Tree climbed by Conan Doyle used for instruments

Their creation has added many more strings to the bow that is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legacy.

Tuesday, 25th October 2011, 1:03 pm

Four new instruments – dubbed the The Conan Doyle Quartet – have been made from a felled sycamore tree that once stood in the garden of the author’s childhood Liberton home.

It is understood the Sherlock Holmes creator would climb the tree as a child, before it was ordered to be cut down two years ago due to disease.

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.

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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 as a way of celebrating 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.

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, now occupied by Dunedin School. When it was to be felled, the school commissioned Mr Burnett to create a lasting memento.

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 I’d been doing on using green wood. It’s now 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 violinist Ani Batikian will play the Sherlock Violin.

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

Proceeds 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 every-day 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.”