Death of Jessie N. Maclachlan, May 1916: A Tribute and Some Reminiscences
The following is from page five of The People’s Journal, on Saturday the 20th of May, 1916:
“A BEAUTIFUL VOICE STILLED.
Interesting Stories of Jessie Maclachlan.
GREAT SCOTCH SINGER.
(Special to “People’s Journal.”)
“She has never been more than an hour away from me since we were married —not till now!”
That is what Mr R. Buchanan said of his wife, the famous and beautiful singer of Lowland and Highland songs,
Jessie N. Maclachlan, who has just passed away.
Singing her way through the world wherever the English language is spoken, Jessie Maclachlan won her way into
all hearts by the inspirational beauty of her singing of our homely but glorious minstrelsy.
During the lengthy course of her tours with her husband, which included the circumscribing of the globe at least
twice in their lives, Mrs Buchanan had some thrilling experiences. A good many years ago they were snowed up at
Mintlaw, in Aberdeenshire, for 36 hours in a third-class carriage without food of any description. As a result of that
experience husband and wife were both laid up with illness for some time.
A War Experience.
“That was, I think, really our worst experience,” said Mr Buchanan, “although at the outbreak of war we had another
which ran it close. While in the North of Spain, having crossed over from France to see a bull fight at San Sebastian, we
learned that war had broken out. We were unable to get back to France, and as we wanted to get home we were in fix to
know exactly what do. The British Consul could do nothing for us, but we fell in with a British captain, who advised us to
go on to Bilbao, and if there was any ship sailing to try and get a passage. There happened to be a tramp steamer at Bilbao
just about to sail for England, and although the captain was reluctant to take us, as he was short of provisions, we all
three —my son was with us at the time—got aboard. My son and I signed on as part of the crew, while Mrs Buchanan signed
as stewardess, to nobody, of course, but herself. We had no drinking water for two days, and our passage was made lively
by frequent hold-ups from French and British crusers. While we were off the Isle of Wight we saw the Oceanic, which had
been chased by a submarine, go tearing by at a great rate. Once a cruiser fired across our bows, and even after allowing us
to proceed, came rushing out of the darkness, almost shaving us, as if she was not quite sure of our bona fides even then.
That passage, which ordinarily takes more than four or five days, took us ten. I honestly believe that the hardships we
endured then shortened my wife’s life.”
Circumventing a Broken Embankment.
Jessie Maclachlan and her husband have often been in the U.S.A. and Canada. Everywhere her singing of the familiar
Scots minstrelsy has been received with unstinted enthusiasm. But a singer’s reputation depends as much on his or her
punctuality in keeping engagements as on the quality of the singing, said her husband.
“In all the 15 years we have been in America we have only missed one engagement. and that was when we were snowbound
at Picton, in Ontario. After giving a concert in the town, the snow blocked the line so completely that no train got out of the
town for six weeks. We tried our best to hire a conveyance, but nobody seemed willing to take us. A retired captain, however,
volunteered to drive us to our next destination, which reached after a few upsets in the snowdrifts, but happily without
In Canada these winter experiences were varied by cloudbursts that almost prevented the concert party from fulfilling an
engagement. This happened in British Columbia. The violence of the cloudburst swept away part of an embankment, and
part of the permanent way hung in mid-air.
“We fulfilled our engagement, however,” continued Mr Buchanan. “Mrs Buchanan noticed a hand trolley coming along, and
persuaded the men to take the concert party to its destination in that rather precarious conveyance.”
Jessie Maclachlan’s last engagement in Scotland was at the Kinnaird Hall, Dundee, where she appeared on September 23, 1913,
in connection with the holding of the Highland Mod. Her last public appearance was made at the Amsterdam Opera House, New
York, where she sang before an audience of 5000. Some of the press notices, especially the Australian, about herself and her
singing make excellent reading. She created something like a record by filling the beautiful white Town Hall of Sydney for nine
consecutive evenings. In company with her husband she toured all the British dominions, with the exception of India and South
Africa. Rheumatic fever, contracted in New Zealand, interfered with her arrangements to visit our Indian Empire.
Now the beautiful voice that was attuned to such perfect sympathy with our minstrelsy has ceased to vibrate, and the beautiful face
that, as her sister said to the pressman, seemed in death to have grown so remarkably young, has been hidden away forever beneath
the green sod in Cathcart Cemetery.”
The article includes a photographic portrait of Jessie, and the Journal is a Dundee publication.