A whole variety of historical moments took place in 1843. Charles Dickens published ‘A Christmas Carol’, Mendelssohn wrote his famous Wedding March, Wagner’s opera, ‘The Flying Dutchman’, was first performed, Sir Henry Cole commissioned the first Christmas card, Brunel’s tunnel under the River Thames was opened, Nelson’s column was erected in Trafalgar Square, and in a tiny village in Suffolk, England, Robert Clarke created the tin whistle.
The Clarke Tinwhistle Story
With Introduction by James Galway
More than 170 years after the Clarke Tinwhistle was created, it still remains the favourite instrument of many musicians throughout the world.
Our tin whistles continue to be hand crafted, and Robert Clarke’s traditional conical bore has been retained to give the instrument its unique ‘chiff’ sound. No other whistle has the same degree of ‘chiff’ as a Clarke.
So play it, enjoy it, and join millions of musicians who started in music with the famous Clarke Tinwhistle.
For a limited time only…
Hear about the rich heritage & captivating story behind the country’s favourite instrument on DVD.
When you purchase the Original Tinwhistle Gift Set not only will you receive your very own handcrafted tin whistle in the key of D, but you’ll also receive a FREE DVD worth £9.95 about everything that makes the Clarke Tinwhistle what it is today.
FREE DVD with The Original Gift Set
A History of the Clarke Tinwhistle
Photo: Sir James Galway playing his Clarke Tinwhistle at the launch of the Mourne Mountains appeal.
The first Clarke Tinwhistle was invented in 1843 in Coney Weston, a tiny village near Bury St. Edmunds, in England.
The creation of the tin whistle was inspired when Robert Clarke, a poor farm labourer, heard about the invention of tin plate and asked a blacksmith to help him to copy the design of his wooden whistle using this new material.
The mouthpiece needed a wooden fipple so, because he did not own a saw, he made this out of one of the stays from his wife’s corset, cutting the teeth with a file. The new tin whistle played so well that Robert decided to begin a business manufacturing them.
Clarke heard that there were big opportunities for manufacturers in Lancashire, so he and his son walked the long distance from Coney Weston to Manchester, pushing his tools and materials in a handbarrow. On the way he stopped by at village markets and made tin whistles to sell, which proved to be very popular among the villagers.
Sometimes he met Irish labourers, who were building railways and canals, and sold his tin whistles to them. These Irishmen took them back to Ireland where the English tin whistle rapidly became Ireland’s favourite folk instrument.
When Robert reached Manchester he set up his factory in a shed and soon became a successful manufacturer. He called his tin whistles ‘Megs’, a Victorian nickname for a halfpenny, as this is how much he charged for them.
He eventually made so much money that he was able to build two houses, a factory and a church in the nearby village of New Moston. He went back to Coney Weston and bought up the farm that he had previously lived in, using gold sovereigns which he carried in a Gladstone bag.
The Clarke Tinwhistle around the world
Robert Clarke and his son Robert walking from Coney Weston in Suffolk to Manchester in Lancashire.
‘Music Versus Work’ 1864 A painting by Victorian Artist Joseph Edward Worrall. Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool
A Man Playing a Penny Whistle, William Seaton, Oil on Board, (City Art Centre: Edinburgh Museums & Galleries)