Dulcimer tones (Object 103)

DulcimaFollowing on from my previous post, here’s another example of my Dad’s craftsmanship. He made this hammered dulcimer when he was a young man in Glasgow – possibly one of the first things he made with his fret-saw – and taught himself to play it.  He never learned to read sheet music but had an ear for a tune and worked out his own notation scheme. He played this instrument beautifully, tapping out melodies on the strings with a light, delicate touch. I used to love to hear him play it and even managed a few tunes on it myself. His preference was for folk tunes  – Scottish, Irish, American – but I also remember the theme from Z Cars being a regular favourite. After a visit to the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green, he thought of leaving the dulcimer to them, as an example of “how we made our own entertainment in those days”, but I’m glad that Brother 1 persuaded him otherwise. My brother still plays it, not quite as well as Dad did but I enjoyed a recital last time I visited:

Brother 1 and dulcimer..and we found Dad’s list of his favourite tunes in a box, complete with his notation scheme:

Dad's dulcimer notesIt’s good to know Dad’s dulcimer is still being played and enjoyed, but who knows, perhaps one day it will end up in the People’s Palace museum rather than this virtual one; and perhaps my Dad’s music will go with it. There is another story to be told here.
In the days following the shock of Dad’s sudden death, we had to do what we had to do: organise a funeral that would be a fitting tribute to his life. The readings were relatively easy – Burns, of course, and no Bible – but the music? There was so much that he loved. We sat in the living room of our family home, trawling through cassettes, finding nothing suitable. Many of the cassettes were home-taped and some had nothing written on the label. We pressed Play on one such mystery tape – and the sweet tones of Dad’s dulcimer filled the room. Unknown to any of us, he had used Mum’s old cassette deck to record himself playing the dulcimer. It was perfect.

So, Dad’s many friends and relatives filed into Mortlake crematorium that day to the sound of Dad playing his dulcimer. I think he would have been amused to know that he played the music at his own funeral.

That cassette still exists somewhere, I am sure. So I hope that, one of these days, I will be able to add the music to this story!

Dad and banjo

Dad playing the banjo, accompanied by Brother 1 on the “mouthie”


About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
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2 Responses to Dulcimer tones (Object 103)

  1. Milton says:

    Think, but not sure I can help wiv’ da sound bitz xm.

  2. Thanks Milton, if I ever find the cassette I’ll let you know!

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