The Great Lafayette
The Great Lafayette's Grave at Piershill Cemetery, Edinburgh
A tall column marks the burial site of The Great Lafayette in Piershill Cemetery. The engraved inscription reads, 'Sacred to the memory of The Great Lafayette, born 25 February 1871, died 9 May 1911'.
The Great Lafayette was one of the best-known entertainers of the early 20th century. Lafayette was born in Munich in 1871 as Sigmund Neuberger (aka The Great Lafayette) and lived as a bachelor recluse with a small cross-bred terrier, named Beauty, which he had been given by Harry Houdini. Lafayette opened a two-week season at the Empire Theatre of Varieties in Nicolson Street,Edinburgh (now the Festival Theatre) on May 1, 1911. Four days later Beauty died of apoplexy - caused by over-feeding. Lafayette was grief-stricken, and had the dog laid out on a silk pillow surrounded by lilies in his rooms in the Caledonian Hotel and later embalmed and interred at Piershill Cemetery.
On Tuesday May 9 as Lafayette took his bow after his performance at the theatre a lamp fell amongst the scenery which instantly caught fire and a mass of flame shot over the footlights to the stalls. The stage was an inferno and it took three hours to bring the fire under control, and eleven people died including the Great Lafayette.
Layfayette was also interred at Piersfield Cemetery and Beauty’s coffin was opened and Lafayette’s ashes placed beside the dog.