1921 Viola Label
WWD violin dated 1919
1919 Violin Label
WWD violin dated 1929
1929 Violin Label
WWD violin dated 1922
Violin la 1922
Violin label1923
WWD violin dated 1923
William’s father Richard Dods
1880 Melbourne International Exhibition
Wolffe Bros Musical Instruments entry
William''s early designs sketches
William Whinfield Dods
WWD viola dated 1921
William Dods own varnish.
Olive and William Dods c1905
The "Moonee Ponds Orchestra"c1920''s
The Presbyterian Church in Ascot Vale where the orchestra rehearsed
Children of William Dods c1929 From left: Stanley, Helen (fiancee), Ronald, Una, Douglas and James
Stanley with violin made by his father William
Stanley in later years teaching grandchildren Jonathan and Robert
Stanley and Helen with Frankston Symphony Orchestra

The tradition continues however, with Stanley’s daughter Margaret a pianist and son John a ‘cellist.

Olive died in 1925, leaving sons Stanley, Douglas and Ronald, with William in the family home, "Kuranda", no. 46 St Leonard's Rd, Ascot Vale.   In 1932 William remarried a lady known as Mabel Allan but died within six months of this marriage.

William’s brother Richard was a ‘cellist, sister Isabella an organist,choirmaster and violinist, sister Anne Mary a violinist.   William’s son Stanley was a violinist and violist, and daughter Una a concert pianist who was engaged to Lorimer Fison, musician and conductor of the Moonee Ponds Orchestra before his untimely death in a road accident, before they could be married.

It is not known exactly how many instruments William Dods actually made.  An early assumption based on minor bank records and family knowledge seemed to indicate some fifteen or twenty violins and three or four violas, but recent estimates as follows, hint towards many more than this.

Based on the assumption that in this era a typical violin might cost about the equivalent of three months wages, William would need to have made at least four violins a year to keep his family.   If he discontinued his first profession as assayer around 1915 as records indicate, and had six children aged between one and fourteen, a steady income was obviously provided for around eighteen years,  which equates to a hundred or so instruments. The children weren’t lavished with private school education and attended the Ascot Vale primary school - which is in keeping with the estimated income.   All of the instruments appear to have  been made in Ascot Vale, the earliest in the collection dated 1919 and the most recent 1929. All are made from European timber, probably on the advice of William Dow who had previously experimented with local timber.

There was obviously a “change-over” period between careers, as William left many hand drawn plans for violins on his assaying business forms and letterheads before his violinmaking started in earnest.  The instruments have some unique features such as “f” hole shape and placing, and overall instrument shape.   Small features to the untrained eye perhaps, but very obvious to a luthier.

William also went to the trouble of making his own “varnish” with which to coat his instruments and sold bottles of the secret formula to other violinmakers.  It seems he didn't carry his musical manufacturing so far as to include bowmaking.  This was, and still is a totally separate field of expertise.

William and Olive began their family but the house soon became too small and they moved yet again, this time to 46 St Leonard’s Road where they completed their family of six children over the next fifteen years.

William’s business address, where he carried out his busy and apparently rewarding assaying profession in the early 1900’s, is listed as Temple Court, Melbourne.  However as gold became increasingly scarce, so too did his assaying work and with a wife and six children to support he obviously needed a steady income.

The long standing family appreciation of music and the making thereof is indicated once again as William decided to became a violin maker.  It seems he was a close friend of the renowned Melbourne violin maker William Dow, (http://streetsofsouthmelbourne.wordpress.com/2007/01/16/dow/) who probably assisted him considerably with advice in his new career.

William Whinfield Dods, son of Scottish “store owners” Richard and Jessie Dods, was born in Marong Victoria in 1871, the second of six children.   The family were all musically inclined, played a variety of instruments and seemingly participated in all of the local musical events of the era.

When William was just a young lad, his father Richard took a stand in the 1880 “Great Exhibition” in Melbourne where he won a substantial award for his locally grown muscatel raisins.  Almost simultaneously it seems, he bought a quartet of stringed instruments, specially crafted for the exhibition by the renowned German company “Wolff Brothers”, from their stand which was almost opposite his own.  The instruments were taken home to Marong and presented to his children as he saw fit over the succeeding years.  (One can only wonder just what his wife Jessie said to him on returning from the exhibition.)   The fine craftsmanship of these instruments must have left an impression on young William over the years as his musical education continued.

William Whinfield Dods - Violin Maker

Following a recent request from the National Museum in Canberra, the collection of William Dods four violins and one viola, in addition to many sketches, photographs, tools and accessories will be handed over after the instruments have been given a final “airing” before being preserved in Canberra for posterity.  All of the collection has been in the Dods family from William’s time.   Recitals have been given in Ascot Vale where he lived and worked, and Western Victoria where he grew up.









WWD viola dated 1921