Archive for September, 2014

Thomas Murdy, 1824-1921 (Violin Maker)

Friday, September 26th, 2014

I recently came across a some very interesting & very nice fiddles which bear the name ‘Thos. Murdy’ and are labelled (& dated) as made by Thomas Murdy of Embleton (Northumberland). There’s not much information to be had about this chap and what there is is scattered all over the place, so here’s a consolidated view (with thanks to those who contributed):

Thomas Murdy can be found fairly easily in the census record in and around the parish of Embleton:

  • 1861: Thomas Murdy, 37, Head Engine keeper, born N. Middleton
  • 1891: Thomas Murdy, 67, Retired engineman, born Wooler

He also appears in 1901 & 1911 and a record of his death appears in 1921; although by this time his birth has shifted to 1834.

In terms of his Violins, Thomas conveniently stamped his name (on some but not all) below the button and he also helpfully labelled them (although some have lost this). The printed labelling suggests his output was not insignificant; I am now aware of eight instruments all dating from the last two decades of the 19th century:

  • 4 are in use in Northumberland (1886, 1886, 1889, 1893)
  • 3 of unknown location (1888, 1892, 1894)
  • 1 eccentric 3/4 size, of unknown date & unknown playing condition

The instruments themselves are highly regarded by those who have played them and it’s clear that Thomas knew what he was doing. There are a couple of entries in violin catalogues / dictionaries over the years – Plowright’s 1994 “Dictionary of British Violin and Bow Makers” says:

‘MURDY, Thomas (Embleton)
Known only from a nicely made violin 14″ body, very strongly raised edges, nicely figured woods, covered with a thin red varnish and labelled “Made by/Thomas Murdy 1888/Embleton”. Also stamped THOS. MURDY under the button. Obviously not the first violin he had made.’

If you know any more about Thomas or his instruments or even if you have one – do let me know!