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The Gordons of Stoneyford,Co.Antrim-Violin Makers -by Michael Costello

Home | The restoration of the"Canadian"Gordon -Feb.`07 | The repatriation of the "Canadian"Gordon-August `06 | Hugh Gordon`s House | The Last Resting Place of Hugh Gordon ... | Information from the Simpson Family of Magheragall | Instrument details | The Reminiscences of Mr.James Crawford of Stoneyford | The moulds and templates of Hugh Gordon. | Fiddle music in Co.Antrim in the 1830`s

Information from the Simpson Family of Magheragall

violin by Hugh Gordon circa 1850

An early violin by Hugh Gordon modelled on Stradivarius


Button & Stamp

In early August 1984 I visited Mr.William Simpson at his farm beside the Low Quarter Orange Hall in Magheragall(a neighbouring townland to Stoneyford).He showed me a nice fiddle made by his great- grandfather  John Simpson at Stoneyford in 1855.It was a nice Amati Copy stamped `Simpson` on the button and he told me that his ancestor made 3 violins  under the direction of Hugh Gordon of Stoneyford.He also showed me an old  German trade violin Stamped `Simpson`and labelled `Patrick Higgins`,which his ancestor had restored.He allowed me to examine a small bag of violin-makers templates and models made out of fine plywood,with Hugh Gordon`s name on most of them,which Gordon had made for John Simpson.I was also loaned a music manuscript book with hand written music which was signed by both Gordon and Simpson with various sentiments.I presumed that the book would have  passed between them and they wrote out tunes for each other to learn.The inside back cover of this book contains a poem entitled`Epitath by Hugh Gordon`.Mr.Simpson told me that Gordon was a Blacksmith and showed me a large O.S. map ,pointing out the Simpson lands of that time,in Stoneyford and other townlands.

I returned to visit Mr Simpson on 24/06/1986.He showed me a typed manuscript of the Simpson family history,and some old family bibles from Victorian times.The hand written insertions made reference to the relationship between John Simpson and Hugh Gordon and I was permitted to copy them ;

“He was very intimate with Hugh Gordon,a mechanical genius,who lived near and who could make anything,but his speciality was violins made on the Cremona models.He claimed to have rediscovered the old masters celebrated varnish.Certainly they had a lovely rich colour,splendid finish and exquisite tone.They are very valuable instruments now,but I don`t think there are very many of them in existence.From him he(John Simpson) got patterns and instructions and as he was very handy with tools and had got infinite patience,he succeeded in making some really good fiddles.John Simpson died in 1896 aged 79.


A piece of music written in Hugh Gordon`s own hand

A neatly cut scroll


All research on this site was carried out independently by Michael Costello between 1978 and 2005.All photos and information are the property of the author and may not be copied or reproduced without his permission.

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Please click here to visit the author`s poetry website- Dánta Dúnta