by THE DIGGER
HISTORY will once again be brought to life on Wednesday 2nd December at 7.30pm in the Irish Linen Centre, Lisburn Museum when Michael Costello addresses the December meeting of the Lisburn Historical Society on Hugh Gordon, the local 19th century violin maker.
Born in 1794, Hugh Gordon resided in a cottage in the town land of Ballymacward, Stoneyford.
A local blacksmith and farmer he was once described as "a mechanical genius....who could make anything." Throughout his life Hugh not only utilised the plough and anvil at the family homestead, but worked with a set of handmade tools and templates and appeared to run a successful cottage industry manufacturing violins.
Most of the materials for these beautiful instruments, such as sycamore and pine, would have been sourced locally. Hugh Gordon stamped each of his violins on the rear, below the button, and a label was put inside.
Michael estimates he may have made as many as 50 violins during his lifetime. Some of these instruments would eventually make their way to various parts of the world including Canada and America.
Members and visitors to the forthcoming Lisburn Historical Society meeting will not only be able to learn about this unique piece of local history, but they will be able to see, and hear, some of the original violins made by Hugh Gordon.
Michael, a proficient violin player himself, first encountered a Gordon violin on the premises of Ormonde Hall, a violin and piano dealer on the Lisburn Road, Belfast.
As a youth, he had been seeking to purchase one but it was outside his price range at the time. That experience would, however, be the catalyst of an interest that would lead to a lifetime of research on Hugh Gordon, amateur violin maker.
Michael's research over the years would bring him into contact directly with some of the Gordon
violins, the violin moulds and templates actually used in their manufacture and manuscript linked to Hugh from the early 1800's.
Amongst the reels, jigs, hornpipes and other music in the manuscript are two pieces titled Miss Gordon's Reel and the Stoneyford Lasses, which are more than likely linked to some of the female members in Hugh's own family and those from the immediate district.
Hugh passed away on 3rd April 1854. Michael, through his life long efforts, has managed to keep the Gordon story very much alive and he soon to release soon an historical fictional novel based on the life of the Stoneyford violin maker.
Hugh Gordon, his wife Sarah, nee Hood, and an infant son William are buried in the graveyard at Glenavy Parish Church, County Antrim.
For further information on the Gordon Violins visit Michael's web-site at http://m.maccoisdeala.tripod.com/index.html.
The Digger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting the Ulster Star.
A Hugh Gordon Violin made at Ballymacward, Stoneyford