Organ grinders

One thing about Britain, and in this case specifically England is that we have our fair share of eccentrics, collectors, restorer’s and skilled artisans.

Today was a case in point. I met some lovely people who restore and make their own organs and are known as organ grinders because they turn a handle at the back of the machine to work a set of bellows to play music.

Apparently you can get various sorts of organs. A lady showed me how hers worked, with a roll of paper, held on a tube (a bit like a toilet roll). As she turned the handle to pump the bellows the paper roll passed over a series of holes attached to pipes at the top of the machine. the paper was slightly waxy or plasticised, it had small holes cut in it and as each set of holes lined up with the organ pipes it played a note, pipes that were covered with the paper did not play. The lady told me the organ was made in Germany by a famous maker. Sadly I forgot to get a note of his name.

Other organs music was on flat peices of card joined together like a jacquard pattern for weaving. One even had a sim card in it and all the player (grinder) had to do was turn the bellows handle.

The owners of the machines were all dressed in Victorian costume and were dotted around the Etruria Industrial museum. They were there for there national meeting and had come from all around the country. They are staying for a week and will be here until next Sunday.


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