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
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,
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
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 ?