Monday, 11 November 2013


Today is Remembrance Day.  A friend reminded today of a story of a violin that came my way some years ago.

Back in the days when I played the fiddle, I befriended an elderly gentleman who also played the fiddle. He used to work for the Glasgow Herald newspaper as a shorthand writer.  One day when we were practicing I made the mistake of picking up his fiddle instead of my own (after we had had a break for a cup of coffee). I asked him about his fiddle and he told me his story:

He was in the British Armed Forces unit at the end of the war en route to the interrogation of the imprisoned Camp Commandant at Bergen-Belsen.  Reference here:  The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945 by the British 11th Armoured Division. These interrogations were the job of the  Judge Advocate General (the legal advisor for the Armed Forces). I talk about it a bit here.

It was very bad weather and the truck in which they were riding (in the back, sitting under a tarpaulin cover trying to keep out of the rain) was struck by a tree branch which tore the cover.

He told me how they were diverted in the journey in order to take refuge in what turned out to be a girls' school.  He entered what looked like a music room but it has a mess.  Apparently the Allied forces had been through and wrecked the place, e.g. cupboards overturned, instruments and music in pieces everywhere.  He lifted one of the overturned cupboards and to his surprise found a violin case underneath, undamaged.  He decided to "rescue" it and took it under his arm back to the truck ... and eventually home to Glasgow.

And that was the violin he was playing and, indeed, the one he left me in his will. (I was told it was  "a Saxony violin of no particular value" when I had it valued some years later.)

Bill, for that was his name, told me how he was heckled by some wags as he prepared to board the ship home after they completed the work gathering statements for evidence of war crimes.  He said that he was walking along the quayside with this violin case under his arm (it was like a small wooden coffin in shape and had a brass handle on the top centre) when someone on the top deck shouted out for all to hear, "Here comes Orpheus and his Loot"!

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