The Guitars of Peter Hammill
Peter Hammill was interviewed for the July 2005 edition of Guitar & Bass magazine.
Picture Whilst not necessarily Peter Hammill's first guitar but almost certainly the first to be given the name "Meurglys" was a 1959 black Hagstrom ED46 DeLuxe.
In 1978, Colin Robinson of the band Big Block 454, who are based in Manchester, bought a similar guitar in that city which could easily have been the one. Colin, shown in the picture with the guitar, describes it as "black with white scratchplate and white perspex fretboard". Shortly after acquiring the guitar, Colin approached Peter for verification that this was indeed "Meurglys I".
Peter replied in writing:
Dear Colin,
Thanks very much for your letter. The guitar certainly sounds as though it might have been mine; unfortunately, there's no way of being fully sure, since I've no idea about the precise model or serial number. However, it was sold in Manchester, and therefore likely to have remained more-or-less in its environs, and it did have monstrous frets! As for the machine head, i) I can't remember & ii) this may have been put on subsequent to my ownership. All probabilities, though, point to this being the one, and I'm glad it's got a good home!
This guitar, incidentally, is (if it is) Meurglys I - perhaps you can confirm its identity by calling it such next time you take it for a walk, and see if it responds!!
Peter Hammill
We now know that Colin's guitar is not the Van der Graaf Generator one. The original was probably used on the Lost Demo tape.

It appears that Brian Ferry of Roxy Music also used a Hagstrom ED46. He appears on the inside cover of "For Your Pleasure", their second album, with a blue glitter model (see picture on the right).

Picture The name "Meurglys" comes from a 12th Century French poem entitled "Le Chanson de Roland ou de Ronceveaux", later known simply as "Le Chanson de Roland" or "The Song of Roland", originally written in Old French. The poem was first published in 1837, in Paris, by Francisque Michel, although executed, it is believed, between 1130 and 1170. There are several surviving versions and many interpretations, into both modern French and English. It is believed to be set around the time of the first crusade and appears to be a combination of both fact and fiction. Without going into the story in detail, "Meurglys" is the name of the sword belonging to Ganelon, Roland's stepfather and enemy. Ganelon is eventually tried as a traitor and executed:
They have four war-horses brought forward;
Then they bind him by his hands and feet.
The horses are mettlesome and swift;
Four servants goad them on
Towards a stream which flows through a field.
Ganelon was given over to total perdition.
All his ligaments are stretched taut
And he is torn limb from limb;
His clear blood spills out on to the green grass.
Ganelon died a traitor's death.
A man betrays another has no right to boast of it.

There appear to be just two references to the sword, the first early in the story
when Ganelon prepares for his trip to meet King Marsile:

Count Ganelon goes to his lodging.
He begins to put on his armour,
The finest at his disposal.
Spurs of gold are fixed upon his feet,
At his side he girds his sword, Murgleis,
And he mounted his warhorse, Tachebrun;

and the second a little later when he agrees to betray Roland:

Marsile said: 'Why should we discuss this further?
Advice is not worthy in which one ...
You will swear to me that you will betray Roland.'
Ganelon replies: 'Let it be as you please.'
On the relics in his sword Murgleis
He swore the treason and committed his crime.

(Translation by Glyn Burgess)

The story of Roland is also the subject of the Van der Graaf Generator song "Ronceveaux" which appears on Time Vaults.
Picture According to Peter Hammill Meurglys II was a "Vox Teardrop with built in fuzz and fx, covered in rabbit fur"!
In fact this guitar (shown on left) is mentioned in an article by Daviona Burman that appeared in the Manchester Independent in May 1968: "The Generator bought a new 120 Watt amplifier and a Vox guitar which they call Meurglys, after Ganelon's sword in "Roland", which is covered with fur so that it looks like a flying squirrel with strings attached".
Now for a small amount of confusion. I believe the above account to be correct and that these two guitars were indeed Meurglys One and Meurglys Two. I should perhaps add that Peter also sold the Vox some time ago so neither of these guitars are in his possession. It has been reported though, in an interview with David Jackson, that the name Meurglys II was in fact given to an ice blue Stratocaster that Peter owned in the Seventies and was stolen along with other band gear in Italy.
The theft took place in Rome during the night of the 1st December 1975 and whilst some of the equipment was recovered, the guitar remains missing. This incident greatly upset Peter Hammill as he was very attached to that guitar. The Strat appears on the covers of both Nadir's Big Chance and Godbluff. Peter says that the name Meurglys was not given to the Strat but can't remember why. However, it is believed that this was because the guitar belonged to Rikki Nadir. "An ice-blue Stratocaster spinning through space; Nadir crashing his way through distorted three-chord wonders". Picture
MEURGLYS III, The Songwriter's Guild
Picture I'm uncertain when Peter bought this guitar, a black Guild that he still owns, but it came to prominence after the loss of the ice blue Stratocaster and appears in many pictures. It is also very prominent on the cover of the album Over (shown right). The picture on the left was taken in Oxford (England) in 1976.
It is also the subject of a song on World Record:
Meurglys III, he's my friend,
the only one that I can trust
to let it be without pretence
   - there's no-one else.
It's killing me, but in the end
there's no-one else I know is true:
there's none in all the masks of men.
   There's nothing else
   but my guitar...
   I suppose he'll have to do.

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