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Roamin' in the Gloamin'
CHAPTER XVI - THE FIRST YEARS OF THE WAR


LOOKING back on the years between 1907 and 1914 it seems to me now that they passed with amazing swiftness. My engagement book was full up with British and American bookings. Life, so far as I was concerned, was a perpetual scamper over the chief towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and then off again to the States for another long tour. It is quite true that my bank-book was swelling in corresponding ratio to my engagement-book but while this fact gave me intense pleasure I was often oppressed with a feeling of horror when I realized that every week of my life for years ahead was irrevocably fixed and ordained. I had no time for holidays. If I got an occasional week-end at Lauder- dale in Dunoon, or at Glen Branter on the shores of Loch Eck, Argyllshire—the Highland estate I now owned but seldom saw—it was as much as I could fit in. Of course the ocean trips to and from America were as good as vacations but I did miss that fine feeling that comes to most men and women once or twice a year—the exhilarating thought that now, for a week or a fortnight, they can cast care to the winds and thoroughly enjoy their holidays. More than once I tried hard to get released from dates on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was no good—managers' plans are made a long way ahead; I was a slave for whom there was never a respite.

Sometimes I fell to hating my life with a fierce hatred. What had I done that I should thus be kept at the grind stone, driven and dragooned, at home and abroad, week after week, month after month, year after year? For more than ten years I had had no home life worth speaking of.

Nance certainly went with me to America every time and she was an unfailing pillar of support and encouragement. Without her loving care and comradeship I must have kicked over the traces altogether and torn my contracts to tatters. I think John had a lot to do with these occasional moods of mine. He had now gone up to Cambridge. Even when I was playing in London and the British provinces I saw very little of him. Occasionally he would run down in his car for an evening or a week-end but I was always so full up with business that it seems to me now we never had the good times together that a father and a son ought to have had. I was proud of the progress he was making at college. His intention was to take his degree as a Bachelor of Music. He had everything that a boy could desire because by this time I was a comparatively rich man and my potential earning power was very great. But, as I have said I was leading a slave's life. I was not my own master. True it is that the fascination of my stage work held me constantly in thrall. Whenever I pranced on from the wings to begin my act the world was wholly blotted out; private thoughts and reflections, resent- merits, longings—all were forgotten in the glare of the footlights. The applause of the people, the sense of personal mastery over the emotions of crowded audiences, the feeling of playing on the heart-strings of men and women as on an instrument—here are the "hooks" of steel that keep the artiste bound to the theatre through all the nights and all the years. Reaction comes only during the day. Over and over again during one or other of my American tours I have sent for Morris and told him point-blank that I was packing-up, that all the dollars in the United States Treasury could not keep me a day longer away from my home and my boy. I saw him in daily association with his own fine son, young Will, and my heart cried out for John. But of course I always lost in these bouts with my manager; he had the most wonderful way of soothing me and encouraging me to "Carry On!"

"Sure, Harry," Will would say in his quiet style, "I'll cancel everything after this week. But don't forget that you have to breakfast with the President on such-and-such a date. And remember you have arranged to meet Henry Ford and see his Detroit plant the week afterI" Or it would be an appointment with some senator, or a game of golf with George Low, or a day at Congress, or something equally fascinating to which he knew I had been keenly looking forward. No matter how home-sick I might have been Will Morris always had his own way!

And, these infrequent temperamental storms apart, I must admit that I always found each successive visit to the States refreshing and invigorating to a degree. Remember that by the time of which I am writing I had come to know the country from coast to coast. I had made innumerable friends from the highest in the land down to the humblest citizen. I had received the freedom of practically every large city. I had been entertained by all the leading clubs, societies, and associations. Great organizations like the Rotary clubs and Kiwanis had invited me to their weekly meetings in every State in the Union. I had visited every historic spot, been shown over every industrial plant, was now perhaps better acquainted with the national life and characteristics of the people than millions claiming citizenship under the Stars and Stripes. By and by in these memoirs I propose to give you some brief impressions of the great Americans I have met and talked with from Teddy Roosevelt down to the political and industrial leaders of the present time. I will also, with the editor's permission, recount some of the more amusing adventures and experiences that I have had during my twenty years' touring of the United States. But these impressions and stories must fall in their proper place. At present I feel that I should be getting on with my roamin's in other parts of the world and to the War years which held so much of action and excitement for all of us and so much of woe for many of us.

The question of my visiting Australia had frequently been broached to me and I had actually agreed to the terms of an exceedingly handsome offer put up to me as far back as 1911. But it was not until three years later that I was free to set sail for the island-continent. This I did from San Francisco in February, 1914. The long sail over the blue Pacific was an enchanting experience to me. I do not sup pose there is a boy or man in the wide world who has not dreamed, at one time or another, of the South Sea Islands, of coral reefs and waving palm-trees, of moonlight nights and melody under the Southern Cross. I did very often as a wee boy. And here was I, the poor half-timer in Gordon Flax Mill, the toiling miner in the coal pits of Lanarkshire, having my dreams realized—I was indeed sailing away into the seas, and to the islands, of romance. I have made the samer voyage several times since then tut have never quite recaptured the sensations which marked my first venturing upon those wonder seas of the West.

We arrived at Sydney on a glorious morning. As we slowly sailed up the magnificent harbour—surely the noblest "home of ships" in all the world—every vessel flagged me a welcome or blew a Cock-a-Doodle-Do on her siren. But if I felt flattered by the reception given me in the harbour itself what can I say about the warmth of the welcome accorded me by the people of Sydney? Had I been the discoverer of Australia returning after fifty years, to see how the people were faring I could not have been received with greater acclaim. The quays were crowded, the main streets were lined, bands were playing, the Mayor and the members of the Corporation were on duty to hand me, metaphorically, the keys of Sydney and of Australia. It was all very wonderful. I felt, as I have always felt on such occasions, that I was wholly unworthy of demonstrations so enthusiastic, so general, so spontaneous. Again, of course, the expatriated Scotties were prominent in the welcome; I have never been under any misapprehension as to the publicity value of my own kith and kin throughout the world. The fiery cross of the "clansmen" is as potent today to rally the Macdonalds, the Macintoshes, the Macgregors, the Duncans, the Tamsons, as ever it was in the days of the Young Pretender!

They gave rue a fine banquet at Farmer's Stores the following evening. I sang "Roamin' in the Gloaniin'" but though there were vociferous demands for an encore I told them that my programme would be continued on Easter Saturday night at the Theatre Royal and at the usual charges for admission! I played a solid month at Sydney that first visit. There was never an empty seat in the house. Afterwards I went to Melbourne, played the same number of weeks under the same happy conditions and subsequently made the pleasant (and extremely profitable) acquaintance of the people of Adelaide, Brisbane, and other towns. I also went down to New Zealand for 6x weeks. Here I got an absolutely amazing welcome. You must remember that the folks in New Zealand are more Scottish than the Scots themselves; their lovely islands are known as "the other Scotland down under." I had some gorgeous trout-fishing in New Zealand. That country I should describe as an angler's paradise. Many and many a fine basket of the speckled beauties I have landed down Invercargill way with my friend Donald Macdonald and some day I am going back there not to work but to fish all day long—and all night, too, if they're rising!

I was happier during this trip to Australia than I had been for a long time. It had been arranged that John was to come out and join us for a long holiday immediately after Cambridge had closed down for the summer vacation. He was within a few days' sail of Australia when we got back from New Zealand. And his mother and I could scarcely contain ourselves for joy over the thought that he would soon be with us. I cried like a child when he stepped off the ship looking bronzed and well after his voyage and bigger and more manly than when I had seen him about a year previously. His training as a subaltern in the territorial regiment of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had evidently done him good, I told myself. Our greetings over, the first thing he said to me was, "What's the news from home, Dad? The outlook is pretty bad, don't you think?" He referred, of course, to the war clouds then gathering thick and foreboding over the political horizon in Europe. I replied that everybody was trusting the situation would be clarified very soon; my own view was that a European war was unthinkable. In any case the war, if it did come, would not immediately affect Britain.

"Don't make any mistake, Dad 1" said John quietly but more seriously than I had ever known him speak. "If it comes to war we are in it up to the hilt. And in that case I'll be re-called at once. Rather hard lines," he concluded, "after looking forward to a jolly good time with you and Mum out here!"

John's reading of the war situation was more accurate than mine. He arrived on the last day of July, war was declared between Britain and Germany on August fourth (my birthday as it happened) and next day a cable arrived for John from the British War Office ordering him to rejoin his regiment at once. He sailed for home by the first available steamer. The next time we saw him was at Bedford six or seven months later just before leaving for the French front with the Highland Division.

A sincere and affectionate friendship which I had cemented in Australia stood my wife and me in good stead during this anxious period. I refer to E. J. Carroll, now one of the best-known impresarios in Australia and Great Britain but at that time chiefly prominent because of his film interests in Queensland and for his association with the famous firm of Tait Brothers. It was Ted Carroll who had come over to London several years previously and prevailed on me to sign a contract with the Taits. He was my "guide, philosopher, and friend" throughout that first tour. To know Ted Carroll is to love him. Genial and gentle, with a simple exterior masking extraordinary ability and foresight, slow of speech but wise in counsel. "H. J." is the type of man one trusts implicitly from the moment one meets him. He is a credit to the theatrical profession. He is as well-known in London now as in Australia. With the exception of my American work Mr. Carroll has managed me in all my Dominion and foreign tours during the past thirteen years and he will continue to do so until the end. I could tell you a lot more about E. J. Carroll, his beautiful character, his generosity, the esteem in which he is held by my profession but I am sure I have already said far more about him than will please him. He cheered me up when John's mother and I were sad, and made our first trip to Australia, in spite of our fears and occasional fits of depression, a memorable and highly delightful time.

I had a long list of bookings to play in the States on the way home, commencing at 'Frisco and zig-zagging all over the country, so it was not until the spring of 1915 that we set foot once more in England. As soon as ever we could get up to Bedford we did so and during the next month or two we saw a lot of John and his officer friends of the Fifty-first Division. This division was almost unique in the British Army. Being a territorial unit officers and men were all known to each other; apart from the formal military discipline they were more like companies of brothers and pals. The Argylls mostly all came from Argyll or Stirlingshires, the Black Watch from Perth, Forfar, and Fifeshires, the Gordons from Aberdeen and Banflshires, and so on. There were companies, or sections, entirely made up of Dunoon men, of Stirling men, of Dundee men, of St. Andrews men; districts and towns were thus closely associated and it all made for esprit de corps (the only French phrase I really understand!) not only in training but in the fighting days that lay ahead. I knew hundreds of the officers and men and always felt proud that our boy belonged to such a fine division. They were all kilted and their regimental music was the pipes. Man, but they must have looked grand as they marched through France to the front line! I often wished to God that I could join up with them. But I was over age and, for another thing, their ranks were closed to all but territorial soldiers.

Later in the war, my friend Willie Blackwood joined up and was lucky enough to get posted to the Fifty-first. Often, since the war, I have listened to Blackwood for hours as he told quaint, amusing, or tragic stories of his army days with the famous "H. D." (Highland Division) in France. One of his senior officers was his brother-in-law's foreman porter in peace days; his own batman was an insurance agent who had insured his life some years previously. A sergeant in his company was a Dundee schoolmaster with a string of letters after his name. His adjutant was the shoemaker from whom he bought his boots in private life. The driver of the mess-cart was one of the most accomplished architects in the midlands of Scotland. His major was a furniture dealer in Stirling. The colonel was a lawyer in Perth—"dear auld Wullie Grey," as Blackwood calls him. Of Colonel Grey conducting a Court Martial against one of his own "boys" Blackwood tells a story which always makes me chuckle with merriment. The soldier's crime is not heinous but of sufficient seriousness to warrant an inquiry. After hearing all the evidence the colonel turns to the culprit and delivers himself as follows:

"I'm real sorry, Jamie Broon (or whatever his name was) to see ye in this disgraceful poseetion before me. Ye maun mind that this is no the toon o' Perth ye're in but France and that there's a war on. What wad yer faither, dooce man, think if I were to write an' tell him that ye had been misbehavin' yersel' oot here? I ken yer faither fine an' it wad break the auld mon's hert!"

By this time, of course, the offending soldier is reduced to tears and he replies in sobbing accents, "Dinna dae that, Maister Grey, for God's sake. I'm awfu' sorry for what I've dune but I swear I'll no come afore ye again. Declare tae God, Maister Grey!"

And so, with an admonition, the kindly territorial colonel —the father as well as the commander of his men—dismisses the case!

Blackwood always asserts that the only trouble the officers of the Highland Division had to face was to prevent the men fighting among themselves when they were not fighting the Germans. One of the most bloodthirsty affrays he saw in France, he recounts, took place behind the line near Bapaume, one Hogmanay night—the last night of the year and a special festival evening with all Scots either in peace or war. Some of the transport boys had secretly laid in a large amount of rum for the due celebration of the occasion. The proceedings were marked at first with tremendous cordiality and conviviality all round but about midnight an argument arose as to whether Aberdeen or Dundee was the better town to live in Words led to blows and soon a miniature battle was in progress. The Aberdeen-Dundee disputants were putting up a capital show, so good that others thought they would like to join in. Only when casualties began to be serious was the guard called out and the battle finished. Next morning the regimental postman appeared at the officers' quarters with his head swathed in bandages and, as he handed out the letters, Lieutenant Blackwood asked him if he had been in the scrap last night." "I was that, sir I" proudlv replied the postman, "an' it was certainly a grand fecht. But I wish I knew the -- that got away wi' my left ear

Before going to the front John got an occasional leave and we spent several week-ends together at Glen Branter where I was building a house for him on the estate. He was now engaged to be married to the sweetheart of his boyhood, Miss Mildred Thomson, whose father was a big warehouse proprietor in London. John himself never seemed to doubt that he would come through the war all right but often I had a presentiment in the other direction. So many thousands of our best and bravest young men were being "a' wede awa'" that it was too much to hope my boy would escape. Naturally I did not mention my fears to John who, for his part was buoyantly looking forward to going "over there" with his beloved men.
I was on the Atlantic bound once more for America when John and his Highlanders sailed to France. Morris had arranged a very long and strenuous tour. After my opening weeks in New York my wife and I practically lived on a train for six months. Now that I come to think of it I must have spent a good few years of my life on American trains! And a man could live in many worse places, believe me. In the early days I had the Riva Saloon which President Roosevelt used during his presidential travels. Other well-known people who had had the privilege of touring in it before me were Sarah Bernhardt and Adelina Patti. Later I had other par lour cars placed at my disposal. Generally a "Harry Lauder Special" train consisted of three coaches, a baggage car, a Pullman sleeping car for my company, and the parlour car for myself, my wife, and Mr. Morris. These trains ran unchanged all over the North American continent. The original railway company took over all arrangements for each tour. And to the credit of the American Railroads be it said that in twenty years, and in the covering of many hundreds of thousands of miles, I have only once been in an accident. That was at Buffalo where we were run into by another "special," and very nearly all sent to kingdom come.

Some of the train servants travelled with me on many successive trips. There was one, a big black fellow, named Tom, who was a magnificent cook and the best maker of waffles I ever came across. I must have eaten many thousands of black Tom's waffles. One night my own Tom asked the other Tom if he would like to go to the theatre and see "Big Boss," perform—meaning me. "Sutt'nly, Massa Tom," said the cook. So white Tom got a ticket for him at some town out west. On returning to the Riva late that night Valiance asked the black fellow how he had enjoyed my act. "Fust class, Massa Tom, fust-class !" he exclaimed, "but I'se mighty glad he don't break his damn neck when he slips ever so high and come down ker-wallop!" The criticism of my performance so puzzled Tom that he began to make inquiries. It appeared that our cook had gone to the theatre right enough, that the first "turn" was by a grotesquely attired acrobat who made comedy tumbles off chairs piled up almost to the flies, and that after seeing this act he left the theatre under the impression that he had seen "Big Boss" Harry Lauder!

This tour in 1915 is stamped in my memory by the fact that I did a lot of propaganda work on behalf of my country not only from the stage but at meetings arranged in many places so that I could tell the people why we were in the war and of the part we were playing in the conflict. All along, even in these early days, I felt convinced that the United States would have to come into the war sooner or later. I told Mr. Wilson so at the White House and I lost no opportunity of saying the same thing throughout the length and breadth of America. That America's position was exceedingly difficult I well realized. I was in a neutral country. There were millions of German sympathisers in the States, men and women of German or Austrian origin, Swedes and others whose leanings were all on the side of the Black Eagle. Blood is always thicker than water and I could not blame them. But I knew that Britain's hands were clean, that we had taken up the sword on behalf of what we deemed a righteous cause and that we were draining our manhood in support of an ideal. All this I told my audiences whenever I had the chance. Sometimes my remarks were well received; some- times they were not. Occasionally Will Morris was a bit dubious of the wisdom of my almost fanatical speeches on behalf of my country, not, let me say at once, because he was not with me heart and soul but because he was fright- ened that I might get a bad break somewhere. Still I carried on. At a great meeting in San Francisco in December '15, 1 said, "You have got to come in and help us. America is part and parcel of Britain in this fight. Your institutions and your ideals march with ours. Your aspirations, your democracy, your outlook on life are the twins of our own—you cannot much longer stand aloof and see Europe plunged into hell because a gang of junkers have pulled out their sabres and sung a war-song proclaiming their determination to ride rough-shod over all the nations of the earth!" Of course I received many threatening letters and was repeatedly told that I should stick to my legitimate business of the stage without mixing it up with British propaganda offensive to many citizens of the country in which I was touring as a paid entertainer. At Pittsburgh one evening I was billed to speak in one of the largest halls. After a most enthusiastic meeting some friends—real Americans—and I were passing by the newspaper offices where the war bulletins were being shown in a dozen different languages. They were being eagerly devoured by a motley crowd the vast proportion of which could not speak English and whose sole idea of America was that it was a country which had treated them better than the lands they had been glad to leave. "What do these people know about the rights or wrongs of the war?" said one of my Pittsburgh friends bitterly. "They are not sufficiently interested in America to learn to speak its language." But many of this class of her citizens were only too keen, when the time came, to plot and scheme and work sedition against the country that had been kind enough to receive them into her great, generous bosom.


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