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‘Swiped’: Local Musician Alleges 2 Harvard Students Attempted to Steal Fiddle

The Burren, an Irish pub in Somerville, often hosts live performers. A performer said his fiddle was nearly stolen by two Harvard students last week.
The Burren, an Irish pub in Somerville, often hosts live performers. A performer said his fiddle was nearly stolen by two Harvard students last week. By A. Skye Schmiegelow

Local musician Calum T. Bell pressed charges against two Harvard students for the attempted theft of his fiddle from an Irish pub in Somerville Thursday night.

Bell alleged that after his performance at The Burren, two students attempted to leave the pub with his instrument under their coats. He filed a criminal complaint against the students with the Somerville Police Department on Monday.

A video obtained by The Crimson showed a violin bow falling out of one of the student’s coats as they attempted to leave the Irish pub in an Uber. A second video showed the other student attempting to explain why they left the bar with the fiddle.

“We brought a fake fiddle to the club,” the student said. “We call it our slanjo.”

Megan D. Finch, who witnessed the attempted theft, called the students’ excuse “laughable.”

“Clearly, they just swiped the fiddle off of the table,” Finch said. “She stole the fiddle, and her friend had the bow under her jacket.”

Bell, who has played the fiddle all his life, said that his instrument is “priceless.”

“No amount of money represents what these instruments are,” he said. “It’s not about the money — I have such a connection with my violin.”

“This is theft of someone’s absolute livelihood,” Bell added.

The students — one of whom is an active Crimson editor — did not respond to requests for comment. Calum said that after the incident, one of the students contacted him and apologized.

“God only knows whether it was sincere or not,” he said.

Cormac Crummey, an Irish musician who filmed the encounter, said that he had “never seen anything like it.”

Crummey said that when he first witnessed the event, he thought that the students were possibly “professional pickpockets.”

“It just turned out they were just college girls thinking they were funny and not really understanding the severity of what they were doing,” he said.

Bell said that in retrospect, he should have called the police on the students on Thursday night after the incident, but that in the moment he was “shaking” and “wasn’t really in my right mind.”

According to Finch, bar employees wanted to call the police but since Bell managed to recover his fiddle, the manager ultimately decided to not contact authorities. The Burren’s management declined to comment on Finch’s account.

Bell wrote in his report to the Somerville Police Department that the value of his fiddle was approximately $2,500-$3,045.

“Four people have gotten their violins stolen this year that I know,” Bell said. “It happens all the time — and this is why I’m pressing charges.”

“I’m very so unbelievably fortunate that they didn’t actually get away with it,” he added. “But I owe it to the people who aren’t as fortunate that they are held responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”

Following the incident, Bell encouraged his followers on Facebook to complain about their behavior to the Harvard University Police Department.

HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote that the incident is not an HUPD investigation, and declined to comment on the incident.

Bell said he believes Harvard should discipline the students for their actions.

“I don’t think that this behavior obviously should be tolerated by Harvard,” Bell said. “I really think they should be expelled.”

College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo declined to comment.

Crummey said that he and other members of the “traditional Irish community” sent emails to Harvard about the incident to support Bell and to “raise awareness” about fiddle theft.

“An example has to be made of this, he said. “People can’t just go and lift someone’s livelihood and potentially damage it.”

“It happened in one of the most prestigious colleges in the world — so if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere,” he added. “There should be more of a respect towards musicians and their instruments and their livelihood.”

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at Follow her on X @sallyedwards04 or on Threads @sally_edwards06.

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at Follow her on X @asherjmont or on Threads @asher_montgomery.

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