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Obit: eulogy for a fiddle

28 Aug 06 - 12:30 PM (#1820774)
Subject: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: GUEST,Philippa

my beautiful old fiddle that I learned to play on after a father's friend gave it to me has had a fatal accident. It was a good fiddle objectively - nice tone, playability, appearance (very dark wood) - and I knew how I felt about it emotionally and was very careful with it (though it isn't hard to find a nice fiddle, at least for a few hundred pounds and upwards).

It happened today. I got into one of the Derry Taxis that does the same route as the buses and pick up individual passengers along the route until the taxi is full. I was on my way to get a bus to the Fleadh Cheoil (music fest) in Letterkenny. I was in the front seat so I exited on the street side when we got to Foyle St where the taxis terminate by the bus station. Some things fell out of an unzipped pocket in my small rucksack. I didn't know the pocket was unzipped but I think the driver knew I was bending down to pick them up. Then I closed the door of the taxi but was still bent over to pick up my rucksack and fiddle to go. The fiddle was in between me and the taxi. I thought the driver knew I was there and I was startled as he pulled out. The car ran over a tiny corner of my fiddle case and I heard a small crack.

Although it's good it wasn't me who was hit, the damage to the fiddle is irreparable. The case isn't much damaged but the top half of the violin body, front back and sides, is in bits.

I don't know who the driver was, though I'd probably know him if I saw him again. The other drivers from the same company who were there didn't know who it was and didn't hold up much promise of compensation as they said the driver isn't responsible after the passengers exit the taxi. They asked if the instrument could be repaired, I said maybe - it would probably need a whole new front and wouldn't be the same instrument -- but I had only had a brief look at that point and the damage is much worse than I initially thought.

when I do get another fiddle, I have a cheap Chinese one that I'll nprobably donate to a music school. What would be the best way to attach a label in memory of that fiddles' previous owner and the person who gave me the good fiddle top

28 Aug 06 - 12:38 PM (#1820777)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Scoville

Oh, that's awful! Almost as bad as losing a pet!

28 Aug 06 - 12:53 PM (#1820785)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Sorcha

Oh Philippa......I know how I'd feel......have a wake, and give it a ceremonial burning.....get drunk as a skunk.

28 Aug 06 - 12:57 PM (#1820790)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Richard Bridge

Check your household insurance. It may be covered, unless it is used for professional or semiprofessional purposes.

28 Aug 06 - 01:09 PM (#1820803)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Big Mick

Good advice from Richard there, Philippa. My bouzouki got demolished in an auto accident and it was covered by my homeowners. Don't know if the same applies where you are, but worth a checkout.

Hope all is well. Missed you at Jean's this year. Regards to your Da.

All the best,


28 Aug 06 - 01:36 PM (#1820821)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Wesley S

If you have a sentimental attachment to this instrument I would still look into having it repaired. Have you ever heard the story of Bill Monroe's mandolin? Someone broke into his house and smashed it - and another mandolin - with a fire poker. And a repairman { the late Charlie Derrington } was still able to put them back together again. So don't give up until you've seen a superior repairperson who can give you a qualified opinion.

28 Aug 06 - 02:26 PM (#1820860)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Sorcha

True...when my lap harp self destructed (not enough bracing) I was ready to put it thru the friend who is a self taught luthier asked if he could mess with it because he'd never messed with harps before. He put that sucker back together! Sound board was 1/4" shorter but I still had a harp.

I got drunk anyway....

28 Aug 06 - 02:44 PM (#1820877)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: George Seto -

I'm sorry to hear, Philippa! Best wishes for a new one.

28 Aug 06 - 03:17 PM (#1820898)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: gnu

Oh my. How awful!! I do hope insurance covers it. Of course, the emotions cannot be covered.

29 Aug 06 - 04:16 AM (#1821439)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Dave Hanson

It can be repaired, the late Charlie Derrington repared Bill Monroes mandolin after a burglar trashed it with a poker, it took him six months mind.


29 Aug 06 - 08:15 AM (#1821543)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: GUEST,Philippa

thanks for your condolences and advice

I don't see how it can be repaired as the top, back and sides are all in pieces from (at least the bridge up - i don't remember exactly how far the damage goes but it seems unlikely the scrolls would be intact.I don't like to open the case to look at it and if I start lifting it, more falls apart). It was listed on my house contents insurance, don't know if that covers this circumstance, but I should have increased the amount to account for rising prices. It surely won't be an amount that would cover rebuilding and it would not be the same fiddle. If the neck and finger board had been broken that would have been different I think.

Shouldn't the driver have looked out for me? What if a child or a dog had walked out beside the car. If he did know I was still there and thought he had enough room, I could have moved in the direction of the kerb at just the wrong moment!

I'm not teetotal but have never been that much into drinking and I don't do drink for emotional succour. I finally managed to get myself to open the case of the dead fiddle and take out an uninjured bow, tune my other fiddle and play on it a bit last night and that did help. (Sometimes I can't bow when I'm tense or emotional; I've noticed that guitar and dulcimer aren't so sensitive to the player's emotion as violins are)

yes Scoville,worse things do happen than instruments being destroyed. earlier this year one of my dogs got scraped by a car. It was 6.15 am, the small field was beside a cul de sac (dead end, turn around)and there was no one about so I thought it was safe to let the dogs loose, but then a police car came and the dog, who had no car sense, went on to the road at the wrong time. He wasn't at all badly injured, just some ugly cuts which have healed amazingly well without too much scarring. The driver didn't stop to talk with me. I am reminded again now of how much damage a car can do even when going 'dead' slow and am thankful my dog wasn't badly injured then and I wasn't physically injured at all yesterday.

Is it 'normal' to cry for a crushed instrument? I have wept. Worse things happen. The friend who owned the Chinese fiddle (though his main instument was flute) drowned just before the age of 52, a week before he was going to go see friends in Portugal. We don't know what happened. That friend was seriously alcohol dependent, and the my father's friend who gave me the dark fiddle plays classical music and gave me what he thought was the least good of his fiddles -- so for different reasons maybe it isn't so good to have their names inscribed on an inferior fiddle I am planning to donate for use of learners at music classes! am still thinking I'd like to do that commemoration, however

29 Aug 06 - 08:38 AM (#1821561)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: GUEST,Jess A

Hey Phillipa,

my utter commiserations. am always sad to hear of bad things happening to instruments.

I'd go along with what others say though and do take it to a repairer with a good reputation and see what they say about fixing it. No it may not be quite the same instrument but you never can tell. I know of instruments reduced to small pieces that have still sounded lovely when patched & glued back together, even if they're not as pretty or valuable. and hey, it's the sound that counts. My own fiddle looks like its been through the wars in its time & even so I've never found one I like playing as much.

You can probably just take it along and leave it with them for a repair quote so you don't have to go through the trauma of handling it too much yourself.

Finally, yes it is perfectly normal to cry for a damaged instrument. It may be a collection of bits of wood & metal but making music involves your emotions so much that you are bound to feel strongly about your own instruments. It's a perfectly normal grieving process and you shouldn't feel worried about that.


29 Aug 06 - 09:56 AM (#1821639)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Dave Hanson

Not only was Bill Monroes mandolin repaired, Peggy Seeger had her vintage guitar run over by a car and said it sounded better after it was repaired.

It can be repaired but unless you are famous, it will be a seriously expensive repair job.


29 Aug 06 - 10:28 AM (#1821667)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: GUEST,Philippa

The people who looked at the fiddle at the Fleadh didn't think it was reparable either, though none of them were fiddle makers. If you have an intact front or an intact back, the other side can be replaced. In fact I think that had already been done with my fiddle as it looked like the front and back were different woods. There used to be a label inside that read something like "Boston 1789. Fiddles expertly repaired, fronts and backs refitted". The label fell out a few years ago and I don't actually remember the year that was on it, which isn't important because it was probably just a folly. I've been told by someone who seemed to know, that the fiddle was of German design.

Fiddles are constructed with separate fronts and back, though often the back is made in two longitudinal halves (mine had a one-piece back); the components are not divided at the waist. I didn't think the finger board was so special that I'd want to put it on a new body instrument.

How did Peggy Seeger's guitar get run over?

29 Aug 06 - 02:57 PM (#1821926)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: GUEST,Songster Bob

The fiddle can be repaired. The problem is how much it would cost. Essentially, the repairman would be piecing together each part, including paper-thin patches inside each (going cross-grain, for added strength), and then gluing the whole back together again. Some repairs even call for replacement pieces of wood, patched into the top or back, but it's best if you don't have to do that, since the characteristics of new wood won't be the same as the old.

So the question is, is it a good enough instrument to take the time, money and effort? If it had a label from 1789 or so, it probably was a decent, and decidedly old, instrument, but may not have been a really "good" one, as violin-makers and collectors see it. I think you should take it to a reputable repairman for an estimate -- value, cost to repair and time to do so -- and make your decision based on that.

If you know you're not ever going to be in the neighborhood of paying for the repair, then set it aside till you hit the lottery. If you can sink $1000 (my guess as a low figure for the kind of repair described) or so into it, then have the estimate done. They don't usually charge for repair estimates (though they often charge for valuations).

And I know how you feel about it, I can tell you. I had a guitar knocked to the floor by a waiter once, and the heel block split vertically, inside the neck join. It turned out to be not so expensive to repair, but it gave me a sick feeling to see a Martin with a wiggley neck like that.


29 Aug 06 - 03:17 PM (#1821955)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: michaelr

Hi Philippa, sorry to hear about your fiddle. I enjoyed meeting and talking with you when you were in Santa Rosa.

Off to Ireland this Friday! Yaaay!


29 Aug 06 - 03:45 PM (#1821976)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Little Robyn

Hi Philippa, I understand how you feel.
However, if the repair is going to cost mega bucks,
and if insurance won't cover it,
and if you're not the richest person around,
and if you're ready to thow it on the fire,
(that's a lot of ifs),
howsabout offering it to a trainee instrument maker or a local technical college that teaches woodwork, as a special project?
Maybe they will make a mess of it but maybe it might be playable when they've finished and someone will have had valuable experience working on an old instrument.
I once repaired a broken guitar (my first, very cheap rubbishy one that someone knocked over) and I got fibreglass stuck all over me!
It sounded fine when I'd finished but it always looked a bit strange.
But that was 40 years ago - there's a much better range of repair stuff these days and people who work with wood have a better idea of how things work than I did back then!
Good luck,

29 Aug 06 - 04:07 PM (#1821998)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: MissouriMud

Ode to a Fiddle Run Over By a Cab

A terrible riddle
Just stopped to diddle
Caught in the middle
'Tween the cab and griddle

Rickety splittle
Just too brittle
Make a grownup piddle
Just a wee wee little

Can't afford to twiddle
Take some wood and spittle
Just got to whittle
A brand new fiddle

29 Aug 06 - 04:24 PM (#1822015)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Sorcha

Robyn, I was just about to say that

30 Aug 06 - 09:00 AM (#1822614)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: GUEST,Philippa

Bob, the fiddle was old,but we don't think the label was telling the truth regarding the instrument. It was good but the finger board isn't set precisely right which decreased the value. The fingerboard is intact, though the chin rest broke. When I wrote about scrolls, I meant the sound holes, not the scroll at the end of the neck of the violin. I see you also know how it feels to see a wrecked instrument; I wouldn't feel so quite so bad about a stolen instrument which might at least be making music with someone else (and I am a rather casual player who did not do my fiddle justice!)

-- I thought someone would write verses! In fact some people probably expected to see some at the beginning of the thread, having read the word "eulogy" in the title.

30 Aug 06 - 09:37 AM (#1822659)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Al

By any chance, is, or was, your last name Robinson?

31 Aug 06 - 09:45 AM (#1823551)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Willie-O

A couple of people have mentioned Bill Monroe's mandolin's destruction & resurrection.

The polite terms for the destructor are "burglar" and "vandal"--both true no doubt. But it's common knowledge and no big secret that the mandolin-killer was a "jilted paramour"--seems Mr Family Values was quite the ladies man on the road.

Anything can be restored or repaired if enough money is available for the job--though not much of it may be original at the end of the day. However the economics of Bill Monroe's mandolin are not like yours or mine--since after his death it sold for one and a quarter million dollars U.S. Had it not been the primary instrument of the inventor of bluegrass music, it was still a Lloyd Loar F-5 and thus worth $80,000 - $150,000 US. Easily justifying a multi-thousand-dollar restoration.

You should get it looked into though. And if you really liked the feel of playing it, perhaps the neck and fingerboard can be reused on a new body?--sounds like they are intact, from your description.

Finally, I think you should be looking further into the issue of the driver's / taxi company's liability. I am a delivery driver and I or my boss are sure as hell liable if I damage something by running over it, if it was an avoidable occurrence.   Don't take their word for it that they're not.

My condolences, hope you get a new one soon that is as pleasing to you.


31 Aug 06 - 10:34 AM (#1823577)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Dave Hanson

There is a Loar up for sale on the Mandolin Cafe classifieds $185k or if you are in the UK £97,350


31 Aug 06 - 11:28 AM (#1823623)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Chip2447

My conolences. I've been there and done that...



31 Aug 06 - 01:36 PM (#1823706)
Subject: RE: Obit: eulogy for a fiddle
From: Mooh

The cool thing about violins are that they are designed to be taken apart and reassembled. I wouldn't hesitate to fix almost any violin, unless everything was broken ACROSS the grain in multiple places. There is a point of diminished returns when it comes to repairs, but cracks, shifted joinery (like glue creep), split pegheads, should be fixed. Severe cracks across the grain will often require that the piece be replaced, especially if it's the top, but not necessarily so if it's another part.

Get thee to a luthier.

Peace, Mooh.