Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Usher Hall review (1919)

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LIGHT – Apr 19th 1919


The Meeting in Edinburgh.

” Auld Reekie ” has had a shock. We had all made up our minds that Spiritualism was a discredited illusion. The publication of “Raymond” startled us. What startled us even more was that a book costing half-a-guinea sold so rapidly. We were gradually recovering from the effects of “Raymond” when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle descended upon us. and on Friday evening, the 4th inst., the Usher Hall, holding three thousand people, was crowded to hear him. The seats cost half-a-crown and other prices, but we were assured that Sir Arthur is not out on a money-making campaign, that he does not profit by this apostolic tour. The audience waited his appearance with expectancy. He was accompanied by Lady Doyle, who shares his beliefs, and is an inspiration to him in all his heroic endeavours. Sir Arthur captivated the audience by his frankness, his straightforward statements and his masterly treatment of his subject.

He told us, what many learned for the first time—that be is a native of Edinburgh, that when he left our University he was a materialist, that at first he regarded Spiritualism as a delusion, and how gradually, from an attitude of scepticism, he became convinced as to the reality of the phenomena. He referred to D. D. Home as the greatest of all modern mediums, and reminded the audience that he was born at Portobello (Home, I think, was really born in the Canongate and his people removed afterwards to Portobello, or rather to the district between Portobello and Edinburgh). He mentioned Robert Chambers as being one who was among the pioneers of the movement. And he then dealt with the vast subject of “Death and the Hereafter” in his own masterly way. The audience listened with the keenest interest. Like Oliver Twist, they wanted “more.” Sir Arthur has left a deep impression upon our city. We are not quite convinced yet.

Edinburgh has plenty of champions for the older forms of thought, and probably there will be the usual controversy over some of Sir Arthur’s statements. But Edinburgh has reached this conclusion that when a man of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s analytic mind, one who is renowned throughout the world for his competency in weighing the value of evidence and detecting fraud, has studied this subject of Spiritualism and after many years of careful investigation has reached the conclusion not only that the phenomena are real, but that it is his duty to go over the length and breadth of the land proclaiming a new gospel, then Spiritualism has a message for this generation. Even the Laodicean is constrained to admit that there must be “something in it.” That is where we are now. We are cautious in the North. We do not jump to conclusions too readily. Give us time, and Scotland may yet, with a noble energy, do her part in the Great Cause.
We ought to add that the “Scotsman” has given a scrupulously fair report of Sir Arthur’s address, so that a wider audience has read the main points of his teaching. Should he return to our city, he can be assured of even a more hearty welcome than he received on this occasion. He has left us all thinking, whilst the devoted few are grateful for the spoken word that articulates the thoughts they have cherished for many years.