Violin, 1941
Made by James Williamson, Wellington
violin made from native and other timbers
600 x 215 x 100 mm
Purchased 2003


Shetland Islands-born James Williamson made this violin, or fiddle, from native New Zealand timbers. He is said to have made his first fiddle on board the Clarence, while sailing from Scotland to Napier in 1874, with wood given to him by the captain. Williamson went on to become an award-winning instrument maker of international standing. He was also an excellent cabinetmaker and woodworker.

The fiddle is among Scotland's most-played instruments, along with the bagpipes, accordion, harp (or clĂ sarch), and drums (in pipe bands). Scots settlers brought their tradition of fiddle playing to New Zealand, where it is alive and well thanks to contemporary fiddle players like Kenny Ritch of the Scottish band Ben the Hoose.

Scottish fiddle playing is often a sociable part of everyday life. The music belongs within Celtic folk tradition, but has its own distinctive quality and a variety of regional styles. These range from traditional dances - such as jigs, reels, and strathspeys - to modern compositions, and are strongly linked to Scottish country dancing.