William Calow

William Calow was born in Tansley, England in 1847. He worked  along with his two sons in Nottingham. He died in 1910. I would expect that most people would think of Calows work as typical  flat backed viol shaped instruments. This is what he was of course famous for. But as can be seen in the photograph on the right, he made several Guarnerian shaped basses. This instrument is a really fine bass that would grace any good section  in an orchestra. And this one now belongs to the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Hilversum, Holland. The varnish is a dark brown oil. The high corners make it a little hard to reach the high notes, but that is a small price to pay for such a good sounding instrument. Calows life was a hard one. On one of his viol shaped instruments was a hand written  account of how bad things were for the family, and if things didn't improve they would probably be thrown out of there home and starve on the streets. To make matters worse his son Thomas who William always thought of as totally irresponsible, but made also made one or two good double basses, hanged himself from the rafters with a double bass string. The Calow family made many string instruments but will always be known for the double basses. The postscript to Williams life was not a good one as he died in poverty.

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