Type: Bowed Lyre > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.22.71
Country: Shetland Islands.
Region: Scotland > Western Europe.
Description: The gue is an extinct type of two-stringed bowed lyre or zither from the Shetland Isles. The instrument was described in 1809 by Arthur Edmondston in view of the Ancient and Present State of the Shetland Islands: “Before violins were introduced, the musicians performed on an instrument called a gue. Which appears to have had some similarity to the violin, but had only two strings of horse hair.
The first person to recreate the Shetland gue for modern musicians was instrument maker and musician Corwen Broch of Ancient Music, who began making them in 2007. What he freely admits is a tentative reconstruction made initially for the purposes of experimental music archaeology was based largely on Scandinavian bowed lyre design and the surviving written descriptions as discussed in the works of Otto Andersson.
In 2009 Corwen was commissioned to make a reconstruction for the Shetland Museum. In 2012 luthier Michael J. King asked to use Corwen’s design in a CD Rom of instrument plans. So far all subsequent interpretations of the instrument by other makers draw heavily on Corwen Broch’s initial design.
Citations: Andersson, Otto May, 1959; The Shetland Gue, the Welsh Crwth, and the Northern Bowed Harp The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 12, pp. 102-102 Peter Cooke. The fiddle tradition of the Shetland Isles. CUP Archive, 1986 ISBN 0-521-26855-9, ISBN 978-0-521-26855-4. Pg 4. Peter Cooke. The fiddle tradition of the Shetland Isles. CUP Archive, 1986 ISBN 0-521-26855-9, ISBN 978-0-521-26855-4. Pg 5. Kate & Corwen – Ancient Music Instruments