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  • Writer's pictureEunice Taylor

Master Violin Maker - Alexander Murdoch 1815-1891 Aberdeenshire

Photo Courtesy of of

Born in Glenbuchat, Aberdeenshire to Robert MURDOCH and Jean MCKENZIE, Alexander or Sandy’s occupation was first noted as Wright or Carpenter on his daughter Isabella’s birth in 1846

By the 1851 census he was a Cart and Plough Wright and by the 1861 census, now age 50 - he was a Master House Carpenter.

In the 1871 census he is now listed as a Fiddle maker. He is working from a workshop in 8 Minister Lane, Old Machar, Aberdeenshire.

In his room in Minister Lane, Old Machar (with 2 windows) he lives his wife Isabella Ingram his daughters Jane 22, Mary 20, Helen 18 all mill workers and his other children Jessie 12, Elizabeth 9 - both scholars. They have enough space to squeeze two boarders in too - Alexander Dugard 9 (his grandson) and and Robert Stewart 23, a joiner. Amazing there is enough room with 9 people to make violins too!

In Aberdeen he teams up with Alexander Dingwall - Murdoch and Dingwell Violin Makers. Murdoch was a character making violins out of many materials and of varying quality - In Scottish Violin Makers Past and Present 1910, William C. Honeyman relates a story that when Keith Murray Visited Murdoch and criticised his work saying:

‘Man thae f holes are no like the f holes of Stradivari.” “Maybe no” answered Murdoch sharply, “ but whats; to hinder me to improve on Streddyaris?’

In the 1881 census he is still making violins at 65 but now living at 23 Blackburn Street Govan Glasgow, with his wife, daughter Lydia, grandson William Thomas, and his son-in-law George Williams age 28 - a house carpenter. Alexander Dingwell his business partner is now making violins in Glasgow.

He dies on 26 November 1891 age 76 in Aberdeen. Still making violins till the end…

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