Fiddle 'played by Robert Burns' to go on concert tour of United States

Violinist Alistair McCulloch with the Gregg violin, which is believed to have been played by Robert Burns more than 250 years ago. PIC: Contributed.
Violinist Alistair McCulloch with the Gregg violin, which is believed to have been played by Robert Burns more than 250 years ago. PIC: Contributed.
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A fiddle thought to be played by Robert Burns at his dance classes more than 250 years ago is to go on a three- week concert tour of the United States.

The Gregg violin was owned by the bard's dance teacher, William Gregg, and was played during lessons at the Bachelors' Club in Tarbolton, Ayrshire.

The fragile instrument has been restored in recent years and is normally on display in a glass case at the Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.

READ MORE: Burns Night: The traditions, origins and rituals explained
Violinist Alistair McCulloch, a traditional music tutor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, is the only person allowed to play the instrument.

He will now take the fiddle on a tour of the United States, taking in cities including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, later this month.

Mr McCulloch said: "The violin is really a museum piece and spends most of its time hanging in the museum at Alloway but I do get to play it for time to time.

READ MORE: The 50 Burns songs not written by the Bard
"It is a very powerful instrument to play given the Burns connection and people really get into it. There is a huge interest in it and there is usually a deadly silence when you start to play it."

Mr McCulloch said it could not be proved that Burns played the fiddle but there was a 'good chance that he did' given that the poet knew how to play the instrument and that he would often find himself in the same room as it at the club, where dancing and debate were the order of the day.

The Gregg violin was restored locally before it came into the possession of Wallace Galbraith, a violin teacher in Ayrshire who was also Mr McCulloch's first tutor.

It then ended up in the possession of the National Trust for Scotland, which runs the Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.

Mr McCulloch added: "Around three years ago, it was restored as it was in grave danger of cracking quite badly and it was restored to its Baroque state by violin maker David Rattray.

"It is well over an inch shorter than a standard violin which makes it quite tricky to play, I will admit that.

"It does have quite a sweet sound and it is very ornate....it is quite a thing to look at."

Mr McCulloch said he tries to play music of the time on the violin and, will perform pieces including Lea Rig, Mary Morrison and a Neil Gow tune Major Graham of Inchbrakie while on tour in America.

A personal highlight will be playing with star US violinist, Rachel Barton Pine, he added.

The tour has been organised to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, which raises money stateside for heritage and conservation projects at the charity's properties here.