Speak, photos

Dedicated to L

You’ll remember I recently got some details about my grandmother’s life to add to my meagre stock of family history. I sent a copy of the post to my cousin, and yesterday she sent me a selection from the treasure trove of story she’s been patiently building for years.

You’ll remember too that the father of my grandmother, Eunice, forbade her from falling in love with her first cousin, Percival. This is he, my great-grandfather. His name is James Robert Kilvert and that’s his son, Walter, my grandmother’s brother.


James was born in 1861 and died in 1939, aged 78. His son, Walter, must have been born in 1897, and the date of his death is unknown.

Walter, returning from four years’ service in World War One aged 21, with an artificial leg and a jingle about being gassed, continued in the family tradition of piano-making.

In a newspaper article, Walter is called a “Musical Philosopher” and described as making hammers for pianos that “have power without clang” and “are sharp on the nose to bring out a bright tone”.

In the article he offers his view on the reasons for the decline of the piano business, a decline that coincided with the end of the war: the “wireless” and “hire purchase”. He also offers his remedy for recovering “Merrie England”:

You know, I walk round the streets at night listening for the sound of a piano, but the only time I hear it is inside a pub on a Saturday night … We’ve got to get back to the home life! Why has it gone down? Because the piano is going down.



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14 thoughts on “Speak, photos

  1. Lovely post and am glad piano making is in your heritage. I like the demise in Walter’s summing up of life in England after the advent of radio and hire purchase.
    Look at England now? The IPad has almost replaced life itself.


  2. Beautiful Post.
    I love how he described the breakdown of the family. My gosh, where -oh -where are the days when families could sit at the piano together? Perhaps…that was the beginning.

    Wonderful Photos.


  3. Love history… funny to be receiving this new blog post of yours today, as last night I watch a terrific old movie made in 1950 I believe, which I had seen many years ago, about the Boer war.”Breaker Morant” with John Woodward that deals with the English up to their old tricks, this time using the Australian soldiers to do their dirty work, and turning around to then use them as scapegoats, to cover their proverbial asses, pardon my french. Excellent movie anyway, as is this your most recent post. From a member of the same club, though in spite of all, I basically love those dubious Brits. Chapeau for your article!


    • Deux chapeaus for your fab comment, JJ. haha, “those dubious Brits”. Oh la la, you’ll stir up a couple of my readers in particular which will be a salutary tonic for them! The relationship between Australia and Britain is complex, full of affection and resentment in equal measure.

      One day I must chat with you about your former home of Grasse. You may enjoy this post about perfume which also features un chapeau worn very fetchingly by the superb Romy Schneider:



      • Ops…just lost my reply, so here i go again. We Canadians, those of us born in the province of Quebec of the French persuasion, no doubt have a somewhat like historic relation with our British brethren, or rather with the powers that be in the previous century who more or less used us as cannon fodder during their difficult times in two world wars. Long story, too old, and still a great people. If you go on my blog site, My Books section, you’ll find an e-mail address for FON, publisher of my 1st three books. If you e-mail me there I can get back to you direct if you like. Ciao…


      • Thanks for persisting, JJ. I imagine the position of the French Canadians is even more complex than that of Aussies. All those competing national interests. I’ll check out your email address for a good old chat about jasmine flowers. x


    • Beautifully said, Kayti. It’s compelling stuff, whomsoever’s story it is.

      There’s another bittersweet thing he said in the article, that he’s also watching for his father’s handiwork. He says this, “Tell you what, though, I’ve started to get some of Father’s hammers back — forty years old, some of them! Recognise them at once — special way he cut the felt, to keep the tension.” Love xx


  4. Hi, I think your grandmother and my grandfather were cousins. My great grandfather was John Broadwood Kilvert who was a younger brother of James Robert Kilvert and sons of James Smith Kilvert, a piano tuner in London.


    • Wow! I’m so happy to meet you, Diana. Where do you live? I see we’ve both ended up with Irish surnames. I’ve got many cousins who will be chuffed to discover you too. When was your grandfather born?


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