A Fratelli Crosio made for French accordion player M. Aimable

Accordion enthusiasts are in for a real treat during next month’s Hebridean Celtic Festival.

For box collector Caroline Hunt is bringing 30 of her most prized possessions to Stornoway, showcasing her stunning antique accordions to the Lewis public.

Amongst the collection is a Sheng – a reproduction of the original reed instrument made in China around 1740, a variety of children’s accordions made in the 1950s and 1960s from China, Italy, Japan and Germany, and there are examples of concertinas, flutinas, bandoneons, piano accordions, button accordions, ones with bells, ones with horns, ones with unusual bellows, many with elaborate brass, wood, enamel, mother of pearl and abalone inlay. 

Says Caroline, who has been collecting accordions for the last 20 years: “One of my early Russian accordions was used in the film Anna Karenena with Jude Law and Kiera Knightly. There are button accordions designed to look like piano accordions as the American bandleader didn’t want Frosini, who played a button accordion, to look different to the piano accordions! 

“There are also early examples of accordions made by Paolo Soprani, who founded the Italian accordion industry and also numerous German Hohners – a Hohner Sax that looks like a Saxophone but is played like a cross between a melodeon and a mouth organ! 

"And I also have a Hohner Shand Morino which was designed by Sir Jimmy Shand with Morino at the Hohner Factory in Germany, specifically for Scottish Music.”

Orginally from the Borders and now living outside Aviemore, Caroline was made redundant in 2000.

She explained: “I went on holiday to visit the Accordion Museum in Castelfidardo in Italy, and I returned inspired by the amazing variety of instruments made all over the world and the fact that, whilst viewing the exhibits, visiting musicians from Russia, France, Germany etc were lent instruments and playing music from their countries. 

“It was a living museum, with a wonderful atmosphere.” 

“I had redundancy money and my feeling was that as there was nothing similar in the UK it would be fun to try and collect instruments to set up something similar in the UK.  I could envisage people visiting the Highlands and looking for a base where they could view a collection of antique accordions and also enjoy Scottish music.  

“I also have a collection of over 500 Scottish and Irish LPs and probably the same number of 78s where people can hear how Sir Jimmy Shand and Scott Skinner played the music they composed."

Since 2000, Caroline has built up a collection of 350 antique accordions, and in 2008 she opened an Accordion Museum alongside the Heritage Centre at Bogbain Farn, near Inverness.

However, a few years later the owners separated and the Heritage Centre closed down. 

“Since then I have done mobile displays at music festivals but am now endeavouring to find suitable premises for another permanent base,” said Caroline. 

“Ideally (as I should like it to be near somewhere I could consider retiring to) along the coast and my preference is perhaps Nairn, Ullapool or Stornoway which already have a good music scene which could perhaps be capitalized on.”

Looking forward to her visit to Stornoway, Caroline added: “I try to get to Lewis once a month, and when I’m there I love meeting up with the Accordion Club.

“I’m excited about showing some of my collection to the people of Stornoway, and hopefully it will add something a bit different to a fantastic HebCelt festival.”

You can see Caroline’s stunning collection of accordions at The Masonic Hall, 55 Kenneth Street, Friday 21 and Saturday 22 July, from 10am - 4pm.

Car parking and refreshments available.

A Hohner Echophone made in 1905 - the trumpet was supposed to amplify the sound but it didn't work, so these were only made for a couple of years.

This Flutina was made around 1850 - this is a particularly ornate model, which would have been played by wealthy Victorian ladies. 

The Uniform keyboard was patented by John Reuther in the USA in 1940. Caroline has another with a similar keyboard layout made in Italy in the 1920s.