The Great Piano Caper

Forty something  years ago, my family returned home from an outing, to find a piano in the porch.  As far as the very youthful me was concerned, this was just amazing.  A piano, appearing out of nowhere?  Just sitting there? In OUR porch?  Didn’t the mysterious piano benefactor know that we already had a piano?  What would we do with two pianos?

I soon realised that this wasn’t just a weird and random event.  My Mum (known here as Granny) had finally bought the piano of her dreams – a Bechstein upright, from Piggotts in Dublin, if that rings a bell with any Irish readers.  Of course, no-one had mobile phones in those days – in fact, it’s even possible that this happened before we had a phone in the house – so when the driver delivered the piano and found no-one at home, he just left it in the porch.

I’m not sure how we got it into the house (two adults plus three smallish kids hauling 250kg up two steps?), but it was installed in the hall, and a short while later, the old piano disappeared, sold to one of Granny’s students, if I remember rightly.  So the Bechstein upright was the Murphy family piano, and the piano Granny gave lessons on, from around about 1970 right up to the mid 1990s.  And then Granny bought the REAL piano of her dreams – a beautiful Bechstein baby grand.  But what to do with the old one?

No-one wanted it to leave the family and, thankfully, my brother and sister were happy for it to make the journey to Cork where it became the Greenlee family piano for almost twenty years.  And then…

We moved to Provence (for a year. Ahem.)  And our house was rented out.  And there was no way I was leaving my Mum’s beloved Bechstein behind in a rented house.  What to do?

Fortunately, Tansy was studying music in a Cork college.  They kindly allowed her to keep the piano in one of their rehearsal rooms for two years.  And then she finished her course, and the LSH and I found ourselves still in Provence.  What to do?

Well, I have some lovely friends, one of whom offered to temporarily home the piano (thanks, Denise).  Until we either returned to Ireland or bought a house in France.  The latter happened and, once we were installed, I began to look into How to Get a Piano from West Cork to the Alpes de Haute Provence.  Initially, this involved asking a friend who deals in antiques for advice and then sitting back while he made lots of enquiries!  But Mike drew a blank – all of the quotes he was given for transporting it from Cork to Provence were outlandishly expensive.

Griffins Pianos in Cork, who looked after the Bechstein for me in Cork, were fantastic, and put me in touch with a guy who would transport it from Cork to England, where Mike has a contact with a transport company, RGTS.  The Bechstein left my friend’s house on the 23rd of November and sat in Griffin’s shop for a couple of weeks.  It finally arrived in England in the middle of December, and stayed in the RGTS warehouse until there was a van coming down this way.  Last week, I got a call saying that the piano would arrive on Thursday.  Hooray!

But there was one more hurdle to negotiate.  Our living area is upstairs.  The staircase is steep and narrow, with a sharp bend at the top.  How were we going to manoeuvre a 250 kilo piano up the stairs and around the corner?  What about the balcony? Could we get a small crane in to lift it onto the balcony?  What to do, what to do?

I asked around in the village.  Climasphere have a Manitou, I learned.

For the uninitiated, this is a Manitou

For the uninitiated, this is a Manitou

We already have a contract with Climasphere; they installed the pomp à chaleur central heating system in our house and they continue to maintain it… The head honcho came around for a look.  Yes, we can do it, he said.  Lift it up on the fork of  the Manitou, hoist it over the balcony, four or five of the lads will then take it down and into the living room via the double door.  Plan A was established.

Plan B, if Plan A failed, was to manhandle the piano up the stairs, around the corner at the top and into the living room.  Plan C, if Plan A failed dramatically, was to sweep up the heap of firewood and ivory from the patio and NEVER EVER tell Granny what had happened.

And how did it go?

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Lining up the fork of the Manitou to take the piano out of the van

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Safely strapped on

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Coming in the gate

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The Manitou is too big (or our garden is too small) to drive straight down and line up with the balcony…

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…so it basically half-passed across the lawn until it was in place

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Lined up with the balcony, and getting ready to go up

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The Ascension

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Just a little further…

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We learned our balcony railing will support the weight of a man…

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…and our balcony will support the weight of seven men plus a 250 kilo piano

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HEAVE HO!

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Lowering her down as gently as they could…

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In through the doors

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Et voila.

So, thanks to all involved in the Great Piano Caper – Denise, Griffins, Mike, RGTS and Climasphere.  The Bechstein’s  history continues to unfold, thanks to you.

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16 thoughts on “The Great Piano Caper

  1. “Manitou” is Algonquin (a North East North American Indian Tribe) that means ‘powerful”. The company has been making heavy equipment like front end loaders and forklifts for years.

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    • Lol sadly not, everyone here has a nice solid Scottish name like Malcolm, or Douglas, but there is a Manitou telehandler and I always think of the tractors etc as ‘he’, whereas I’m sure the farm workers call them all ‘she’, like boats. How cool would that be to know someone called Manitou? I think I’ll suggest it to someone as a horse name.

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    • Haha I get it! Yes there was a Manitou on the dairy farm nearest us in Cork too! But yes, what a cool name… you’d have to have had hippy parents for that one!

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  2. Oh, my gosh. I had never thought of it, but a piano is the wooden equivalent of an elephant. They live forever and you don’t want to get rid of it, because,well, not every family has a pet elephant. but holy cats, they are hard to manuever and seldom fit into small houses.

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  3. I thought a ‘manitou’ was a seacow… so I asked Mr Shoes (who’s pretty much the equipment & tool guy around here), and he had never heard of a manitou either. So, I showed the picture & he said he didn’t think he’d seen one just like that here in Canada (&, he reminded me, he’s seen a lot). So then I asked him, “What would YOU call this machine then?”
    He said, “A big-ass forklift.”

    Ah well, a rose by any other name can still haul a piano onto your second floor. 😉

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    • I’ve always thought that Manitou sounds like a cross between a manatee (sea cow) and a caribou. If this thing was aquatic as well it would make sense 😉

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    • I was having nightmares the night before! My heart was pounding when it was poised over the balcony and the strap was undone… so relieved it went well.

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    • I skyped my mum last night and told her there was an old friend she’d like to see, then turned the camera on the piano 🙂 She was happy it made the journey safely, and we both said what you said – if only it could talk! I wonder about it’s history for the first 50-odd years of its life, before it came to us. And of course it started life in Germany, then Ireland, now France… who knows where it will go next!

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