' the world, I do believe. I ken
ithers will be challenging her. New York, Chicago--braw cities, both.
San Francisco is mair picturesque than any, in some ways. In
Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide--I like them a'. But old
London, wi' her traditions, her auld history, her wondrous palaces--
and, aye, her slums!
I'm no a city man. I'm frae the glen, and the glen's i' the blood o'
me to stay. I've lived in London. Whiles, after I first began to sing
often in London and the English provinces, I had a villa at Tooting--a
modest place, hamely and comfortable. But the air there was no the
Scottish air; the heather wasna there for ma een to see when they
opened in the morn; the smell o' the peat was no in ma nostrils.
I gae a walkin' in the city, and the walls o' the hooses press in upon
me as if they would be squeezing the breath frae ma body. The stones
stick to the soles o' ma shoon and drag them doon, sae that it's an
effort to lift them at every step. And at hame, I walk five miles o'er
the bonny purple heather and am no sae tired as after I've trudged the
single one o'er London brick and stone.
Ye ken ma song, "I love a lassie"? Aweel, it's sae that I think of my
Scottish countryside. London's a grand lady, in her silks and her
satins, her paint and her patches. But the country's a bonnie, bonnie
lassie, as pure as the heather in the dell. And it's the wee lassie
that I love.
There's a sicht ye can see as oft in the city as in the country. It's
that o' a lover and his lass a walkin' in the gloamin'. And it's a
sicht that always tears at my heart in the city, and fills me wi'
sorrow and wi' sympathy for the puir young creatures, that's missin'
sae much o' the best and bonniest time o' their lives, and ne'er
knowin' it, puir things!
Lang agane I'd an engagement at the Paragon Music Hall--it must be
many and many a year agane. One evening I was going through the City
in my motor car--the old City, that echoes to the tread of the
business man by day, and at nicht is sae lane and quiet, wi' all the
folk awa'. The country is quiet at nicht, tae, but it's quiet in a
different way. For there the hum o' insects fills the air, and there's
the music o' a brook, and the wind rustling in the tops o' the trees,
wi' maybe a hare starting in the heather. It's the quiet o' life
that's i' the glen at nicht, but i' the auld, auld City the quiet is
the quiet o' death.
Weel, that nicht I was passing through Threadneedle street, hard by
the Bank of England, that great, grey building o' stane. And suddenly,
on the pavement, I saw them--twa young things, glad o' the stillness,
his arm aboot her waist, their een turned upon one another, thinking
o' nothing else and no one else i' a' the world.
I was sae sorry for them, puir weans! They had'na e'er ta'en a bit
walk by their twa selves in the purple gloaming. They knew nothing o'
the magic of a shady lane, wi' the branches o' old trees meeting over
their heads. When they wad be togither they had to flee tae some such
dead spot as this, or flaunt their love for one another in a busy
street, where all who would micht laugh at them, as folk ha' a way o'
doing, thoughtlessly, when they see the miracle o' young love, that is
sae old that it is always young.
And yet, I saw the lassie's een. I saw the way he looked at her. It
was for but a moment, as I passed. But I wasna sorry for them mair.
For the miracle was upon them. And in their een, dinna doot it, the
old, grey fronts o' the hooses were green trees. The pavement beneath
their feet was the saft dirt o' a country road, or the bonny grass.
City folk do long, I'm sure o' it, for the glen and the beauty o' the
countryside. Why else do they look as they do, and act as they do,
when I sing to them o' the same? And I've the memory of what many a
one has said to me, wi' tears in his een.
"Oh, Harry--ye brocht the auld hame to ma mind when ye sang o' roaming
in the gloaming! And--the wee hoose amang the heather!"
'Tis the hamely songs I gie 'em o' the country they aye love best, I
find. But why will they be content wi' what I bring them o' the glen
and the dell? Why will they no go back or oot, if they're city born,
and see for themselves? It's business holds some; others ha' other
reasons. But, dear, dear, 'tis no but a hint o' the glamour and the
freshness and the beauty o' the country that ma songs can carry to
them. No but a hint! Ye canna bottle the light o' the moon on Afton
Water; ye canna bring the air o' a Hieland moor to London in a box.
Will ye no seek to be oot sae much o' the year as ye can? It may be
true that your affairs maun keep you living in the city. But whiles ye
can get oot in the free air. Ye can lee doon upon yer back on the turf
and look up at the blue sky and the bricht sun, and hear the skylark
singing high above ye, or the call o' the auld hoot owl at nicht.
I think it's the evenings, when I'm held a prisoner in the city, mak'
me lang maist for the country. There's a joy to a country evening.
Whiles it's winter. But within it's snug. There's the wind howling
doon the chimney, but there's the fire blazing upon the hearth, and
the kettle singing it's bit sang on the hob. And all the family will
be in frae work, tired but happy. Some one wull start a sang to rival
the kettle; we've a poet in Scotland. 'Twas the way ma mither wad sing
the sangs o' Bobby Burns made me sure, when I was a bit laddie, that I
must, if God was gude tae me, do what I could to carry on the work o'
that great poet.
There's plenty o' folk who like the country for rest and recreation.
But they canna understand hoo it comes that folk are willing to stay
there all their days and do the "dull country work." Aye, but it's no
sae dull, that work in the country. There's less monotony in it, in ma
een, than in the life o' the clerk or the shopkeeper, doing the same
thing, day after day, year after year. I' the country they're
producing--they're making food and ither things yon city dweller maun
It's the land, when a's said a's done, that feeds us and sustains us;
clothes us and keeps us. It's the countryman, wi' his plough, to whom
the city liver owes his food. We in Britain had a sair lesson in the
war. Were the Germans no near bein' able to starve us oot and win the
war wi' their submarines, And shouldna Britain ha' been able, as she
was once, to feed hersel' frae her ain soil?
I'm thinking often, in these days, of hoo the soldiers must be feeling
who are back frae France and the years i' the trenches. They've lived
great lives, those o' them that ha' lived through it. Do ye think
they'll be ready tae gang back to what they were before they dropped
their pens or their tape measures and went to war to save the country?
I hae ma doots o' that. There's some wull go back, and gladly--them
that had gude posts before the fichtin' came. But I'm wondering about
the clerks that sat, stooped on their high stools, and balanced books.
Wull a man be content to write doon, o'er and o'er again, "To one pair
shoes, eighteen and sixpence, to five yards cotton print----" Oh, ye
ken the sort o' thing I mean. Wull he do that, who's been out there,
facin' death, clear eyed, hearing the whistle o' shell o'er his head,
seeing his friends dee before his een?
I hault nothing against the man who's a clerk or a man in a linen
draper's shop. It's usefu', honest work they do. But it's no the sort
of work I'm thinking laddies like those who've fought the Hun and won
the war for Britain and humanity wull be keen tae be doing in the
The toon, as it is, lives frae hand to mooth on the work the country
does. Man canna live, after a', on ledgers and accounts. Much o' the
work that's done i' the city's just the outgrowth o' what the country
produces. And the trouble wi' Britain is that sae many o' her sons ha'
flocked tae the cities and the toons that the country's deserted.
Villages stand empty. Farms are abandoned--or bought by rich men who
make park lands and lawns o' the fields where the potato and the
mangel wurzel, the corn and the barley, grew yesteryear.
America and Australia feed us the day. Aye--for the U-boats are driven
frae the depths o' the sea. But who's kennin' they'll no come back
anither day? Shouldna we be ready, truly ready, in Britain, against
the coming of anither day o' wrath? Had we been able to support
ourselves, had we nae had to divert sae much o' our energy to beating
the U-boats, to keep the food supply frae ower the seas coming freely,
we'd ha' saved the lives o' thousands upon thousands o' our braw lads.
Ah, me, I may be wrang! But in ma een the toon's a parasite. I'm no
sayin' it's no it's uses. A toon may be a braw and bonnie place enow--
for them that like it. But gie me the country.
Do ye ken a man that'll e'er be able tae love his hame sae well if it
were a city he was born in, and reared in? In a city folk move sae
oft! The hame of a man's faithers may be unknown tae him; belike it's
been torn doon, lang before his own bairns are weaned.
In the country hame has a different meaning. Country folk make a real
hame o' a hoose. And they grow to know all the country round aboot.
It's an event when an auld tree is struck by lightning and withered.
When a hoose burns doon it's a sair calamity, and all the neighbors
turn to to help. Ah, and there's anither thing! There's neighborliness
in the country that's lacking in the city.
And 'tis not because country folk are a better, or a different breed.
We're all alike enow at bottom. It's just that there's more room, more
time, more o' maist o' the good things that make life hamely and
comfortable, i' the country than i' the city. Air, and sunshine, and
space to run and lepp and play for the children. Broad fields--not
hot, paved streets, full o' rushin' motor cars wi' death under their
wheels for the wee bairns.
But I come back, always, in ma thochts, to the way we should be
looking to being able to support oorselves in the future. I tak' shame
to it that my country should always be dependent upon colonies and
foreign lands for food. It is no needfu', and it is no richt. Meat!
I'll no sing o' the roast beef o' old England when it comes frae
Chicago and the Argentine. And ha' we no fields enow for our cattle to
graze in, and canna we raise corn to feed them witha'?
I've a bit farm o' my ain. I didna buy it for masel. It was to hae
been for ma son, John. But John lies sleepin' wi' many another braw
laddie, oot there in France. And I've ma farm, wi' its thousands o'
acres o' fertile fields. I've no the time to be doing so much work
upon it masel' as I'd like. But the wife and I ne'er let it wander far
frae our thochts. It's a bonnie place. And I'm proving there that
farmin' can be made to pay its way in Britain--aye, even in Scotland,
I can wear homespun clothes, made frae wool ta'en frae sheep that ha'
grazed and been reared on ma ain land. All the food I ha' need to eat
frae ane end o' the year to the other is raised on my farm. The
leather for ma shoon can be tanned frae the skins o' the beasties that
furnish us wi' beef. The wife and I could shut ourselves up together
in our wee hoose and live, so long as micht be needfu', frae our farm
--aye, and we could support many a family, beside ourselves.
Others are doing so, tae. I'm not the only farmer who's showing the
way back to the land.
I'm telling ye there's anither thing we must aye be thinkin' of. It's
in the country, it's on the farms, that men are bred. It's no in the
city that braw, healthy lads and lassies grow up wi' rosy cheeks and
sturdy arms and legs. They go tae the city frae the land, but their
sons and their sons' sons are no sae strong and hearty--when there are
bairns. And ye ken, and I ken, that 'tis in the cities that ye'll see
man and wife wi' e'er a bairn to bless many and many sicca couple,
childless, lonely. Is it the hand o' God? Is it because o' Providence
that they're left sae?
Ye know it is not--not often. Ye know they're traitors to the land
that raised them, nourished them. They've taken life as a loan, and
treated it as a gift they had the richt to throw awa' when they were
done wi' the use of it. And it is no sae! The life God gives us he
gibe's us to hand on to ithers--to our children, and through them to
generations still to come. Oh, aye, I've heard folk like those I'm
thinkin' of shout loudly o' their patriotism. But they're traitors to
their country--they're traitors as surely as if they'd helped the Hun
in the war we've won. If there's another war, as God forbid, they're
helping now to lose it who do not do their part in giving Britain new
sons and new dochters to carry on the race.
Tis strange thing enow to become used to it no to hea to count every
bawbee before ye spend it. I ken it weel. It was after I made my hit
in London that things changed sae greatly for me. I was richt glad. It
was something to know, at last, for sure, that I'd been richt in
thinking I had a way wi' me enow to expect folk to pay their siller in
a theatre or a hall to hear me sing. And then, I began to be fair sure
that the wife and the bairn I'd a son to be thinkin' for by then--wad
ne'er be wanting.
It's time, I'm thinkin', for all the folk that's got a wife and a
bairn or twa, and the means to care for them and a', to be looking wi'
open een and open minds at all the talk there is. Shall we be changing
everything in this world? Shall a man no ha' the richt tae leave his
siller to his bairn? Is it no to be o' use any mair to be lookin' to
I wonder if the folk that feel so ha' taken count enow o' human
nature. It's a grand thing, human nature, for a' the dreadfu' things
it leads men tae do at times. And it's an awfu' persistent thing, too.
There was things Adam did that you'll be doing the day, and me, tae,
and thousands like us. It's human tae want to be sure o' whaur the
next meal's coming frae. And it's human to be wanting to mak' siccar
that the wife and the bairns will be all richt if a man dees before
And then, we're a' used to certain things. We tak' them for granted.
We're sae used to them, they're sae muckle a part o' oor lives, that
we canna think o' them as lacking. And yet--wadna many o' them be lost
if things were changed so greatly and sae suddenly as those who talk
like the Bolsheviki wad be havin' them?
I'm a' for the plain man. It's him I can talk wi'; it's him I
understand, and who understands me. It's him I see in the audience,
wi' his wife, and his bairns, maybe. And it's him I saw when I was in
France--Briton, Anzac, Frenchman, American, Canadian, South African,
Belgian. Aye, and it was plain men the Hun commanders sent tae dee.
We've seen what comes to a land whaur the plain man has nae voice in
the affairs o' the community, and no say as to hoo things shall be
In Russia--though God knows what it'll be like before ye read what I
am writing the noo!--the plain man has nae mair to say than he had in
Germany before the ending o' the war. The plain man wants nowt better
than tae do his bit o' work, and earn his wages or his salary plainly
--or, maybe, to follow his profession, and earn his income. It's no the
money a man has in the bank that tells me whether he's a plain man or
no. It's the way he talks and thinks and feels.
I've aye felt mysel' a plain man. Oh, I've made siller--I've done that
for years. But havin' siller's no made me less a plain man. Nor have
any honors that ha' come to me. They may call me Sir Harry Lauder the
noo, but I'm aye Harry to my friends, and sae I'll be tae the end o'
the chapter. It wad hurt me sair tae think a bit title wad mak' a
difference to ma friends.
Aye, it was a strange thing in yon days to be knowing that the dreams
the wife and I had had for the bairn could be coming true. It was the
first thing we thocht, always, when some new stroke o' fortune came--
there'd be that much mair we could do for the bairn. It surprised me
to find hoo much they were offering me tae sing. And then there was
the time when they first talked tae me o' singin' for the phonograph!
I laughed fit to kill masel' that time. But it's no a laughin' matter,
as they soon made me see.
It's no just the siller there's to be earned frae the wee discs,
though there's a muckle o' that. It's the thocht that folk that never
see ye, and never can, can hear your voice. It's a rare thing, and an
awesome one, tae me, to be thinkin' that in China and India, and
everywhere where men can carry a bit box, my songs may be heard.
I never work harder than when I'm makin' a record for the phonograph.
It's a queer feelin'. I mind weel indeed the first time ever I made a
record. I was no takin' the gramophone sae seriously as I micht ha'
done, perhaps--I'd no thocht, as I ha' since. Then, d'ye ken, I'd not
heard phonographs singin' in ma ain voice in America, and Australia,
and Honolulu, and dear knows where beside. It was a new idea tae me,
and I'd no notion 'twad be a gude thing for both the company and me
tae ha' me makin' records. Sae it was wi' a laugh on ma lips that I
went into the recording room o' one o' the big companies for the first
They had a' ready for me. There was a bit orchestra, waitin', wi'
awfu' funny looking instruments--sawed off fiddles, I mind, syne a'
the sound must be concentrated to gae through the horn. They put me on
a stool, syne I'm such a wee body, and that raised my head up high
enow sae that ma voice wad carry straight through the horn to the
machine that makes the master record's first impression.
"Ready?" asked the man who was superintending the record.
"Aye," I cried. "When ye please!"
Sae I began, and it wasna sae bad. I sang the first verse o' ma song.
And then, as usual, while the orchestra played a sort o' vampin'
accompaniment, I sprang a gag, the way I do on the stage. I should ha'
gone straight on, then. But I didn't. D'ye ken what? Man, I waited for
the applause! Aye, I did so--there in front o' that great yawnin'
horn, that was ma only listener, and that cared nae mair for hoo I
sang than a cat micht ha' done!
It was a meenit before I realized what a thing I was doing. And then I
laughed; I couldna help it. And I laughed sae hard I fell clean off
the stool they'd set me on! The record was spoiled, for the players o'
the orchestra laughed wi' me, and the operator came runnin' oot tae
see what was wrang, and he fell to laughin', too.
"Here's a daft thing I'm doing for ye!" I said to the manager, who
stud there, still laughin' at me. "Hoo much am I tae be paid for this,
I'll no mak' a fool o' masel', singing into that great tin tube,
unless ye mak' the reason worth my while."
He spoke up then--it had been nae mair than an experiment we'd
planned, ye'll ken. And I'll tell ye straight that what he tauld me
surprised me--I'd had nae idea that there was sae muckle siller to be
made frae such foolishness, as I thocht it a' was then. I'll admit
that the figures he named fair tuk my breath awa'. I'll no be tellin'
ye what they were, but, after he'd tauld them tae me, I'd ha' made a
good record for my first one had I had to stay there trying all nicht.
"All richt," I said. "Ca' awa'--I'm the man for ye if it's sae muckle
ye're willin' tae pay me."
"Oh, aye--but we'll get it all back, and more beside," said the
manager. "Ye're a rare find for us, Harry, my lad. Ye'll mak' more
money frae these records we'll mak' togither than ye ha' ever done
upon the stage. You're going to be the most popular comic the London
halls have ever known, but still, before we're done with you, we'll
pay you more in a year than you'll make from all your theatrical
"Talk sense, man," I tauld him, wi' a laugh. "That can never be."
Weel, ye'll not be asking me whether what he said has come true or
nicht. But I don't mind tellin' ye the man was no sica fool as I
Eh, noo--here's what I'm thinking. Here am I, Harry Lauder. For ane
reason or anither, I can do something that others do not do, whether
or no they can--as to that I ken nothing. All I know is that I do
something others ha' nae done, and that folk enow ha' been willin' and
eager to pay me their gude siller, that they've worked for. Am I a
criminal because o' that? Has any man the richt to use me despitefully
because I've hit upon a thing tae do that ithers do no do, whether or
no they can? Should ithers be fashed wi' me because I've made ma bit
siller? I canna see why!
The things that ha' aye moved me ha' moved thousands, aye millions o'
other men. There's joy in makin' ithers happy. There's hard work in
it, tae, and the laborer is worthy o' his hire.
Then here's anither point. Wad I work as I ha' worked were I allowed
but such a salary as some committee of folk that knew nothing o' my
work, and what it cost me, and meant tae me in time ta'en frae ma wife
and ma bairn at hame? I'll be tellin' ye the answer tae that question,
gi'en ye canna answer it for yersel'. It's NO! And it's sae, I'm
thinkin', wi' most of you who read the words I've written. Ye'll mind
yer own affairs, and sae muckle o' yer neighbors as he's not able to
keep ye from findin' oot when ye tak' the time for a bit gossip!
It'll be all verra weel to talk of socialism and one thing and
another. We've much tae do tae mak' the world a better place to live
in. But what I canna see, for the life o' me, is why it should be
richt to throw awa' all our fathers have done. Is there no good in the
institutions that have served the world up to now? Are we to mak'
everything ower new? I'm no thinking that, and I believe no man is
thinking that, truly. The man who preaches the destruction of
everything that is and has been has some reasons of his own not
creditable to either his brain or his honesty, if you'll ask me what I
Let us think o' what these folk wad be destroying. The hame, for one
thing. The hame, and the family. They'll talk to us o' the state. The
state's a grand thing--a great thing. D'ye ken what the state is these
new fangled folk are aye talkin' of? It's no new thing. It's just the
bit country Britons ha' been dying for, a' these weary years in the
trenches. It's just Britain, the land we've a' loved and wanted to see
happy and safe--safe frae the Hun and frae the famine he tried to
bring upon it. Do these radicals, as they call themselves--they'd tak'
every name they please to themselves!--think they love their state
better than the boys who focht and deed and won loved their country?
Eh, and let's think back a bit, just a wee bit, into history. There's
a reason for maist of the things there are in the world. Sometimes
it's a good reason; whiles it's a bad one. But there's a reason, and
you maun e'en be reasonable when you come to talk o' making changes.
In the beginning there was just man, wasna there, wi' his woman, when
he could find her, and catch her, and tak' her wi' him tae his cave,
and their bairns. And a man, by his lane, was in trouble always wi'
the great beasties they had in yon days. Sae it came that he found it
better and safer tae live close by wi' other men, and what more
natural than that they should be those of his ane bluid kin? Sae the
family first, and then the clan, came into being. And frae them grew
the tribe, and finally the nation.
Ye ken weel that Britain was no always the ane country. There were
many kings in Britain lang agane. But whiles it was so armies could
come from over the sea and land, and ravage the country. And sae, in
the end, it was found better tae ha' the ane strong country and the
ane strong rule. Syne then no foreign invader has e'er set foot in
Britain. Not till they droppit frae the skies frae Zeppelins and
German Gothas ha' armed men stood on British soil in centuries--and
they, the baby killers frae the skies, were no alarming when they came
doon to earth.
Now, wull we be changing all the things all our centuries ha' taught
us to be good and useful? Maybe we wull. Change is life, and all
living things maun change, just as a man's whole body is changed in
every seven years, they tell us. But change that is healthy is
Here's a thing I've had tae tak' note of. I went aboot a great deal
during the war, in Britain and in America. I was in Australia and New
Zealand, too, but it was in Britain and America that I saw most. There
were, in both lands, pro-Germans. Some were honest; they were wrang,
and I thocht them wicked, but I could respect them, in a fashion, so
lang as they came oot and said what was in their minds, and took the
consequences. They'd be interned, or put safely oot o' the way. But
there were others that skulked and hid, and tried to stab the laddies
who were doing the fichtin' in the back. They'd talk o' pacifism, and
they'd be conscientious objectors, who had never been sair troubled by
their conscience before.
Noo, it's those same folk, those who helped the Hun during the war by
talking of the need of peace at any price, who said that any peace was
better than any war, who are maist anxious noo that we should let the
Bolsheviks frae Russia show us how to govern ourselves. I'm a
suspicious man, it may be. But I cannot help thinking that those who
were enemies of their countries during the war should not be taken
very seriously now when they proclaim themselves as the only true
They talk of internationalism, and of the common interests of the
proletariat against capitalism. But of what use is internationalism
unless all the nations of the world are of the same mind? How shall it
be safe for some nations to guide themselves by these fine sounding
principles when others are but lying in wait to attack them when they
are unready? I believe in peace. I believe the laddies who fought in
France and in the other battlegrounds of this war won peace for
humanity. But they began the work; it is for us who are left to finish
And we canna finish it by talk. There must be deeds as weel as words.
And what I'm thinking more and more is that those who did not do their
part in these last years ha' small call to ask to be heard now.
There'd be no state for them to talk o' sae glibly noo had it no been
for those who put on uniforms and found the siller for a' the war
loans that had to be raised, and to pay the taxes.
Aye, and when you speak o' taxes, there's another thing comes to mind.
These folk who ha' sae a muckle to say aboot the injustice of
conditions pay few taxes. They ha' no property, as a rule, and no
great stake in the land. But they're aye ready to mak' rules and
regulations for those who've worked till they've a place in the world.
If they were busier themselves, maybe they'd not have so much time to
see how much is wrong. Have you not thought, whiles, it was strange
you'd not noticed all these terrible things they talk to you aboot?
And has it not been just that you've had too many affairs of your ain
There are things for us all to think about, dear knows. We've come, of
late years, we were doing it too much before the war, to give too
great weight to things that were not of the spirit. Men have grown
used to more luxury than it is good for man to have. Look at our
clubs. Palaces, no less, some of them. What need has a man of a temple
or a palace for a club. What should a club be? A comfortable place, is
it no, whaur a man can go to meet his friends, and smoke a pipe,
maybe--find a bit and a sup if the wife is not at hame, and he maun be
eating dinner by his lane. Is there need of marble columns and rare
And a man's own hoose. We've been thinking lately, it seems to me, too
much of luxury, and too little of use and solid comfort. We wasted
much strength and siller before the war. Aweel, we've to pay, and to
go on paying, noo, for a lang time. We've paid the price in blood, and
for a lang time the price in siller will be kept in our minds. We'll
ha' nae choice aboot luxury, maist of us. And that'll be a rare gude
Things! Things! It's sae easy for them to rule us. We live up to them.
We act as if they owned us, and a' the time it's we who own them, and
that we maun not forget. And we grow to think that a'thing we've
become used to is something we can no do wi'oot. Oh, I'm as great a
sinner that way as any. I was forgetting, before the war came to
remind me, the days when I'd been puir and had had tae think longer
over the spending of a saxpence than I had need to in 1914, in you
days before the Kaiser turned his Huns loose, over using a hundred
I'm not blaming a puir body for being bitter when things gae wrong.
All I'm saying is he'll be happier, and his troubles will be sooner
mended if he'll only be thinking that maybe he's got a part in them
himsel'. It's hard to get things richt when you're thinking they're a'
the fault o' some one else, some one you can't control. Ca' the guilty
one what you will--a prime minister, a capitalist, a king. Is it no
hard to mak' a wrong thing richt when it's a' his fault?
But suppose you stop and think, and you come tae see that some of your
troubles lie at your ain door? What's easier then than to mak' them
come straight? There are things that are wrong wi' the world that we
maun all pitch in together to mak' richt--I'm kenning that as well as
anyone. But there's muckle that's only for our own selves to correct,
and until that's done let's leave the others lie.
It's as if a man waur sair distressed because his toon was a dirty
toon. He'd be thinking of hoo it must look when strangers came riding