On the ninth of July(the day before my birthday)My daughter Eimhear and
I decided to shorten a tedious sunday afternoon by visiting the grave of Hugh Gordon at Glenavy.While we were
at the grave, Eimhear ,a budding fiddler,suggested plucking blades of grass off the grave and putting one inside each
of our fiddles .She suggested with a mocking tone that this practise might make my playing sound a bit better! Being a rational
man I complied with the child`s wishes and when we returned home I placed a blade of grass inside each of my 3 Gordon
fiddles and Eimhear did likewise with her 3/4 sized fiddle.Running the bow over the strings, in a fit of enthusiasm, I noticed
no audible difference in either the quality of tone from the fiddle or the standard of my playing.Abandoning my music
I strayed to my laptop to check my emails and was intrigued to discover 2 emails responding to my Gordon website.One from
a gentleman in England seeking a Simpson family connection he had spotted on my website and the other from the eccentric-sounding
`GrandpaJoe`! Much to my astonishment Grandpa boasted of a genuine Hugh Gordon fiddle in his possession dated 1835 and offered it
as a gift to enhance my collection as it badly needed restoration. The only problem was that Joe lived in Canada!
at Windsor,Ontario.Needless to say a set of digital photos and details were sent,and before you could say ``Stoneyford``, arrangements
had been agreed between Joe and myself, involving a hand-over to my cousin Colum Michael Diamond who lived a 5-hour drive
from Joe and who agreed to meet him half way. Learning of his very Northern Irish surname I presumed that Joe was Irish himself
but he tells me its more like third generation Irish.Not to be outdone I asked if his grandparents or great- grandparents
had brought the fiddle out to Canada during the famine exodus but Joe told me that he had acquired it in Canada.Colum
,back in Peterborough,Ontario quickly despatched the Gordon for the shamrock shore!
The battered old Gordon dated 1835 (number 24) was sadly impounded
by her majesty`s Customs and Excise when it arrived and a kings ransom in V.A.T. had to be paid to liberate it from its
callous captors due to Canada being outside the E.U.
The fiddle ,although far from being in good playing condition, was
finally back in the land of its maker and after an exile that may have lasted as long as 171 years!
On thursday 17th August 2006 two carloads of excited
Irish musicians headed for Stoneyford ,Co.Antrim to offically repatriate the Gordon violin.Firstly the old Gordon farm was
visited and as we stood pensively on the roadway ,I looked up the lane and imagined a little man in pre-Victorian garb walking
happily down with his new fiddle under his arm.(In 1835 King William the 4th had just abolished slavery in the colonies and
Victoria would not be Queen for two more years!)
We travelled on to Glenavy and Hugh Gordon`s resting place in St.Aidan`s
church of Ireland.We prayed for a moment and then Frank Doherty,The distinguished Belfast fiddle player and octogenarian raised
the old fiddle to his shoulder and as the rest of us fell back he stood by Gordon`s grave and gently coaxed the haunting strains
of `The Bard of Armagh` and then `The Dear Irish Boy` from it .As Frank played ,a unique experience was enhanced by the
arrival of a little robin ,which landed on the ivy-covered headstone! We then symbolically placed the fiddle on
the grave and stood in silent reflection.If only it could have spoken and told its story!
Well may you ask, "Does the story end there?".and the answer
is a resounding "no!" for the bruised old Gordon is now in the skilful hands of none other than P.A.Boardman, Ireland`s internationally
recognised leading violin maker and restorer ,and another king`s ransom may well be paid in restoring the Canadian Gordon
to the best possible condition,in the name of integrity and artistic endeavour.When this is done detailed photographs will
of course appear here and a sound file demonstrating the fiddle`s tone.WATCH THIS CYBERSPACE!!!
The pictures below were taken in St.Aidan`s ,Glenavy.