Sir Harry Lauder and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Connection


Harry was a Scottish  singer and comedian. He was perhaps best known for his long-standing hit “I Love a Lassie” and for his international success. He became a familiar world-wide figure promoting Scots and the kilt, especially in America, a nation he visited 22 times. By 1911, Harry Lauder had become the highest-paid performer in the world, and was the first Scottish artist to sell a million records. During WW1, he led successful fundraising efforts for war charities, organised a tour of music halls in 1915 for recruitment purposes, and brought his piano to the front lines where he entertained troops in France. Through his efforts in organising concerts and fundraising appeals he established the charity, the Harry Lauder Million Pound Fund for maimed Scottish soldiers and sailors to help servicemen return to health and civilian life. Harry was himself greatly effected by the war when his son John was killed in action in 1916. Harry’s connection with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals was perhaps imperceptible , that said in the photo above we see Harry donating money to member of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals committee. A photo taken by the press and therefore helping to raise the profile of the organisation.  Harry was also a great friend of Sir Thomas Lipton,a self-made man, Tea merchant, and yachtsman. Thomas came to the aid of Elsie Inglis and  various hospital units serving in Serbia on numerous occasions. Thomas was a modest man. He was full of fun and many of the women loved his company. He was hugely popular among the Serbs, visiting and supporting manymedical missions into Serbia.

Eventually during the nursing in the hospitals in Serbia and in Salonika, Harry’s songs became popular. The Serbs seem to have been very taken with it. Chief Medical Officer Isabel Emslie wrote of the Serbian patients  ” Their recreation was singing and dancing, which is just as natural a part of their lives as eating and drinking, sleeping and tilling the soil.. All of them sang, not only one here and there, and did so with out the least shyness or self-consciousness. Our music, or rather such of it as was available in gramophone records,did not seem to appeal to them much. There was one notable exception;they loved Harry Lauder’s song,and its was not only his mirthful chuckling ones,but also the sober-sided ones. There was a quality in that lovely Scottish voice that went straight to their hearts and soon they were lilting away blithely Roaming in the Gloaming and I love a Lassie”.

Project Update

In terms of volume of work June was to date one the busiest months so far.  We had a large number of presentations to attend in all corners of Scotland. Furnishing exhibitions with details and accounts of the work of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during WW1 was also in demand. Troyes in France was a huge success and I’m glad the hours of gleaning documents paid off.   We also assisted a number of small community groups from all over the UK. We  supplied  them with details of personnel and provided a background to the where, when and the conditions they were facing at that time. There has also been huge interest from Australia. Again ideas and information have being going back and forth.  And its rewarding to see a number of projects so far away coming together.  We still trying to add 20 or so biography’s per month to the A-Z of Personnel page.  Of all the areas of research this part takes the most time.

July and August again will be hectic. We are providing a raft of information for an exhibition and conference taking part in Serbia later this year. Am delighted to have been asked to attend and for my part will show  two short films, one on the role of the SWH in Serbia from 1914-1919 and one on the Serbia retreat through the eyes of the SWH members. A particularly important thread as, in November, it will be 100 years since that epic journey took place. Velibor Vidic and Iva Savic are ensuring that this is going to be a success.

Again in July there are plenty of presentations taking place and i will add these to the site nearer the time. For whatever the reason there is an increase in relatives of former SWH members contacting us for information. Keep them coming as it’s always a pleasure to hear from you and help with any queries.