Violin making in the Doyle family started in 1890 when Francis J Doyle Snr was Station Master in Westport Railway Station. Since there were so few trains at that time, it enabled him to pursue his favourite pastime of making fine quality violins. He was a busy man, what with looking after the daily running of the station inspecting the tracks and servicing the locomotives he still managed to have a large family of three girls and eight boys. He was originally from Wexford and moved to Westport around the year 1890 and then married a Teacher Elizabeth Mary Coates in 1896, the daughter of Francis William Coates, known also to be a Teacher at that time.
The Doyle Family in 1922
Three of his sons later took up his love of instrument making, William, Thomas and Francis Doyle jnr. Of the three William was noted as the best maker and was credited with having designed the Doyle model Violin. He also made a non-conventional model that was constructed from one piece of sycamore hewn from the solid wood without the usual thicknessing calliper’s we use today. The only instrument known to have survived is a long pattern model with narrow waist, a small delicately carved scroll, made from sycamore back and sides and neck. The front was made from wide grained pine with no purfling. The fingerboard was made from pine with ebony veneer on top. This wood came from Sligo where Francis Doyle Junior spent a lot of time in his youth and often mentioned Benbulben, Unfortunately, William Doyle’s violin making only lasted from 1922 to 1936 when he died.
Of Thomas Doyle, little is known of his violin making activities, but he died in 1959. Francis Doyle Junior was born in 1899 and in 1922 left Westport for Dublin. In those turbulent times after the Easter Rising in 1916 and subsequently the Civil War, he managed to study at the pharmaceutical College and still make violins in his spare time. His interest in making waned towards in the late 40’s when he married Mary Brennan in 1950. He had two girls and three boys.
I was the only son to take up the instrument Making but only after I had successfully studied architecture in Bolton Street College of Technology Dublin and later in the London college of Furniture in Aldgate East. I had dabbled a bit in Electric Guitar making from the age of fifteen and had become quite an accomplished guitarist and while in London played in various groups and did session work in the Olympic Sound Studio in Barnes near Hammersmith. The Studio was for me the starting point in my interest in instruments. During the daytime I worked in various Architects Practices, while at night I went to the Olympic Sound Studio and spent long hours there. However, all attempts to come to grips with my inferior Hofner electric and plywood arch top for acoustic work led me to engage in major surgery of instruments and also prompted me to examine all the fine instruments lying around the studio.
I enrolled in an evening class in Tufnell Park making a classical guitar. The next nine months were spent making my first guitar. By the end of 1976 as I was nearing completion of my first guitar I saw a mandolin player accompanied by a guitarist busking in Amsterdam. That started me out seeking information on mandolin construction and I finished both the guitar and mandolin in June of 1977. The end of 1977 saw three more instruments completed, 2 Appalachian Dulcimers, and a 12-string guitar.
On the 29th of November 1977 while driving home in London on my motorbike I was in collision with a car that was to alter the course of my life forever. When I left hospital I moved to the west of England and started in earnest to make a business from crafting musical instruments. Another two years were spent working for a leading firm of instrument makers Northern Renaissance instruments in Manchester, Finally I returned to Ireland in 1980. Now firmly established in Galway west of Ireland with over 30 years in the business I continue to make and teach the new breed of up and coming craftsmen who will continue to carry on that tradition.