22 August 2014

Family Treasures: - Uncle Willie's violin

This beautiful violin is one of my favourite old family treasures. It once belonged to my great, great uncle, William WALLIS, but has been in my possession now for about 35 years.

William WALLIS
William Stewart WALLIS was born in Riverton, New Zealand in October 1884. He was the eldest of five brothers of my maternal great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth SCHULTZ (nee WALLIS). William, or Uncle Willie as he was known to the family, never married and spent most of his life living with my great grandmother and her family. Like two of his younger brothers, Uncle Willie spent some of his life as a racehorse trainer, and also worked as a labourer. From what I have been told he was a very, very lovely, quiet man who worked hard and loved spending time with his horses and also his nieces and nephews. He died after a short illness in October 1968 at the age of 83 and is buried in the Gore cemetery.

William WALLIS  (1884 - 1968)

I have no idea when or where Uncle Willie got his violin from, all I know is that he could play it beautifully. I never heard him play it as he died before I was born, but I was very fortunate to be given the violin by my great grandmother when I began to take violin lessons at the age of eight or nine. I took lessons for about seven years but you would never really say I was that good at it. Sure, I read the sheet music and played the tunes that were put in front of me, but I never really mastered it and never learnt to play by ear like so many of the wonderful old family violinists did. To listen to someone who can play like that is just beautiful. I doubt that you could ever call my violin playing “beautiful”, probably quite the opposite, but I tried and I have been left this beautiful violin as a legacy of that effort. Maybe I should have stuck at it for a bit longer. Maybe someday I might pick it up again and start to play again. Maybe ……. !!!

I was told by my late nana that my great aunt Nora SCHULTZ (Uncle Willie's niece who also lived in the same household) played the violin too, so perhaps this is the violin that she played also.

I have no idea of the value of this violin but to me it’s value is immeasurable. It belonged to my great, great uncle Willie and that alone makes it valuable beyond measure. It has writing inside it that says “Antonius Stradiuarius, Cremonenlis, Facebat Anno 17..  Made in Germany”. A quick search for this name on the internet reveals that this violin is one of the many fake Stradivarius violins that were made in the early 19th century. It is probably well over 150 years old, maybe even 200 years old, but it is definitely not a genuine Stradivarius. But that’s quite alright. I will love it and treasure it for what it is and for whose it was, and that’s enough for me. My only wish is that I had been around to have heard my great, great uncle Willie play a tune for me.

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