On 1 January 1970 (an auspicious date for UNIX people), I was staying with a friend in
Worcester. His parents showed me an interesting flute, in good playable condition, and when I
showed I could play it and liked it, they gave it to me. I later found more things about it: a
year later I got a copy of Rockstro's ``The flute'', in which I read:
646. Siccama's Patent Flutes. Abel Siccama was a teacher of languages in London, and
an amateur flute-player of very moderate capabilities. About the year 1842 he conceived the
unfortunate idea that he was destined to be the inventor of a new flute that should eclipse
everything that had been made or imagined. Having become imbued with this notion, he set to
work with all the vigour of an energetic nature. He had little knowledge of the flute and
less inventive genius, but he determined to bring out a flute associated with his name and he
Concerning the origin of this flue Mr. Carte kindly write to me as follows: ``There is an
entry in my diary on the twenty-fifth of May, 1842, saying that I went to Siccama to see the
model of his new flute. Another entry, on the twenty-eighth, mentions Chittenden's coming to
me about it. It was he who went between us. A third entry, on the thirtieth of the same
month, relates to what passed between Rudall, Rose and myself on the subject. On the second
of June I find that Siccama met Rudall and Rose at my house, and, after making the necessary
promise of secrecy, they were shown the model, and talked over the matter, which ended in
their not thinking it worth future consideration. I was pleased with the idea, but saw
plainly that the thing would not do as it was. Siccama urged me to consider it, and I took
the flute with me to Newcastle, but shortly after returned it to him at his desire. So much
for the date of Siccama's first abortion.''
649 In addition to the ordinary eight keys, the diatonic flute has an open key over
the a hole, and a similar key over the e hole. Some the years afterwards, Siccama applied a
contrivance for improving the fork c" which, however, was of little use.
652 Although the errors and irregularities of the diatonic flute were numerous and
glaring, Siccama avoided the mistake of placing the holes generally too far apart,
consequently the upper and lower notes of the first and second octave were fairly well in
tune with each other, but the third octave was almost irredeemably bad.
My flute has the serial number 1254, which appears to make it one of the later models. It
has the ``contrivance for improving the fork c"'', which apparently was not very common.
Nevertheless, it has a number of keys mounted in wooden saddles, an earlier technology, though
earlier Siccama instruments appear to have had all keys mounted on pillars.
Unfortunately, it has suffered in the intervening time. Only a couple of years after I got
it, I managed to break the Bb key saddle off. More recently, one of the rings got bent, so it
is currently unplayable. Here are some photos: