War poets honoured with violins to mark anniversary

The three violins, made in commemoration of the war poets who met at the golf club in 1917, are to be played together for the first time. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
The three violins, made in commemoration of the war poets who met at the golf club in 1917, are to be played together for the first time. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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A violin maker has crafted three violins from a tree in the grounds of a shell-shock treatment hospital in honour of three renowned First World War poets.

Steve Burnett used a branch from a sycamore tree at Craiglockhart military war hospital, where Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were treated, to make the instruments.

He also recently completed a violin in honour of poet Robert Graves, who met Owen and Sassoon in Edinburgh. The three violins were played together for the first time on Friday evening at Baberton Golf Club in Edinburgh as a plaque was unveiled to mark 100 years since the three poets met there.

Mr Burnett hopes the instruments will serve as envoys for peace and reconciliation through the power of music

He said: “I hope that as time goes on the voices of these violins through the messages of these poets will be a beacon of hope.

“The violins will be there to spread the word of hope and peace and harmony.”

Mr Burnett has long admired Wilfred Owen and made the first violin in 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

He has collaborated with Edinburgh-based Scottish violinist/composer Thoren Ferguson, who has played the Wilfred Owen violin to thousands of people around the country, both in First World War commemoration events and on national radio.

The instrument has also been endorsed as an envoy for peace by Unicef goodwill ambassador, the violinist/conductor Maxim Vengerov and has been played by violinist Nigel Kennedy.

Siegfried Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital, now Napier University, in 1917, arriving in the summer of that year.

Owen was also being treated there and introduced himself to Sassoon around August 20 1917.

Mr Burnett began work on the Siegfried Sassoon violin earlier this year, using wood from the same branch, to mark the centenary of the first meeting between the two poets that August.

In April 2017, research by Aberdeen University lecturer Neil McLennan revealed that Owen and Sassoon met with fellow poet Robert Graves at Baberton Golf Club in October 1917.

When he heard about this, Mr Burnett decided to make a third instrument, the Robert Graves violin, to mark 100 years since that meeting.