Tuesday, October 27, The Beacon, 11am: Scientist and musician Ruth Harper shares her wonderful family story of the Lighthouse Violin, and what it revealed about its remarkable maker – Ruth’s great-grandfather Robert Clyne.
Harper’s tale is much humbler than the fictional Red Violin of the 1998 movie, and possibly better for actually being true.
As a child Harper loved to visit her grandmother to hear her tales of life as a lighthouse keeper’s daughter in some of the remotest parts of Scotland – and to seek out her grandmother’s “treasures”.
The greatest treasure of all was the violin, which her grandmother claimed had been made for her by her father. This was regarded as an instrument of torture by the rest of the family as Harper struggled valiantly to teach herself Scottish fiddle music.
Years later, after her grandmother died, the violin was found in pieces at the back of a wardrobe, revealing inscriptions by Robert Clyne and confirming that the violin was indeed made on various lighthouses between 1900 and 1905. Thus it remained until 2000, when Harper was inspired to have the violin reconstructed, and to investigate Robert Clyne’s life.
A tale of a remarkable man of many talents emerged: lighthouse keeper, craftsman, poet,ornithologist, official photographer, golfer, father of seven, museum curator, and of course violinmaker.
Ruth Harper grew up on the east coast of Scotland. Music was her first love – learning first the violin then moving onto the viola.
She played in various youth orchestras including the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, but decided against a career in music and instead studied physics at the University of St Andrews. She gained a BSc and PhD, and moved to the south of England to take up a three year contract. She then met her husband and instead of going home as planned, settled in the Wantage area where she has remained for 30 years.
Harper worked at Harwell for 17 years, then became research director of a start-up company, and is a visiting professor in engineering at the University of Surrey. She has kept up her passion for music – she led the Wantage Orchestra for several years and still plays in their concerts. She also plays viola in the Oxford Sinfonia and has recently taken up the harp.
Tuesday, October 27. The Beacon. 11am. Tickets: £6
Click here to book online via Tickets Oxford.
Online sales close on October 22.