I’m not really sure how to begin this tale. It’s a heartwarming tale, make no mistake, the likes of which you don’t hear every day. Best to start at the start which, in this case, requires us to go back to the heady days of 2001…
I had just moved to Dublin after having worked at the Ulster Orchestra for seven months. During that time I had acquired a lovely new Yamaha Bb clarinet and an even lovelier Yamaha Bb soprano saxophone, to replace the matched pair of Yamaha clarinets that had been stolen from the instrument room at Edinburgh University the summer before. I had fancied a soprano saxophone ever since hearing John Coltrane’s ‘My Favourite Things’ album and had borrowed one from my university friend Nina Wilson for a while. Now, thanks to having had my expensive instruments insured, I had my very own. Happy was I. And off I went to Dublin.
My sister lived there — she attended Trinity College — and I put all my things in her flat near the Phoenix Park on the night I arrived. I can’t remember why, exactly. The house I was moving into maybe still had a tenant in it. Anna (my sister) was home alone, I think, it being early September and her flatmates were yet to return after the summer. At any rate, an opportunity was seized by some enterprising burglars and our things were rifled through while we were out for the evening. I reported the theft to the local Gardaí the next day and, while they dusted for fingerprints, we forlornly listed the items that had been taken. Among them my beautiful saxophone.
I visited a few pawn shops over the next few weeks but the hope of recovering the items quickly faded. A couple of years later I thought I saw someone carrying a case very similar to the one that had housed my sax, but what could be done? A very generous friend, Corrie, gave me an alto sax at one stage but by then my woodwind playing had dwindled and it lay under the bed with my clarinet.
Years passed (imagine this in Cate Blanchett’s Lord-Of-The-Rings-prologue voice) and the memory of my golden
ring of power saxophone faded. We pick up the story again in the present day, our hero now very much playing woodwind again (and, dare I say, looking splendidly well for the intervening thirteen years).
Last week a post circulated on social media concerning some items that had been found by Gardaí, their photographs posted online. Lots of bikes, picture frames, and…some saxophones. One of them a soprano saxophone. With a crooked mouthpiece (mine had had both types — crooked and straight). I looked at the photo and thought the etching on the instrument looked familiar (most instruments don’t have etching at all). I called the number and asked was it a Yamaha saxophone. It was. Oh.
If I could only prove it was mine. I called the UK-based insurer and was told they didn’t have records older than ten years. I knew I would’ve registered the serial number with them. I called the Garda station who had dealt with the theft in 2001. The incident was pre-computer but they found it quickly, although there was no note of the serial number. I searched for the original receipt, which I thought I might have kept since my clarinet was on the same docket, but to no avail. It dawned on me then that the receipt would almost certainly not have had the serial number on it, anyway. The shop where I’d bought the instruments — Marcus Music in Belfast — had closed, too.
My only hope was the insurer, I realised. Maybe the record was in a box file somewhere? I called back, on the off chance. Sure enough, they’d been talking about this strange Irish person looking for ancient records and it transpired that they, being the *agents*, wouldn’t have the full records: it would be the actual insurer. So I called them, my last hope. After just a few short lines of dialogue, in the blink of the proverbial eye, I had my serial number.
Fast forward through bank holiday weekend, the emailing of documentary evidence and excited calls to the Garda in charge of the property store, my wife, my sister, and my mum…and I’m on the way home with my saxophone!
It’s wrapped in bags, since its interim owner carried it in his tenor sax case, and it’s without a mouthpiece, but those few bits of TLC will help us get reacquainted. I’m imagining a montage scene, the sax at first shy and unsure how to be around me; we’ll go and get its new case and mouthpiece (we’ll try on different ones, I’ll hilariously stick one on my nose and look quizzical as the instrument’s standoffishness finally crumbles and we laugh, the shopkeeper shaking his head in bemusement); we ride home on the DART, pointing out flocks of birds taking off in the sunset to each other.
Thirteen years, though…!