Hugh Gordon was born in Ballymacward,Stoneyford,Co.Antrim in 1794 and his family had
been established farmers in that area since at least 1700.The 1728 Hertford Estate Rent Roll names three Gordons-John
Gordon ,Derriaghy,Robert Gordon ,Blaris,and Sarah Gordon,Magheragall.The list of landholders for 1844 and 1845 paying parochial
rates in Lower Ballymacward includes The Widow Gordon(Hugh`s mother),Hugh Gordon himself and wife Sarah Hood .There is a headstone
in the ancient Tullyrusk Cemetery(a short distance from Gordon`s land) enscribed `John Gordon, Ballymacward ,10/11/1824`.
This was Hugh`s father.In addition the Griffith Valuation return for the area done in 1864,ten years after Hugh had died, lists his
widow Sarah Gordon as the occupier of 26 acres let by the Marquis of Hertford,in lower Ballymacward. Hugh was obviously
a highly intelligent and talented man and became a farmer with a reputation as a bit of an inventor, with a natural
bent towards all things mechanical.His love of music led him to show a great interest in the strong tradition of Ulster
Scots fiddle music in the South Antrim area which was frequently performed in the open air,particularly at fairs,markets and other
social gatherings in neighbouring towns and villages such as Antrim,Crumlin,Glenavy,Lisburn,Ballyclare,Moira,Lurgan
and of course, Belfast.
The young Hugh Gordon became intrigued by the violin and all types of fiddle music.He started making violins in the 1820`s,using
local pine and sycamore and making many of his own tools,templates and patterns based on the designs of Stradivari and the
other great violin makers.Some of his moulds are in the possession of the well known violin maker P.A. Boardman
of Donagadee, Co.Down.Gordon visited other violin makers,notably Frank Jervis and Hugh Brown of Belfast and was
known to have at least 2 violin-making pupils,John Simpson of Magheragall and Edward Sayers of Belfast,whose brother,Rev.William
Sayers was curate of Stoneyford Parish(Cof I.)from 1849-1855.Gordon ,of course,taught his two sons James and Hugh to make
fiddles.It is believed that Hugh Gordon snr. worked in Belfast for a time in the 1820`s,where he may have learned his
violin making skills.One violin seen is labelled `Belfast 1825`.
Hugh Gordon could read and write music very well and I have examined an old music manuscript book belonging to Mr.Wm.Simpson
of Magheragall,a townland close to Stoneyford,in which Hugh Gordon wrote out several tunes for Mr.John Simpson(the grandfather
of Mr.Wm.) ,his friend and dedicated them to him.There are Sentiments expressed in this book concerning friends and neighbours
of Gordon in Ballymacward including Robert Adams and Richard Hood,a local school-master, who would have enjoyed,no doubt,listening
to our hero play in the evenings after the day`s work was done .Hugh Gordon snr. did not make a great number of violins,perhaps
fifty at most,but his work,although that of an amateur,is highly regarded by those who have played and owned them.His details
are recorded in a number of Dictionaries of violin -Maker,including William Henley`s and Dennis Plowright`s.The late
Father Greaven,a priest,in St.Paul`s Parish in Belfast also gave Gordon a mention in his booklet on Irish Violin Makers (
M.H.Gill & Son Ltd,Dublin,1911).
Hugh Gordon died in April 1854 aged 60 and is buried in Glenavy parish of St.Aidan`s Church of Ireland.
Hugh Gordon`s passion for violin making was also taken up by his sons Hugh ,who moved to Belfast after his mother`s
death in 1887 and James who remained at home,after his father`s death,living in the area untill the late 1920`s.Hugh Gordon
also had two daughters-Eliza Ann and Mary Jane(Scott),as well as a son William who died in infancy.
Hugh Gordon junior worked as a maker and repairer with his father in Stoneyford from an early age.When his father died
in 1854 Hugh was about twenty years of age and he set about completing the unfinished and unsold violins his father had left
behind.He labelled several violins as his father`s work but completed by himself.He later moved to live in Belfast where he
worked as a sub postmaster and also made and repaired violins from 42 Newtownards Road.He labelled some of his violins
as `made by Hugh Gordon` and occasionally as `Made by the son of the late Hugh Gordon of Stoneyford`.He sometimes stamped
his violins `Gordon` on or below the button and sometimes did not.The last label I have seen with his name on it was
dated 1921 when he must have been quite old.