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Northern Ireland firm behind UK's priciest guitar began as child's hobby

By Rachel Martin

A Co Down guitar-maker has unveiled the UK's most expensive guitar, as part of plans to celebrate the creation of its 20,000th instrument.

George Lowden's first "guitar" had fishing lines for strings - but now, more than 50 years later, his instruments are known for their quality and have been played by artists including Eric Clapton, Ed Sheeran, Co Down singer-songwriter Foy Vance and Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody.

Mr Lowden has now created the Genesis guitar to mark the production milestone - and it's already been sold to a buyer from Northern Ireland.

Lowden Guitars hand-makes every guitar in its Downpatrick factory and now employs 29 people.

George made his first guitar aged 10 in 1961 with the help of his father, a boat builder in Groomsport.

He was building electric guitars by the age of 18, and in 1974, he decided to turn his hobby into a business.

By 1986, the firm was making around 500 guitars a year. Three years ago, investment by the Growth Loan Fund allowed the company to take on 13 new staff members and ramp up its production.

Rhona Barbour, senior portfolio manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners, said: "Since we provided funding to Lowden Guitars in 2013, the business has subsequently grown its market presence and created 13 highly skilled jobs. George and his team place an emphasis on research and development and are using a blend of traditional and cutting edge techniques to craft stunning guitars.

"The business demonstrates potential for further growth and is one of the Growth Loan Fund's greatest success stories."

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