Fiddling Around: Name that Tune

28 Violin and Fam Pic

(My great-grandfather’s fiddle. He’s the man in the photo.)

My mother inherited her grandfather’s fiddle quite by accident. We found it in the drawer of a dresser that had belonged to her mother. It seems our grandmother had been given the fiddle by her father and had taken lessons in high school, but no one ever heard her play. She was shy.

What you need to know about this discovery is, this is the grandfather who descended from the MacDonald’s of the Isle of Skye. So, when Jim and I visited Skye in my search for the ancestral home and to double-check my writing for The Stone Manor, the Skye Accordian and Fiddle Festival was a must see. It takes place yearly in Portree.

On day five of our trip we drove up to Portree and wandered into the Royal Hotel, formerly MacNab’s Inn, the last meeting place of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746. The Festival was in full swing, and it was standing room only. Later that evening, we walked down the street to the Skye Gathering Hall for the Ceilidh Dance. What a wonderful way to experience a bit of the local culture. It was a blast!

68 Skye Fiddle Festival Band

(Isle of Skye Accordian & Fiddle Festival in Portree)

In my novel, Kathryn attends the festival and dance. This whole scene, which was great fun to write, was added after our experience there. Before going to Skye, my novel was like a detailed pen and ink drawing. After the trip, I added color to the drawing! Writing this scene was definitely a splash of color.

I made another decision after the trip to Skye and attending the festival. I wanted to learn to play the fiddle. Just enough to play a highland reel on my great-grandfather’s fiddle…in honor of the ancestors. I realize it’s a bit late to be picking up the violin, but I was determined. A good friend from New Zealand graciously agreed to give me lessons. Of course, she usually taught violin to five year olds, but I told her that would be perfect!

She found some music and the lessons began. I read music and play the guitar, so at least I had a bit of a head start. But nothing could have prepared me for the difficulty of this instrument. I bought a violin off the internet for 20 Euros (made in China) in case things didn’t go well. But I am happy to say that I can now play a reel. It’s short and sounds a bit like a dying cat, but I can play it none-the-less. Now I just have to get my great-grandfather’s fiddle repaired and the magic will happen. I promise to post the video!

For more information about the Skye Festival go to

6 thoughts on “Fiddling Around: Name that Tune

  1. I am excited to hear about the violin lessons. I always meant to learn to play it. One of the few that I have never tired. I say never tried, but the truth is I did try for a few times but the birds stopped coming to the feeder and the squirrels all left. :-)

    • Haha. I’m currently looking for my music. In all the packing and traveling I don’t know where it is. I know I brought it back from Germany. It’ll show up soon and then God help my neighbor!

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