Violin once held by a Fife VC hero resurfaces in his home town

A special musical gift presented to a Kirkcaldy war hero in 1915 has made a remarkable journey home – over a century later after being passed on to the Lang Toun’s only professional violin-maker.

David Rattray had no idea how important the violin was when it was given to him.

David Rattray with Private Robert Dunsire's violin. Pic:  Fife Photo Agency.

David Rattray with Private Robert Dunsire's violin. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

He only knew that the instrument had originally been made in Kirkcaldy.

However, after doing some research, Mr Rattray was amazed to discover that the violin actually belonged to local hero, Private Robert Dunsire VC, who had been gifted the instrument after losing his own beloved fiddle in the trenches during combat in the Great War.

READ MORE Fitting tribute to a hero 100 years on

He was presented with the special gift, created by Peter Berry in 1915, by his music teacher when Private Dunsire returned home to Kirkcaldy.

Private Robert Dunsire VC

Private Robert Dunsire VC

Mr Rattray, who lives in the town’s Balwearie Gardens, told The Press the remarkable story.

He said: “Peter was a violin-maker, although lesser known than some of the other professional artisans during the mid 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Born in 1879, he was the youngest of five sons to Richard and Margaret Berry.

“He apprenticed as a joiner, later managing his own business at Park Road, Sinclairtown, Kirkcaldy. His home was at nearby Rosabelle Street.

The Dunsire violin with maker Peter Berry's signature on the back. Pic:  Fife Photo Agency.

The Dunsire violin with maker Peter Berry's signature on the back. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

“Berry produced only a few of violins – the example of 1915 being of particular interest mainly due to its provenance.

“It was Berry who generously took it upon himself to donate the instrument to Dunsire along with a case and bow.”

Mr Rattray said before Private Dunsire was presented with the violin, it had been inspected by another Fife worthy, a Mr Honeyman of Newport, who ‘highly praised’ its workmanship.

Mr Rattray continued: “Indeed the work is competent revealing a hand familiar with fine woodcarving, this is most apparent with the art nouveau styled scroll.

READ MORE: Kinghorn’s bravest hero remembered

“The dark red-brown coloured varnish most probably a home brewed oil recipe.

“The maker’s name is impossible to miss, being proudly engraved below the button.

“Peter Berry died in January 1939, but his violin survived the wars and a few years ago, it somehow found its way to a Dundee antique shop where it was purchased by respected violinist Tony Moffat. Through him, it recently passed into my hands.”

He said Mr Moffat had contacted him about it.

“I was interested in it because he said it was Kirkcaldy-made.

“But when I did some research, I found out who it had been made for. I am planning to restore it as it can’t be played at the moment because the neck has dropped.

“But I am planning to give it to Fife Museums so people can see it on display.”

He added: “A little bit of Kirkcaldy’s history has been saved.”