School's Aitken violin plays part in TV series

Otago Boys' High School rector Clive Rennie (left) and TV producer Matthew Thomason hold the Aitken violin, which is to feature in a television series. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago Boys' High School rector Clive Rennie (left) and TV producer Matthew Thomason hold the Aitken violin, which is to feature in a television series. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The violin that played on the battlefields of World War 1 and is displayed in a Dunedin school will feature in a television series.

An Australian production company is in Dunedin to prepare for an episode of Tony Robinson's Tour of Duty, to be filmed over five days in the city next month.

Series producer Matthew Thomason, of Sydney, visited Otago Boys' High School yesterday to see the Aitken violin, which was played by old boy Alexander Aitken at Gallipoli and other battles. Another story featured would be that of OBHS old boy James Waddell, who was decorated by the French Foreign Legion and fought at Gallipoli and the Battle of the Somme.

''These are the kinds of stories most people won't know. They are the stories we want to find,'' Mr Thomason said.

Half of the hour-long episode would consist of Sir Tony Robinson walking around the city, talking of local war-themed history. The other half was based at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, where members of the public were invited to bring war artefacts and stories. The museum filming day was March 30.

The 10-part series would air on the History Channel next January. The Dunedin episode is one of two filmed in New Zealand.

The production company is spending two days in the city this week.

The Aitken violin was played on an almost nightly basis in the trenches, an article on the school's website says: ''In a world where sudden death, maiming and exposure to enemy fire was constantly with a man, Alexander Aitken's solo concerts were a paradoxical link with normal life and cultural refinement not otherwise present in that environment.''

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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