|The Bowley Ukulele|
Barnes and Mullins is a name that I first got interested in a year or so ago when I was living and breathing banjo-ukes. I had bought a few vintage wrecks and was trying my hand at a some restoration. In fact, thinking back, the whole reason I started this blog in the first place was to share some of the photos of those early projects. At the time, I remember ferreting around the internet trying to uncover a bit of the history of the instruments. I discovered that Samuel Bowley Barnes and Albert Edward Mullins were at the forefront of the British explosion of banjos and banjo ukuleles that happend in the 20s. Whilst they initially only distributed, I'm pretty certain that they did in the end manufacture instruments themselves, or had them especially made to sell. I never did manage to get my hands on one of their instruments at the time.
|Make your own Uke Box|
Here's a bit of history lifted from the Barnes & Mullins website:
In 1894, Mr Albert Mullins and Mr S. Bowley Barnes started “The Jo”, their famous musical instrument journal. Specialising in all things banjo, they soon began manufacturing their own banjos as well as importing many other instruments. The original Barnes and Mullins banjos are still sought after today, with collectors seeking them out all over the world. Sadly in 1914 at the age of 40, Albert Mullins drowned when the ‘Empress of Ireland’ sank on the St Lawrence River. He was on the home leg of a 2 year sales trip. Bowley Barnes continued the business thereafter, and what he had started with his partner years earlier in Bournemouth now moved to Rathbone Place, London. In 1976, Mark Barnes – son of Bowley Barnes – moved the business to Grays Inn Road, Bloomsbury. Sadly in 1986, Mark Barnes died. He was greatly admired and respected by employees and customers alike who were quick to tell of his fair and generous nature. In 1999, Bruce Perrin – a Director since 1986 – became Managing Director and moved the business from London to the current location - Grays Inn House - a modern 46000sqft warehouse and office facility in Oswestry, Shropshire. Bruce Perrin says “We are excited about the future and are constantly looking at ways to innovate and evolve, yet Barnes and Mullins has always endeavoured to put the customer at the top of its priority list”. As of July 2009, Bruce Perrin and former B&M Sales Director Brian Cleary successfully achieved a management buy-out of the Barnes family, bringing the previous 2 years of uncertainty to a positive conclusion. Perrin and Cleary now hold the positions of Joint Managing Directors and are looking forward to the new focus this reformed partnership will bring.
|The 'Jo: A chronicle of banjo, guitar and mandoline news|
Just in case it's of interest; I'm also including here a brief run-down of the major British banjo ukulele manufacturers of the late 1800s and early 1900s. All this was pieced together from snippets I read on the internet about a year ago, so don't take it all as gospel...
Barnett Samuel & Son (1819-1932) LondonAs you can probably tell, I'm quite taken by the history behind the instruments, so I was naturally intrigued when I stumbled across 'The Bowley'. It was obviously made to commemorate Samual Bowley Barnes, but as far as I knew, Barnes and Mullins weren't in the ukulele market; These guys were banjo players and the closest they'd got to ukueles was with their banjo-ukes. Well, it looks like ukuleles became part of the portfolio whilst they had their backs turned.
Rose Brothers (1919-1920) Birmingham & London
- Owned subsidiary John Grey & Sons (1911-1932) London, which was subsequently sold to Rose Morris & Co
- Sold 'The Savana' banjo ukulele
Alvin D Keech (1918-?) London
- Company changed its name to Rose Morris & Co (1920-1964) before aquiring John Grey & Sons and changing its name again to Rose-Morris (1964-Today)
J G Abbott & Co (1905-1934) London
- Sold 'Keech Banjulele Model A/B & C' banjo ukuleles
- Company was sold to Bessons Co (?-1936) London
- Made 'The Trumelo' banjo ukulele (production stopped 1940) for Barnes & Mullins and 'The Van Allen Banjo' banjo ukulele for Will Van Allen
Samuel Bowley Barnes & Edward Mullins (1894-Today)
- Sold 'The Monarch' and 'The Abbott' banjo ukuleles
Will Van Allen (1926-1930) London
- Sold 'The Trumelo' banjo ukulele
Reliance Works (1988-?) Birmingham
- Sold 'The Revelation' and 'The Van Allen Banjo' banjo ukuleles
- Sold 'The Reliance', 'The Melody' and 'The Mirabile' banjo ukuleles
John E Dallas & Sons Ltd (1905-?) London
- Company changed its name to George Houghton & Sons (?-1962) Birmingham. Later the company closed and staff joined John E Dallas & Sons Ltd
- Sold 'The Dallas Model A/B/C/D & E' banjo ukuleles
The official spec for 'The Bowley' is:
- Solid Spruce Top - Antique Finish
- Solid Mahogany Back and Sides
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- High-Quality, Open Geared Machine-heads
- Aquila Strings
|The Bowley Ukulele|
The instrument looks and plays great. For me, the clincher was the 'no-frills' design and the overall vintage feel. There are no fluffy inlays or those fancy polished wood effects that are all the rage at the moment. It looks and feels like a throwback from the early days. I love it... and you will too!