An organ first played in Scottish castles two centuries ago has been transported more than 500 miles from Dorset to its new home in Deeside.
The instrument, which was crafted in the 19th century to entertain Victorian audiences, was carefully taken apart for the journey to Braemar.
It has now been reassembled in St Margaret’s, an A-listed former church operated by the St Margaret’s Trust as a performance venue.
It was donated to the group after being picked up at auction when various valuables from a stately home in Dorset went under the hammer in 2019.
Organ ‘won’t be an ornament’
Chairman of the Trust, Brian Wood, said: “A gentleman who is an enthusiast about early Scottish instruments decided he wanted to rescue it, then had the task of finding a new home for the organ.
“The man, who wants to remain anonymous, knew of what was happening at St Margaret’s with us trying to save the building by turning it into an arts centre.
“He thought this would be the ideal home for it, and the only condition is that we look after it and use it.
“It will be available for organists to play, with youngsters encouraged to use it. It’s not an ornament.”
Illustrious past of instrument
The venerable chamber organ was built in Edinburgh in the mid-19th century by renowned specialists Bruce and Renton.
It was first installed around that time at Craufordland Castle in Ayrshire, and in 1890 moved to the private chapel at Myres Castle in Fife.
After an overhaul by a London organ builder in the 1960s, it found a new home in the Minstrel Gallery in the great hall at Athelhampton House in Dorset.
When the owners of the manor sold up in 2019, it was put up for auction.
Our “new” very rare 180-year old organ kindly donated to us being installed by organ expert David Shuker and his wife Linda. Hopefully it will be ready for playing today! pic.twitter.com/61OxHOW67r
— St Margaret’s Braemar (@StStMegs) June 8, 2021
It retains all of its original features and has been described as one of the “least altered” instruments of its age.
The organ was brought to Braemar on Sunday night, and Kent-based expert David Shuker began the painstaking process of piecing it back together the next morning.
By last night, he had finally got it ready and was able to play some tunes to celebrate.
Mr Shuker and his wife Linda travelled north as gently as they could so they didn’t damage the precious cargo they had in tow.
David said: “We packed it as well as we could but did worry something might get jolted.
“The front of the organ is very decorative, we didn’t want to risk it.
“We unpacked at 9am on Monday and were working until 10pm that night, so we are very grateful for the help we have had.
“There seems to be a tradition in Braemar where anyone walking past is called in to help, and it was needed to get the organ into the church.”
‘The work of a supreme craftsman’
David added: “This 180-year-old organ was built for Scottish castles, I found it fascinating to look at the way it was made.
“It is beautifully built, the work of a supreme craftsman.
“Most organs of this age would have been rebuilt and had parts replaced, it’s rare to find an organ of this age with nothing done to it.”
The St Margaret’s Trust aims to maintain and operate the building as a centre for performance, arts and heritage.
Mr Wood is now optimistic that having the new organ may attract some top musicians to the Deeside area to perform.
More information about St Margaret’s is available here.