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Joseph's Fiddle

The ‘Hornsby’ Collin-Mezin Violin

 

CH. J.B. COLLIN-MEZIN

       Luthier 1931           :

                                       C  M

GRAND PRIX - Exposition Universelle 1900

PARIS

 

The violin label is set out as indicated above. The initials CM are surmounted by a small cross and contained within a double circle, in a style derived from Stradivari’s labels.

 

The hand written number of the violin is 614 and this appears above and to the left of the label.

 

Philip Vincent Hornsby purchased the 'Hornsby' Collin-Mezin violin in 1931 by mail order, via a violin shop in Aberdeen.  It was delivered to his address at Fellside, Hexham, Northumberland, direct from the Collin-Mezin factory in Paris.  The cost of the violin was £30.

 

Reportedly, Philip borrowed some or all the money from his older brother, Stephen Leo Hornsby [Joseph’s father].  At the time, Philip played as an amateur violinist in a small orchestra in Hexham.  For some reason he never 'took' to this instrument, preferring to play on another.  He served in the forces from 1939 to 1945, mainly in Ceylon.  Upon his return, the orchestra had ceased to exist and although Philip continued to play he did not do so regularly.

 

Joseph started learning the violin early in 1948.  When he moved to a full size violin he used the Collin-Mezin.  He found its tone quite raucous but continued playing it until the early to mid-1960s when he returned it to Philip primarily due to his dissatisfaction with its sound.  Around 1957/8, the latches of the violin's case sprung open while Joseph was walking outside, and the instrument fell onto a stone pavement.  Its fingerboard was dislodged, and Joseph repaired the damage by re-gluing the board back into place using fish-based glue.  This board was not replaced until 1978.

 

In 1976, Joseph was in the market to buy a good instrument.  He was playing regularly in The Danelaw Band and the work included broadcasts.  The violin he had at that time was a poor copy of a Klotz and in quality terms it was substandard.  He bought a Strad copy from Jimmy Shand and although it was different it was only marginally better.

 

Joseph took his uncle Philip and William King [another uncle who played the piano] with him to provide advice to Balmforth's violin shop in Leeds, intending to pay up to £500 for a new instrument.  He tried several and settled on one particular violin priced at £800.  On examination, they found the instrument was a Collin-Mezin!

 

Philip advised that Joseph try his Collin-Mezin again, so rather than purchasing a violin from Balmforth’s, he bought a silver mounted bow by MEINL. Upon arriving home, Joseph refitted his uncle’s violin with a new bridge and a set of Piastro strings.  There was a definite improvement.

 

In 1978, he discovered Guivier's Violin Shop in Mortimer St., London and took the Collin-Mezin to them for advice.  They cleaned, reset and restrung the instrument, fitted a new bridge and fingerboard, and appraised it.  Joseph first played the Collin-Mezin at a dance in Greenford [North London]. The tone and quality of the violin drastically exceeded his expectations. He discussed the matter with Philip and purchased the instrument at a price slightly higher than his uncle had asked but considerably lower than it was worth.  His view was that as Joseph’s father had loaned the money in 1931, he was happy with the arrangement.  Joseph was delighted.  

 

The violin returned to Guivier's in the mid-1980s for resetting and again in 1988 for a minor repair concerning a small crack between the ribs and the back adjacent to the end button, which was causing the usually stable instrument to drift out of tune. While at Guivier’s in 1988, Joseph purchased a bow made by H.R. Pfretzschner, number 3179. He continues to use this setup to the present day, and the fiddle retains a bright, robust tone ideally suited for dance tunes.