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Home | Museums

National Treasure: South Lanarkshire’s Sir Harry Lauder Collection Exhibition at Low Parks Museum, Hamilton

Published: Monday, 15 May 2023

National Treasure: South Lanarkshire’s Sir Harry Lauder Collection Exhibition at Low Parks Museum, Hamilton

National Treasure: South Lanarkshire’s Sir Harry Lauder Collection Exhibition at Low Parks Museum, Hamilton

Sir Harry Lauder was Scotland’s first successful international entertainer – indeed the first superstar. A local lad whose unique stage image and performance brought world fame. Though a global success, he has deep connections to Lanarkshire. 

The Sir Harry Lauder Collection is the largest public collection relating to the famous stage performer. The collection of over 600 items gained the Recognition award in 2022 from Museums Galleries Scotland who promote and invest in Nationally Significant Collections beyond those held in Scotland’s national museums and galleries. Almost a year later, a large part of this collection will go on public display at Low Parks Museum in Hamilton.

Born in Portobello, Harry Lauder’s family moved to Hamilton, where aged 14 he was working in the coalmines. He married local woman Annie Vallance and began building his reputation as a comic-singer, performing to audiences in Hamilton, Motherwell and Larkhall.  

This colourful and theatrical exhibition by South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Museum Service, showcases Harry’s life and work, and his influence at the birth of the modern age of communication. Through stage costumes, his trademark twisty walking sticks, handwritten letters and lyrics, music, photographs, film and archives, it explores his characters and songs, his world tours, his family and friends, allowing us a valuable insight beyond fame to the family man.

A clever self-publicist he aimed to be memorable and marketable.  His image - contentious perhaps today - as the stereotypical ‘canny Scotsman’, the stage characters and songs made him the highest paid entertainer in Music Hall history. In 1911 he was earning $1,000 a night and was the first British artist to sell one million records, by 1928 he had doubled those sales.

His versatile performances inspired many artists.  He was celebrated by Royalty, US presidents and British Prime Ministers.  Winston Churchill believed him to be ‘Scotland’s greatest ever ambassador.’ He was invited to the White House on numerous occasions and was asked to perform at the request of both King Edward VII and King George V.

Lauder returned to Lanarkshire to settle at Lauder Ha’, his custom-built home in Strathaven from 1934 until his death in 1950 where thousands turned out to pay their respects.

After years of painstaking behind the scenes development work and research, funded by Museums Galleries Scotland, this collection deservedly gains its place as part of Scotland’s cultural heritage. It will appeal to old and young alike in its colourful presentation and programme of activities, celebrating ‘a national treasure’.

Open from 10 June 2023 until end of February 2024, entry to the exhibition is free.

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