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Sir Harry Lauder Museum Collection Becomes 51st Recognised Collection

Today South Lanarkshire’s Sir Harry Lauder collection is officially recognised as one of Scotland’s Nationally Significant Collections. The award by Museums Galleries Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, celebrates, promotes and invests in nationally significant collections beyond those held in national museums and galleries.

Sir Harry Lauder (1870-1950) was Scotland’s first successful international entertainer and a key figure in the development of music hall and variety theatre entertainment.  He had a long association with Lanarkshire, but Sir Harry became internationally significant.

Born in Portobello, he moved to Hamilton as a boy to work in the coal mines. He developed a reputation locally as a comic-singer, then toured music halls in Scotland, Britain, the United States and eventually the world, portraying numerous Scottish characters to increasingly large audiences.

A clever self-publicist through performance and characterisation, he was determined to be memorable and marketable.  The image, characters and songs he created, made him the highest paid entertainer in music hall history. He was the first British artist to sell one million records but by 1928 he had sold double that. A contentious figure perhaps today in his portrayal of the enduring stereotypical ‘canny Scotsman’, he was a versatile performer, inspiring many artists who followed him.

In celebration of the Sir Harry Lauder Collection receiving Recognised status, artwork was commissioned. Artist, Sophie Rowan, has created a vibrant artwork in response to the collection which depicts Lauder, tartan-clad with his trademark walking stick in hand, performing in character.

The Sir Harry Lauder collection, the 51st to gain Recognition in Scotland, comprises over 600 objects and includes 250 pieces of character stage costumes and props, and examples of Lauder’s iconic twisted walking stick, including one presented by HRH Edward Prince of Wales. A small number of items from the collection can be seen at Low Parks Museum, and there are plans to show a large exhibition of the collection in 2023.

South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture’s General Manager Kay Morrison:

“We are delighted to have use of Sophie Rowan’s artwork to raise the profile of South Lanarkshire’s Lauder collection. Sophie has created a wonderful, colourful piece, depicting Lauder performing in his trademark tartan-clad, walking stick in hand. A big thank you to Museums Galleries Scotland for commissioning this work to help raise awareness of our collection and to our Museum Team for all their hard work and efforts in securing this award and recognition for the collection.”

And South Lanarkshire Provost Margaret Cooper said: “This collection of everything Harry Lauder is a fantastic addition to an already impressive collection of a wide range of subjects held by our museum service.

“Sir Harry Lauder was a huge icon of his day with a career that moved and impressed so many people around the world.

“He holds a special place in our area, having started off working in Hamilton and ending up living in his mansion Lauder Ha’ in Strathaven.

“This collection pays a fitting tribute to all of that, and I am sure it will continue to make the people of South Lanarkshire proud that he made our area his home.”

Culture Minister Neil Gray said:

“South Lanarkshire’s Sir Harry Lauder Collection is a welcome addition to our Nationally Significant Collections; a showcase of the best offerings from Scottish museums across the country.

“Wearing the kilt and carrying a crooked walking stick, Sir Harry was a popular and distinctive figure recognised all over the world as a fantastic ambassador for Scotland’s rich culture and heritage.”

“The Harry Lauder Collection joins an already 50 strong grouping of Nationally Significant Collections which reflects our efforts to preserve and interpret the past for the benefit of present and future generations.”

Christopher Baker, Recognition Committee Member said:

“The Sir Harry Lauder collection becoming recognised as one of Scotland’s Nationally Significant Collections is the result of several years of painstaking research, care, cataloguing and digitisation by the team at South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Museum Service. We are delighted that their hard work and dedication has been rewarded and that the collection has been recognised as nationally significant to the story of Scotland’s cultural heritage.”