The Epic Canadian Reed Organ Rescue:
The Doherty Cathedral
Welcome! Pre-Restoration Introduction
It all started in early April 2015, with an email that was received from the Yahoo Reed Organ Restoration group page, posted by Fr. Darragh Connolly. He was asking for any available information on an organ that was for sale as he was interested in purchasing it. The organ was located in Ireland, and not all that far from Darragh’s home.
The picture made me gasp – I immediately recognized it as the Doherty Cathedral, style 81 - the largest and most expensive reed organ offered by this company from this small town of Clinton, Ontario Canada. It appeared to be in dreadful condition, missing parts, filthy and forlorn – beyond what most reasonable people would consider worthwhile to restore.
With the future of this organ being a good candidate for repurposing or being destroyed, Darragh decided to purchase it and review it to see if it was plausible for restoration. He then posted many pictures on his website Reed Organs Ireland, which I could see how bad of condition it really was in.
A few months later, Darragh decided to not restore it as it would be too many hours to invest into it, as it was badly damaged by woodworm and the previous environment that it was stored in.
Around this same time, I became acquainted with Rowan Lalonde, who is undertaking the early stages of assembling instruments for a future instrument museum in eastern Canada. He already had hundreds of instruments collected, and now was looking at Canadian made reed organs.
Both Rowan and I thought that this organ, even in the dreadful condition it was in, would be worthwhile to save even though it was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean - so the Doherty Cathedral was then arranged to be brought back to Canada. Darragh looked after the crating of this large instrument, which met the special requirements for import back into Canada.
On September 22, 2015, my part began when the Doherty Cathedral was delivered to my care, which is going to be my friend (or enemy?) over the next year as the restoration takes place. The restoration officially began on February 12, 2016.
At this time of writing there is no guarantee that it can be brought back to full working order, as there is so much that is unknown. Even though the woodworm has been officially eradicated, the previous damage from them has caused structural and visible damage. There is also the handling damage that happened before Darragh saved it; with the lower leg and footing missing on the treble side, the missing Great to Pedal trackers and assembly, as well as many other parts that are gone. The previous storage conditions caused moisture damage to both interior and exterior structure and finishes, and many of the laminated, veneered and jointed wood sections separated... and that is only for what is currently visible!
I can honestly admit that this instrument is a very unreasonable restoration given the current condition – and I suppose that is the fuel to the fire for the passion to at least attempt to bring it back to life!.
The "picture diary" of this instrument is spread across 29 chapters, they are all listed below.
The restoration was completed in December, 2017. The accompanying video on this page gives an example for you to decide if the restoration was successfull or not!
Below you will find over a 1500 hours worth of restoration time displayed in 29 chapters with 1728 pictures total. Each picture tells the story of the trials and tribulation and the victories. Needless to say that this was the largest and most involved restoration I have done to date!
Introduction - From Ireland to Canada
Part 1 - The Disassembly
Part 2 - Testing Feasibility and Carpentry Work
Part 3 - Working on the Bass Section
Part 4 - Stripping, Repairing, Woodworking and Pedal Links
Part 5 - The Pedalboard
Part 6 - The Pedalboard Continues and More Repairs
Part 7 - Test Repairs, Case Top and Side Panel Rebuilding
Part 8 - Rebuilding the Bass Side of the Case
Part 9 - Case Restoration Continues, Begin the Bellows
Part 10 - Rotten Parts, and Building a Cathedral
Part 11 - Assembly Continues, Pedal Levers and Case
Part 12 - The Bellows Work Continues, and Nameboard
Part 13 - The Bellows and Bass are Completed
Part 14 - The Disassembly of the Lower Action
Part 15 - The Rebuilding of the Lower Action
Part 16 - The Rebuilding of the Lower Action Continues
Part 17 - The Rebuilding of the Keyboard, Coupler, and More
Part 18 - Stop Restoration Continues, and Fitting the Action
Part 19 - Rebuilding the Pedal Couplers and Action Rebuild
Part 20 - The Nasty Little Stop Assemblies are Restored
Part 21 - Completing the Stop Transfer Assemblies
Part 22 - Rebuilding the Swell Chest
Part 23 - Tedious, Monotonous, Repetitious but Rewarding
Part 24 - Finishing the Swell, Starting the Last Coupler
Part 25 - Coupler and Swell Keyboard Completion
Part 26 - Tuning, Rebuilding and Fretting over Fretwork
Part 27 - Finishing the Action and Casework
Part 28 - The Pipe Top
Part 29 - The Pipe Top and Completion