The Performer

1927 (1)

Heughan prior to world tour

After the war, his love of Scottish folk songs and ballads were included in his programme and this versatility, together with his immense acting ability would capture and entrance audiences around the world.

In 1923 the Burns Federation wanted to link Scots living abroad and to demonstrate to the world at large that Scottish music can compare with that of any other nation.

Of course, all Scots know this, but in those days most other people would have been under the impression that the songs of Harry Lauder alone were typical of Scotland. So the Burns Federation chose William Heughan, by now a world famous actor-singer, together with his brother David, a fine comedic singer in his own right, and the pianist Miss Gladys Sayer to set out on a four year, worldwide tour.

The four year’s tour covered 170,000 miles and over 650 recitals, not counting those given to more isolated groups of Scots on an impromptu basis. The boat’s first stop in Tenerife was the first impromptu event as crowds filled the quay and would not let William continue to his first official engagement in South Africa without a performance. Then on to cities of the Far East, including China and Japan, then Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

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“The World’s Greatest Actor-singer”

From townhalls to ex-pat clubs to the finest opera houses, William received rave reviews:-


William Heughan in 1932

1924 North China Daily News –

“specialises in Scotch songs. He is a Scot with all the temperament of a Bruce and a Burns, a Gael and a Jacobite. He must love Burns. He gets all the tears and teasings; the sighs and smiles, all the love and laughter out of the beloved Scotch bard.”

1926 Chicago Herald Examiner –

“Heughan thrills with great bass ….. a voice that is nothing short of phenomenal …. If you would know all about great singers by all means hear Heughan.”

1926 Seattle Daily Times –

“was recalled again and again. A consummate actor as well as a superb singer, he held his audience spellbround with his interpretations.”

1927 Glasgow Evening News –

“Heughan is a really gifted artist with genuine humouristic qualities….”

Such was his voice that in 1927 when about to debut in Milan in the Italian opera, Norma, he had his throat examined by an Italian specialist, Sgr. D’Orchi, who stated that in all his experience he had only seen one throat to compare and that was of Tito Ruffo, baritone of the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Negotiations were entered into to secure Williams throat upon his death! Luckily this gruesome idea was not put into practice!

William Heughan also used his acting abilities on the big screen and had minor roles in 3 films – The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) and The Rise of Catherine The Great (1934).

William Heughan in character as Walter Scott

William Heughan in character as Walter Scott