Forbes, Roger

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                                       ROGER FORBES
                       Forbes can’t play, but treasures violin he made
                                  By Denise Berthelotte


Animal hooves, a few pieces of wood and horse hair are all part of a unique violin, hand fashioned by Roger Forbes of Neguac. Forbes made the violin about 60 years ago when he was just 16 years old.

Forbes made three violins when he was in his teens. It was the third that he held onto.

"The first one I made sounded like a cardboard box," he said. Forbes quickly destroyed that one and burned the pieces.

Then he started working on the second one. Although there wasn't much to work with back then, Forbes did have the advantage of working in his grandfather's shop - Joe Forbes. "I use to sneak in the shop whenever I could," he said. He liked the second violin he built, but gave it away as a gift. "It didn't sound too bad, but I gave it away to a Martin," he said.

It was Forbes' third creation that caught his attention and produced the best results. Forbes said the biggest challenge he faced was finding wood for the violin. "I got it from old Walt MacKnight's sawmill," he said laughing. Forbes used maple wood for the bottom of the violin and fir for the top. He said he dried it in his grandmother's old wood stove. "She always kept an eye on it to make sure it didn't burn," he said. It took a few days to prepare the wood before it was ready to be worked with.

The process of making a violin without electricity, proper tools or glue was trying. But Forbes had it beat. He melted animal hooves to make glue, drilled holes with a manual drill and used broken glass to scrape the wood to a smooth finish. "I could do a lot better with the tools we have today," he said. The imperfections of the decorative design, carved by a jack-knife, define the violin as being one of a kind.

Forbes never did learn how to play the violin, but over the years someone dear to him has. His granddaughter will someday own the family heirloom. She's 11 years old and demonstrated her talent last summer during Roger and Marjorie Forbes' 50th anniversary. She played Amazing Grace on the customized violin for the event.

                            Burlap bag preserves forgotten violin

Roger Forbes hasn't always treasured the violin he built, painstakingly, by hand in his teens. For a period of time, he forgot all about it. It wasn't until he returned to his family home after the war, in 1946, that he rediscovered his creation - wrapped up in a burlap bag and hanging in the attic. Forbes recalls the discovery as an emotional moment, which brought him to tears. "I couldn't believe my eyes," he said. Forbes has been extra careful with the violin ever since.

He was just as sentimental a couple of weeks ago when some friends played the violin at the Legion. "I was just curious about what the music sounded like and decided to take my violin up to show them."

Violin players gather at the Legion each Wednesday night. No one usually gets to play it, but Gilbert Plourde and Joe St. Coeur were among a few who did that night.

"I wish I could play. It would be so nice," he said.


Source: Miramichi Leader – February 25, 1997

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