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Summer 2016

Harry Gudger 1919-2016


Harry Gudger was born in Leicester but moved to Birstall in his teens, eventually moving to Barrow in 1961. Harry met his wife-to-be Ida in 1963 and they married in 1965: they had three sons. Harry also had two daughters from his first marriage. He was an engineer by trade and when war broke out he was in a reserved occupation going from making knitting machines to making guns. Feeling a need for change, Harry left engineering to become a decorator, going to night school to learn sign writing. He had to leave this trade after badly injuring his ankle, making it impossible for him to climb ladders. After answering an advertisement in the local press for someone to paint the hull of a brand new boat, Harry found himself working for a local businessman. This resulted in a part-time job; painting vans was some of the work he did.

Harry actually worked until he was seventy, ending his working career at an engineering factory in Sileby, starting as an odd-job man and ending up working a milling machine. After a life time of working with metal Harry turned to working with wood, after one of his sons said that his friend’s father had made a guitar, Harry said, “ I could do that” and so, working from reference books borrowed from the library, his first guitar was made. Through the years numerous violins have been made. Ida remembers them going to visit one of Harry’s daughters in Germany; she took them to a wood merchant in Bavaria, and Harry had a wonderful time choosing wood to use in his musical instrument making. This was brought back to England in their suit cases - they obviously didn’t fly Ryanair. His second violin was made from some of this wood.

Harry’s first love was music. He had a lovely singing voice starting off as tenor and in later years becoming a baritone; during the war years he joined a group that travelled to army camps to perform. He was a member of the Barrow Male Voice Choir in the 60s and then a member of the Loughborough Male Voice Choir until the age of 90. His special interest was old English church music, so he made several historical instruments and had a commission from a London church to make them one. Apart from all his violins and guitars etc. Harry took to making toys and fairground models. They are wonderful, every little detail having been made by Harry, nothing was bought in. He even made his own tools to work with when the need arose. This quiet unassuming man was obviously a great craftsman who I am sure will be sadly missed.

Val Gillings