Tuner travels to Canna to fix piano nobody can play


By Alexander Lawrie

Heritage chiefs are to spend a small fortune on sending a piano tuner to a remote Scottish island – to tune an instrument nobody on the island can play.

The National Trust for Scotland has organised the epic trip to the tiny Hebridean island of Canna where a century old Steinway grand has stood for the last five years since its last owner died.

But not one of the island’s 19 inhabitants can play the piano, it has been revealed.

Tuner William Gray, 78, has been given the task of making the four-hour ferry crossing to tune the island’s concert grand.

The historic instrument was shipped out to Canna in 1938 by Gaelic folklorist Margaret Shaw who died in 2004, aged 101.

One of the best pianos in the world

Mr Gray admits he is looking forward to the trip to Canna House and the chance to work with one of the world’s finest pianos.

He said: “It is a Steinway and still one of the best pianos in the world.

“It is a beauty and it has some history attached to it, and for me that is its real value.”

US-born Miss Shaw was a collector and editor of Gaelic songs as well as a writer, photographer and recorder of Hebridean life.

She learned to play the piano by ear and was later taught to professional level in New York, Paris and London.

After marrying John Lorne Campbell in 1935 the couple made their home in South Uist before buying the island of Canna.

They presented ownership of the island to the National Trust in the early 1980s and Miss Shaw continued to live on the remote island after her husband passed away in 1996.

At her 100th birthday party with the small community she played Strauss waltzes and Uist lullabies.

The BBC recorded a programme, Among Friends, to mark the auspicious occasion.

Magda Sagarzazu, official cataloguer of the records at Canna House, said: “The paino is in good condition and the temperature and moisture of the house are regulated to help its conservation. Insect traps have also been installed to prevent any bugs getting near it.

“It is just nobody here can play it.”