Scalloway man repairs forgotten fiddle which could date back to the late 1800s

A long-forgotten, dilapidated fiddle that could be almost 150 years old has been repaired after being donated to charity.

The fiddle was discovered in a loft and given to social enterprise charity Cope with the owner and history of the instrument unknown.

David Anderson, of Scalloway, was delighted to be given the honour of restoring the fiddle for Cope’s Shetland Home Company – who now intend to sell the fiddle to the highest bidder to raise funds.

Mr Anderson is unsure of the exact age of the instrument, but says the case indicates it is almost a century and a half old.

“It has no markings or label on the side – I’m not sure on the age of the fiddle,” he said.

“But it’s definitely old, looking at the case it’s in, that would probably be from the 1880s to early 1900s. But the case and fiddle might not have started life together.”

Mr Anderson started working on the fiddle on 19th December before completing the restoration process on 22nd January.

The old fiddle before being repaired by David Anderson. 
The old fiddle before being repaired by David Anderson. 

However, Mr Anderson says in terms of the amount of time it took to repair the fiddle, he estimates it took around 20 hours.

“The top of the fiddle had cracks on both sides running from the f-holes down to the bottom of the fiddle, he said.

“Its neck needed resetting, the back was separated from the sides in places, the sides had come away from the tailblock, the finish (oil varnish) needed repairing on one side of the top, and the case needed repairing.

“Other than that. It needed a good setup – new strings, tailpiece gut, one peg needed replacing, one fine tuner was missing and the bridge had been lowered.

“To compensate for the neck angle being too low, I started by taking the back off it, repaired the cracks in the top and glued the sides back to the tailblock.

“Then I put the back on, reset the neck, repaired the finish, replaced the peg, finetuner and the bridge and then gave it a full setup.”

The fiddle after being restored by David Anderson
The fiddle after being restored by David Anderson

After repairing the fiddle, Unst musician George Spence had a tune on it to test it out.

Mr Anderson was confident the instrument would sound good, but was left in awe by Mr Spence performance.

“I could tell as soon as I started working on it by the sound of the fiddle parts and how it’s top and back thickness had been graduated it was going to be a good sounding instrument,” he said.

“The top was light in weight, that usually gives you a responsive instrument.

“Hearing George play it was a brilliant feeling, he’s a fantastic musician. Getting feedback from him confirmed it had tuned out alright and someone would have a good instrument to play.”

Read the full story in this week’s Shetland Times. 


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