Examples of Scotland’s greatest ever violin maker’s work in Kirkcaldy

The owners of two rare Scottish produced fiddles have paid a visit to a Kirkcaldy violin studio.
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Musicians Alasdair Fraser and Stella Wilkie, both in possession of outstanding and rare fiddles by the 18th century Edinburgh maker Matthew Hardie, dubbed the Scottish Stradivari, paid a visit to Lang Toun violin maker David Rattray.

Alasdair is a composer, performer and recording artist who has performed globally, and the visit came after his violin was recently stolen in Portland, Oregon. It was eventually recovered.

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Stella was born in Dundee and performed in dance bands with her brother and father around the country. She now plays around Scotland with Joan Blue.

The two fiddles were the work of 18th century violin maker Matthew Hardie (Pic: David Rattray)The two fiddles were the work of 18th century violin maker Matthew Hardie (Pic: David Rattray)
The two fiddles were the work of 18th century violin maker Matthew Hardie (Pic: David Rattray)

David explained: “A few months ago Alasdair’s violin was stolen, and he was in a panic. Someone suggested a Matthew Hardie violin - Matthew is Scotland's greatest maker. I had this instrument on trial and I knew Stella lived in Falkland and is also a really distinguished player, She brought her Matthew Hardie along as well – so the two of them were together comparing them.”

There was even time for a tune or two from the talented duo.

David said: “Players being players, the opportunity to sit down and play a few tunes together as well, made for an interesting afternoon.”

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The violins hold major significance due to their maker. Matthew Hardie was born in 1754 and developed his style of making during the 1790s, basing them on the ‘long pattern’ Stradivari form.

David, who authored the book ‘Violin Making In Scotland 1750-1950’, explained the rarity of the instruments: “Matthew’s career lasted roughly 40 years and he had his sons working with him. I reckon in his lifetime he probably made maybe in excess of 400 instruments, but a lot of them have gone since then. They get lost for various reasons.”

David acknowledged that Kirkcaldy is not a place closely associated with violin making, but he was originally born in the Lang Toun before spending time down south.

He explained: “It's just nice to have people passing through. Personally I spent many years working in London, I worked at the Royal Academy of Music for 25 years. When I relocated to my hometown in Fife, a lot of my customers followed me.”