Violin to honour explorer Ernest Shackleton made from floorboards of his own house – found in a skip

A violin to honour the great explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton has been made out of floorboards from his old house, which a luthier salvaged from a skip.

The instrument, being unveiled to the public on Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the adventurer’s death, was also fashioned out of driftwood and English boxwood, in tribute to his Anglo-Irish and seafaring heritage.

Steve Burnett, a violin maker and conservationist, has previously made instruments in tribute to Emily Bronte, the author, and Wilfred Owen, the war poet, using wood from tree branches from locations closely associated with them.

After developing a fascination with Shackleton, he visited his old home in Edinburgh, where he lived between 1904 and 1910, just four years before he would go on to lead the ill-fated ship Endurance in the Antarctic.

There, he chanced upon builders throwing old floorboards from the home, in South Learmonth Gardens, into a skip. He cycled home with three of them, which now make up the front of the violin.

“I wanted a more direct link to Shackleton in Edinburgh – I thought maybe there’s a branch from a tree in the garden somewhere from where he lived,” Mr Burnett said.

“I went to see the old house, and to my horror it was all scaffolded up, the inside it had obviously been totally gutted. 

“There were skips outside full of floorboards, all rained on, covered in cement, dust and plaster. I managed to get enough wood to make the violin front and certain aspects of the inside. 

“The way I see it is we lost a certain amount of originality of that building, but this violin now encapsulates its energy, by including the actual floorboards that Shackleton would have walked on.”

The Ernest Shackleton violin

Credit: PA Wire

He said he hoped the violin would provoke renewed interest in Shackleton on the centenary of his death.

It also includes an inscription of the names of his 27 fellow crew members on board The Endurance, who became stranded after the ship was trapped and eventually crushed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea in 1915.

All of them lived, following treacherous journeys in lifeboats. Mr Burnett said he hoped the instrument would serve as a "symbol of one of the most incredible journeys of survival in human history".

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