CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in East Anglia

How old are the instruments?

Some of the instruments are certainly quite old: Billy Bennington says of his, "Where this one came from I don't really know, but I bought it in 1922 off an old man in Norwich... he was 85 when I bought it off him, and his father gave it to him when he was fifteen, his father had it before him ..."

The account given by Peter Eden (1972) is striking more for its whimsy than for its detail, but the reference to a sailor, and a foreign one at that, is interesting, even though too isolated and vague for its potential value in charting the instrument's dispersion to be realised:

"Not much more than a decade ago, from the floor of a disused warehouse in Swaffham's Commercial End, I picked up a dulcimer, dust covered, out of tune and with a broken string or two, but otherwise in good order. It had once been gaily painted, gilded and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, but the decoration was chipped and faded. The owner traded it to me for a shilling or two, and it was soon brought back into service. It must be confessed that I never became really proficient at it, but more musical friends were able to demonstrate how suitable it was for folk-song accompaniment. An old man claimed to remember it being played in the local pub by a foreign seaman; but it could as easily have been one of the instruments known to have been made locally and purchased by an English mariner at the Fair" (30) .

There is one other connection between dulcimers and sailors, shown here.