Australian violin making has lost one of its significant individuals this month with the passing of Phillip Burgess on 16 July 2009 at the age of 80.
Phillip was born in Marrickville, NSW, to parents who had migrated to Australia from England in 1925. He learned to play the violin and, after reading the Hills’ book on Stradivari, also became interested in learning how to make the instrument. When he had finished his schooling he was taken on at A E Smith & Co, joining the firm in 1944 and completing his first violin in 1945 (a copy of a 1714 Stradivarius).
Phillip remained with Smith until 1954 and was appointed workshop manager in 1952. He left to set up as an independent violin maker and repairer in the Royal Arcade, Sydney. However, in 1958 a large section of the arcade was destroyed by a fire so Phillip returned to A E Smith & Co in March 1959, again taking on the role of workshop manager and remaining there until around 1965.
After he left Smith’s, Phillip made instruments from his home in Kirrawee, then Coogee, West Pennant Hills, Avoca Beach, Hornsby and finally Kariong. He leaves behind a significant violin making legacy – around 100 instruments including 3 cellos.