20th c. Australian Importers, Distributors and Manufacturers click for more

JMG Jack Maskell Guitars Archtop Soprano Ukulele Corner
My JMG Soprano
Given that Hawaii was a major stopping off point for anyone crossing the Pacific it is not surprising that the Ukulele quickly found its way to the east coast of Australia, particularly Sydney and as it became fashionable so a number of Australian importers of Hawaiian Ukuleles came into being. Some had some longevity but most disappeared back into the forgotten pages leaving only a few branded Ukuleles to mark their existence. Once on the continent, local people have been inspired over the years to produce their own adding to the history of the Ukulele in the Southern Hemisphere


These were made in Perth, Western Australia in the 1940's and 50's. I'm told that JMG stood for Jack Maskiell Guitars and that Jack may have made Violins and Guitars in Adelaide before WWII, but after the war and having been posted to the Pacific he ended up in Perth. Here he started up again, mainly with Guitars but adding Ukuleles to his range too, and employed (possibly through some government post war therapy program), ex service-men and P.O.W.s to help build instruments. The Ukuleles are Soprano scale and have an overlapping arched back and front with little or no kerfing, a bolt on neck, plus a floating bridge and tailpiece so not using the the standard construction methods. The firm continued trading up until 1959, but I can only guess that foreign competition was the cause of the demise? The patent pending on the sound hole label was for a special second sound chamber that was suppose to amplify the sound (it didn't and these have usually been removed in the surviving examples, but maybe explains why they were built the way they were?) There is also a serial number stamped on the top of the headstock

P.O.W. Whittling Starts WA Ukulele Industry.
Boredom-killing whittling in Changi prisoner of war camp has started up an industry in Western Australia that might become a dollar-earner. Partner in JMG Industries at Jolimont Les O’Connell, filled in his spare time at Changi using a knife on coconut shells and pieces of tea chests to make a ukulele. Heartened by his success he made a carved top ukulele which musicians in the camp hailed as a topline instrument. O’Connell decided to go into the business on his liberation. This story was told today by his partner Jack Maskiell who was with O’Connell in Changi. He said that it took six months to produce the first local ukulele. From then on the ukuleles were marketed throughout Australia with great success. ‘We got a bit cheeky,’ said Maskiell. ‘We sent them to Singapore and Ceylon and now dollar-earning samples are in the U.S.. ‘We also have them in Britain.’ The firm has now produced 3000 ukuleles and 700 guitars…… Maskiell lost a leg in Changi.
(The Daily News, Perth, 16 May 1950, pg. 9)

Lyre Brand

I know nothing about this brand other than I have seen an advertisement from a Perth newspaper dating from sometime very close to 1900 for Banjo Mandolins and the Ukulele I have seen was made in the 20th c. and it was on sale in Australia. the Ukulele could be 30's Hawaiian made to 70's Chinese made; it could even be Australian made? It has a couple of familiar looking features but overall it pretty unique, if anyone does know anything please let me know?

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