50 Years

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Keyframe Article
Stirring Stuff - Fair Organ Preservation Society

New Articles or Series Of Articles

by Colin Middle

The fact that my recent series of articles " The Way We Were" seemed to have been well received has encouraged me to look for something else to write about. Although at times I presented some controversial comments in an effort to generate a response to my articles, all went off very quietly. I was approached about a mistake that I had made in one issue but on further investigation I found that the mistake had originated in an article that had been written and published some time previously so I felt it was best left unanswered in print and I will resolve the matter directly with the persons concerned.

I was left, however, with this thought in mind. Are our present members very contented or do they simply not wish to see their efforts in print in our journal. The fact that my articles did not prompt much of a response led to it being that much more difficult for our Editor to find suitable material for the Key Frame in order to maintain the standard that we have come to expect for our worthy journal.

Reading the latest issue of The Key Frame, (KF 3/03), it would appear that the Editor has recently received a reasonable amount of material for articles, but from experience I know that it does not take long for this to run out, one always needs to be one step ahead to ensure that there is enough for the next or future issues.

Being mindful of the aforesaid need for material, I had been wondering what I could find to help once again in my status as an amateur scribe. Actually, there had been several thoughts running through my mind and I finally came up with the idea of linking those thoughts together. The ideas are not new, but I hope that by presenting them in a new way, I can generate a suitable article.

Now, with the Editor's permission, I will explain what I hope could develop from a single article into a regular series with input from all members of our Society based on personal knowledge of their own locality. The basis of it all lies with the following:


In my now well used and dog-eared Chambers Dictionary, the definition of 'PHOENIX' is as follows:-

"To be of an Arabian bird worshipped in ancient Egypt and the only individual of its kind that burned itself every 500 hundred years or so, and then rose re-juvenated from its ashes, or its predecessor's ashes."

This definition is very descriptive of the organs, of ourselves and of many individuals in the organ preservation movement for if it not been for those founder members and others like them who saw the need to rescue and save so many instruments from being broken up and destroyed in the early days, then like the legendary PHOENIX, they would never have been able to re-appear as they have today.

Over time we have seen many organs return, much like the Pheonix, to play to us once again. This has, at times, been very dependant on the resources that were available. Time and money dictate restoration but, none the less, there has, over the years, been a steady stream of organs that have once more come to life, each bringing us its own particular style of music. Not all of these instruments have been English based, many have been imported from the continent to provide a varied mix of sounds, music and tunes due to the great diversity of key frame sizes and pipe arrangements.

For some years now new organs have been built ensuring that the old skills of organ building and tuning are not lost. Even some of these new instruments have now aged and like the Phoenix have themselves reached the need for re-juvenation.

Today mechanical organs can be found from the far reaches of Scotland to the tip of Cornwall, from Wales in the west, and Lincolnshire in the east, and the very fact that there are now so many of them makes it virtually impossible to be able to see or hear them all. Whilst rallies and similar events provide the opportunity for a great many of them to be seen and heard, there are still too many that are lost to public view. Geography alone can inhibit travelling too far and quite often instruments are in a state of restoration or even stored privately, never to be seen in public.

It is no wonder, that over the years, a great number of organs have appeared at one time or other and then seem to have gone into hiding only to be remembered when the memory is jogged by a particular query. Cast your mind back and no doubt you will be able to think of a few yourself.

Where is all this leading to? Well, back in the late 1970s, KF Editor Felix Gameson produced some leaflets of organs complete with a picture and a potted history of the instrument depicted. This early experiment in documenting organs in preservation covered some of the better known instruments with well known histories.

At the same time, Brian Kinsey published his, 'Organ Register', listing organs in preservation. Although quite interesting reading, it was well out of date by the time it was published. The publication was perceived by many at the time to be connected with the FOPS and the committee felt compelled to ensure that it was made clear that the Society was connected with the publication in no way whatsoever.

I was the South West representative for the Society at the time and was busy gathering all kinds of documentation, noting details of organs and taking photographs as I attended rallies and other organ locations, just as others were probably doing at that time.

I have amassed quite a large collection of photographs over the 20 odd years that I have been in the FOPS, and the time has come when I now have queries as to the locations of a few organs. Have they been moved to the other end of the country, into storage (for re-build etc.), into private, unseen, collections or maybe even sold out of the country.

Much like the Phoenix some of these instruments have reappeared after a complete rebuild or restoration, looking very different, possibly with much altered façades, and since this is what the photographer is most drawn to when recording the instrument with his camera, confusion can be created.

In KF2/2000, Peter Mackett queried the whereabouts of several organs and replies in KF3/2000 showed that there are knowledgeable members who can provide answers when the right questions are asked. This proves that our wide spread members can be a most useful source of knowledge.

The point of this article, which I hope with your help will develop into a series of articles, is to follow up Peter Mackett's query, "Where are they now?", by posing questions and showing photos of instruments that may not been seen for some while thus enabling us to update the detailed historical documentation of these and other organs that are in preservation today. My own collection of photographs of over 350 organs is now out of date but by combining it with other collections and knowledge, we could produce a useful basis for the FOPS to have a comprehensive register that would identify organs in preservation.

I would like to start with a few queries of my own. The first should not prove too difficult to answer and I include it as I began my membership of our Society through its then owner. The second is due to its location when I first saw it and the distance I would have to go to see it again. The third, fourth and fifth organs I have seen only once and the last one, which was a once-only sighting, needs updating.

The first organ is a 48-key Marenghi which appears to have had several owners having been in a set of 3 abreast gallopers in Dreamland, Margate, in a set of Chair-o-planes with Keith Emmett and latterly with Roy Grey of Colerne in Wiltshire.

The photograph was taken at Whimple in Devon and our long serving member the Rev. H. G. Tucker will recognise himself posing in front of the organ for a local photographer. The occasion was the 9th annual Church service of the 'Western Counties Fair Organ Club' held in Whimple and Rev. Tucker was at the time the Padre.

This was the last event at which I saw this organ for I believe that Roy Grey died later on in 1973 . He was the S.West representative for the Society at the time and the vacant position was taken up soon afterwards by yours truly. A position I held for several years.

I believe the organ was eventually taken to Bedfordshire when his widow, Janet Grey re-married and became Mrs Sykes. It was then sited in a bungalow thus preventing it from being taken out to be played. The question, is does this organ remain with the same owner, is it still in the same location and are these facts correct?

I saw the second organ at Frank Lythgoe's Warrington premises about 20 years ago when it attended a Sunday get together after the 1981 agm at Stockport. Living so far away from the area my chances of seeing this organ, a 101-key Mortier, again are slim. The organ, I believe, had just been rebuilt when I took the photograph and was owned by a Mr Webster. I know little else about the organ, its history, or its location and present owner and it would be helpful to update my details.

I had already prepared my notes on the next three organs, a 101-key Mortier, a 78-key DeCap and a 90-key Gavioli/Mortier, which, as they were all in the same ownership when I saw them some twenty or so years ago, were to be grouped together. However, Peter Mackett commented on these same three instruments in KF 3 & 4/2000 which should immediately clear up any mystery surrounding them as it will be assumed that they have not changed ownership in the meantime. The only thing I can add to Peter's comments are some pictures of the DeCap and the Gavioli/Mortier as seen in the 1980s, I especially like the graceful central female figure on this organ, for some reason I did not photograph the Mortier which, like Peter, I thought had an interesting façade.

A smaller instrument which I believe I saw and photographed a long while ago at a Bedfordshire rally was said to be a 28-keyless Chiappa owned by Peter Pank which originally came from a Juvenile ride. Its confirmation and an update of its present owner and history would be welcome.

Well there you are, six queries that will, hopefully, prompt a good response and a few helpful answers from you and also help to clarify a few details that need updating. Maybe some of you will be encouraged to submit queries of your own which could help develop this first attempt into a series of useful articles that should keep our editor happy for some time.

It could also give us the opportunity to see pictures of organs that do not get much coverage in our journal, as well as providing some useful updated documentation for the Society.

We have the chance to make some of these instruments come alive again like the Phoenix, to show that they have not left us forever, never to return.

I am sure the Editor will welcome your comments for the letters page or to have material and pictures for future publication. Let's see what we can do to keep him happy. I have started the ball rolling so now, what can you do ?

© 2004 Colin Middle

Originally published in edition 1 of The Key Frame 2004.

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