Highly strung

Matthew Den­ni­son meets the Orkney man­dolin man

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden -

HE view from Dick Levens’s work­shop stretches across the Pent­land Firth to Dun­net Head, the most northerly tip of main­land Scot­land. In the dis­tance, the moun­tains of Ross-shire fringe the hori­zon. There are no trees to ob­scure the out­look, as Mr Levens lives on South Ron­ald­say, the south­ern­most of the al­most nat­u­rally tree­less Orkney Is­lands.

For the past 20 years, Mr Levens has lived in a for­mer school­house out­side the vil­lage of St Mar­garet’s Hope on the north coast of the is­land. This sturdy, late-18th-cen­tury stone build­ing, or­na­mented with typ­i­cal

Tcrow-step gables, counts among its alumni Wil­liam Mcg­o­na­gall, no­to­ri­ous as the writer of some of the worst dog­gerel pro­duced in 19th-cen­tury Bri­tain.

The mu­si­cal­ity or oth­er­wise of Mcg­o­na­gall’s ex­e­crable verse is a moot point, but, thanks to Mr Levens, mu­si­cian­ship of a dif­fer­ent va­ri­ety has found its home in this windswept cor­ner of Scot­land. Mr Levens makes elec­tric man­dolins. He un­der­takes be­spoke com­mis­sions for clients in­ter­na­tion­ally and also pro­duces stan­dard mod­els, in­clud­ing his Long Gone Lone­some Four String elec­tric man­dolin, de­vel­oped over a num­ber of years. In ad­di­tion, he has made elec­tric ukule­les and ban­jos.

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