Irish Heritage

Posted By on July 2, 2013

Sometimes life throws up weird coincidences. Having only ever seen one instrument by James Perry of Kilkenny before (a viola, back in 1986), two turn up at the same time.

James Perry was probably the younger brother of the better-known Thomas Perry in Dublin. Thomas died in 1818. I don’t think it’s known when James died, but he is recorded as working in Kilkenny, about 65 miles southwest of Dublin, between 1786 and 1799. It’s very obvious that the two worked together at some stage: the models are very similar and the soundholes of both makers share the appearance of somehow having the bottoms too large for the tops. The scrolls, though, are different: James’ are noticably narrow when viewed from the front. Also James’ brand is rather unsophisticated, being large and sans serif.

Irish Cello by James Perry

The first is a cello. It is both branded at the top of the back and has a manuscript label inside: Made by James Perry, Kilkenny, No. 509, 1791. Apart from the soundholes it’s very like an English cello of the period, being a touch small and having painted purfling.

Irish Cello by James Perry

Irish Cello by James Perry

Irish Cello by James Perry

The body length is only fractionally less than normal at 29 1/16 in. (788mm), but it’s a rather narrow model, and the string length also is on the small side. It sounds like an English cello too – which is to say, it’s very good. The scroll is finely carved and very narrow – the ears do not protrude much.

Irish Cello by James Perry

The second is a violin, but this time in largely unaltered, baroque state.

Irish Violin by James Perry

Irish Violin by James Perry

It still has its original wedge-shaped fingerboard – not a replacement – and ivory top nut.

Irish Violin by James Perry

It has the same large brand at the top of the back as the cello, and also has a label in the same handwriting: Made by James Perry, Back Lane, Kilkenny, No. 137, 1783. It is nicely made, and the dimensions are normal. The back is highly arched, of course, and in one piece of good wood with a very narrow figure. The purfling is neat. An individual feature is the rather large button at the top. The ribs are all original, and match the back. The bottom rib is still in one piece. The front shows chin-wear on both sides of the tailpiece – which sadly, is a modern replacement, as are the pegs. The originals were too short and worn to be useable.

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