I have had the opportunity of speaking three times to Rotary One in Chicago. This city is where it all began in 1905. It was a personal honor because people come from all over the world to attend Rotary One.
Paul Percy Harris, one of the Founders, was not a Scot, but he married a girl from Edinburgh in 1912. Jean Thomson was born and raised in Scotland and is often referred to as his "Bonnie Jean." or "Bonnie Scottish Lassie." Paul Harris died January 27, 1947. Jean died November 9, 1963 and is buried in Newington Cemetery in Edinburgh.
Harry Lauder Joined the Rotary Club of Glasgow in 1914 and became one of its greatest supporters. "Rotary is going to be the greatest and grandest cooperative institution ever founded," he once said. That same year, he visited Paul Harris in Chicago and they became close friends. In 1916, he wrote a jaunty song which he recorded and often sang in concert. There is a verse but here's the chorus:
Once every week, every week in the year,
A very fine bunch of good fellows appear.
They are the live-est of wires you could find
And so much ahead they are never behind.
He also recorded another original song "Love Makes the World a Merry-go-Round" and on the label are the words "Dedicated to Rotary International."
In February1916, he addressed the Rotary Club of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the following press interview was given in his private railroad car. "I am a Rotarian, said he, and I have been this two and a half years. Across your land and back again have I traveled and visited all the biggest Rotary Clubs along the way. Just what is your line of work, he was asked. Weel, I am a character singer. Fur an hour an' a half I keep them busy. I sing and dance and dance a bit.."
Shortly after being knighted in 1919, Harry was visiting old friends in Chicago. Many who heard him speak had also lost sons in the war and were deeply moved by his eloquence. It was on this occasion that he coined the phrase, "Rotary is a golden strand in the cable of international friendship."
The International convention was held in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1921. Sir Harry met the passenger ships and lead a parade to the convention site. When Sir Harry walked into the hall, Paul Harris was giving a speech "he stopped in mid-sentence to shake hands with the entertainer." At the end, Harry led the group "in a moving rendition of Auld Lang Syne."
To Rotarians he said: "Leave your lights burning behind you, so that others coming after may benefit thereby. Perchance your boy or girls, passing that way some day may point to the lamp you left and say, gratefully and with pride: My dad left that lamp burning."
(In 1992, Don Buik gave me materials about Sir Harry Lauder and some of the information for this blog was taken from there. I do not know the source, but the author is T. Storm Hunter.)