The specification of this magnificent instrument was drawn up by Arthur Harrison and Alfred Heap, the then organist of the church. The opening recital was given on September 27th 1913 by Sir Frederick Bridge of Westminster Abbey, of whom Alfred Heap had been a pupil.
Recent research in the archive of Harrison & Harrison reveals that the contract for the new organ very nearly went to Norman & Beard of Norwich, who had offered to provide a larger instrument at a more competitive price. This appealed to the church authorities, but not to Heap who, anticipating the worst, wrote to Arthur Harrison apologising for having wasted his time! That the organ was ultimately provided by the Durham firm, at a cost of £1,800, was almost certainly down to the donor, George Dickson, a clear case of “He who pays the piper calls the tune”!
What became of the original organ, a substantial two manual completed in 1878 by Peter Conacher & Co. of Huddersfield, and opened by Dr. Albert Peace of Glasgow University, is not known. The Kirk Session records show that the Harrison firm offered £300 for the instrument, and it is possible that a new home was found for it somewhere else in the British Isles.
The Harrison organ is fortunate in having had a relatively uneventful history. In 1930, the console was, regrettably, moved to its present position on the South side of the chancel, having previously stood at the back of the chancel between the two cases, where the plinth for the Communion table is now found. At the same time, the Pedal Sub Bass was extended by twelve pipes to provide an 8ft Bass Flute, and a Tremulant was added to the Choir organ. These modifications, together with cleaning of the entire instrument, were carried out by the Scottish branch of Hill, Norman & Beard. The same firm carried out a cleaning and overhaul in 1954, when the provision of combination pistons and couplers was augmented.
It was not until 1984 that the organ was rebuilt, this time by the original builders. The pneumatic mechanisms, over seventy years old and completely worn out, were replaced by electro-pneumatic, with solid state piston and coupling actions. Critically, no tonal alterations were made and it can be confidently claimed that the 1913 sound suvives to this day, with a particularly outstanding Swell department having not only the 16,8, and 4 ft Trumpets, but also the Open Diapason, on seven inch wind.
The finely carved oak cases, designed by H. E. Clifford of Glasgow, incorporate the basses of the Great Gross Geigen, Large Open Diapason (complete with leathered upper lips), Small Open Diapason, and Pedal Violoncello.
In addition to some of the finest Scottish players, visiting recitalists since the 1984 rebuild have included David Hill, Peter Hurford, Colin Walsh, and Ian Tracey.
© DMH 11/04
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