Conan Doyle honoured with quartet made from childhood tree


By Niamh Anderson


The Sherlock violin was the first instrument to be created from the tree

AN INSTRUMENT maker has paid tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – by making four musical instruments out of the author’s childhood tree.

FOUR string instruments- dubbed The Conan Doyle Quartet- have been made from a sycamore tree that once stood in the garden of the author’s childhood home in Liberton, Edinburgh.

The instruments – a cello, viola and two violins – follow the creation of the “Sherlock Violin,” made from the same 200-year-old tree, by city-based woodworker and environmentalist Steve Burnett.

The Sherlock Holmes creator is said to have climbed the tree as a child, before it was ordered to be cut down two years ago due to disease.

He said: “It’s something I’ve been planning to do for a while, to give this unique tree a complete voice. I’ve got the majority of the wood- it wasn’t the best of wood, but I’ve managed to get these instruments out of it and a little bit left over.”


Mr Burnett created the initial violin to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birth.

It has been played in a number of charity concerts and was given to Edinburgh University in September as a tribute to the author.

His four new additions are also to be played at charity events, both in Edinburgh and overseas.

The sycamore tree in question grew at Liberton Bank House, next to Cameron Toll shopping centre, known now as Dunedin School.

When it was to be felled, the school commissioned Mr Burnett to create the instruments, as a lasting memento to the famous author.

The quartet will be premiered at the Concert for Trees event in the Usher Hall on November 26.

The night is part of the St Andrew’s Day celebrations and also part of a programme of celebrations for the UN International Year of Forests.


Mr Burnett said: “The Sherlock Violin was made to honour Arthur Conan Doyle and the quartet is about extending that tribute.

“The Sherlock is quite unique because the tree came down at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, and the violin had to be completed by May of that year.

“Normally you would use wood that has seasoned for a few years but I had to put into practice experiments Id been doing on using green wood. It’s not matured a little more but normally you would leave wood four or five years.”

The quartet will be played by the St Patrick’s Baroque Ensemble, while Armenian violinist Ani Batikian will play the Sherlock Violin.

There will also be performances from Hungarian gypsy fidder Jani Lang, alojng with music and dance.

Proceeds from the event will help the World Wildlife Fund, TreeAid, Survival International and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

James McDougall, of the Forestry Commission Scotland, said: “The UN’s international Year of Forests celebration is about recognising the importance forests play in our everyday life. This event has the humble tree at its very heart.

“We are honoured to be able to contribute to such a special creative project.”