History & Tourism

When Mansfield Welcomed: Sir Harry Lauder

2 Oct , 2017  

A man once described by Winston Churchill as “Scotland’s greatest ever ambassador” included Mansfield among places he visited during his storied career.

At the time of his March 1916 visit, Harry Lauder was already the highest paid performer in the world. His visit took place at a time of increased anxiety in America, as the county was involved in arming the Allies in World War 1 but was still several months away from joining the fray.

Lauder was involved in a multi-nation tour at this time; his only son would be a casualty at the end of 1916. In 1919, he was knighted by King George V in honor of his role as international ambassador and war effort fundraiser.

The Mansfield concert took place in the Opera House, which was later the site of the Madison Theatre behind and attached to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building – now a parking lot. Lauder performed for an hour, preceded by others in his touring company.

The Mansfield News reported that a gift of roses from a number of area Scots in attendance prompted the performer to do an encore of music, stories, and then an audience participation version of one of Lauder’s best-known works, “A Wee Deoch-an-Doris.” It was said that he took the time to rehearse the audience in the chorus. A recording of the artist performing this work is featured below. This is very close to what those at the Opera House heard that March night.

Such was the caliber of Lauder’s performance that the News said, “the clever little Scotsman is in a class all by himself.”

The preview acts included a shadowgraph artist, a dance duo, humorous talk and piano playing, a “Persin” troupe of acrobats, and “Lucille and her talking birds.”

Sources: Mansfield News, Wikipedia

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