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Peter T Gallacher 17" viola 1942 Edinburgh

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Hi everyone,

In late 2019, I decided to upgrade to a better viola. Fortunately as I have long arms and fingers, I wanted to try playing a larger instrument and that was when I stumbled upon someone selling his 17" viola. He was a retired man of very tall built and former professional player in an orchestra.

The label states "Peter T Gallacher” from Edinburgh back in 1942. I tried looking this up, but could not find much information about the origins of this viola other than it originated in the UK and the previous owner brought it to here in Australia decades ago. Would anyone here have more information about this viola?

























Edited by Okayadokari
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Peter Gallacher is listed in Rattray's book. His no. 2 was made in 1938. If your label is correct we can deduce that he was an amateur maker with an output of one instrument every 2 years.

Having said that, this instrument doesn't look like the work of an amateur, or of someone who is only making his fourth instrument. I would send photos to David Rattray and ask his opinion.


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12 hours ago, martin swan said:

Having said that, this instrument doesn't look like the work of an amateur, or of someone who is only making his fourth instrument.

Fourth viola after making a bunch of violins?

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Posted (edited)

The feedback I got from my viola teacher was that the viola does sound great and excels in projection; a feature that most violas apparently struggle with. I guess as martin swan suggested, it wasn’t the work of an amateur. 

On my previous viola I only used Dominant and Tonica strings. For this viola, I decided to try Helicore strings on it since I recalled them sounding amazing on a viola in a luthier shop many years ago. My current viola you see in the photos sounds a bit bright despite its size, but I will try other strings on it such as Obligato to darken the sound. 

Edited by Okayadokari
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Hi all,

This was David's reply and has kindly given permission for it to be shared.

"Okay here’s what I have.
Peter Gallagher was active as a luthier between 1930-55. He output includes violins on various forms, cellos and violas on two sizes. Red and yellow oil vanished instruments.
According to the 1930 Edinburgh Postal Directories his address was at 19 Haddington Place, Edinburgh. As I recall his profession was not given, so likely he was making on a part time basis. You have a handsome example from what I see made to a professional standard, although for most a little on the large side!
Hope this is useful information.
All best
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3 hours ago, go_oa said:

Check the scale length for the strings.  As a 17" it my not be happy with 16.5" strings.  Helicore makes an extra long string that works very well in my 18" viola.

Yes. Dominant and Tonicas both come in different scales as well, with different lengths and tensions. Dominants actually come in many different sizes. I use 4 different sizes for the different instruments I play, including 4121s for a Strad tenor model.


But looking again at your instrument, it looks like it could be designed for a shorter string length than most 17s. What is it?

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Despite its large body size, my viola actually has a short vibrating string length (from the bridge to the nut) of just 365 mm (14.4"). I currently have the standard long (not extra long) scale Helicores on it, but upon inspection this morning, I think the worn A string looks like it'll need to be changed soon (shows I've been practising enough hahaha)!

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