Downpatrick manufacturer Lowden planning Northern Ireland's first guitar museum
DOWNPATRICK guitar-maker Lowden has bought premises in Crossgar, where it plans to create Northern Ireland's first dedicated guitar museum.
The company, whose world-renowned instruments have been played by top global artists including Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol front man Gary Lightbody and Eric Clapton, has acquired a former car showroom in the village for the multi-million pound venture.
And its owner George Lowden - who made his first guitar in 1961 at the age of just 10 with the help of his boat builder father - has already snapped up a number of significant artefacts for the museum.
"The museum is just at the concept stage right now, but it will happen," the company's managing director David Ausdahl told the Irish News.
"George is currently buying guitars of significant historical interest which will eventually go on display.
"But it'll probably be a year or so down the line before we're fully up and running."
Among the artefacts recently acquired includes an iconic limited-edition Lowden played by former Thin Lizzy guitarist the late Gary Moore, which was bought at auction for an undisclosed sum.
Others include some of the very earliest hand-crafted models from the 1970s, when they were made using A-frame bracing and the dolphin voicing profiles which established the Lowden guitar's unique sound.
The company, founded by George Lowden in 1974, has since gone on to produce more than 20,000 guitars.
It currently employs more than 30 highly skilled workers producing hand-crafted instruments that are in massive demand throughout Europe, North America, Canada, Australia and the Far East.
Lowden Guitars has currently outgrown its existing premises at Downpatrick business park, where it has expanded its workshops from two to 10 units.
Mr Ausdahl added: "We need the additional space, hence the Crossgar acquisition.
"But it will be a staged move over a period of time, because we can't do anything which will impact on our manufacturing output.
"We're currently working out the logistics of the museum and expansion, which will require a massive attention to detail."
Among those lending their support for the Lowden museum is singer Ed Sheeran.
A regular visitor to the company in Downpatrick, Sheeran was gifted his first Lowden by Gary Lightbody early in his career and has since gone to own a number of its guitars, including an O-model, which often he uses on stage, and the four first variations of Lowden's first electric guitar, the GL10.
In January Lowden will present its latest range and designs at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show in California, an expo which regular attracts more than 100,000 guitar enthusiasts.