This is a list of scholarly articles relating to the
Gaelic harp. If you think I have missed any out, please let me know and
I’ll be pleased to add them to the list.
Most of these are out of print and unavailable to purchase. However they should be available to consult in a good academic or university library. Some are available at the Emporium; see links under the relevant listings.
Paul Adam and Léon Jéquier
‘L’armorial Wijnbergen (fin)’ Archives
Héraldiques Suisses LXVIII, 1954
The concluding part of this edition of the Wijnberg Armorial includes a
description and photograph of the earliest known use of an Irish harp
in heraldry. (pl. VII and p. 75)
‘Exploring Irish Harp Traditions’ The Journal of Music, March 2015
This review article discusses Mary Louise O’Donnell’s new book, Ireland’s harp, drawing particular attention to issues surrounding the early Irish harp in the 19th century. Online at journalofmusic.com.
Brian Audley ‘A newly
discovered portrait of Patrick Quin, the harper, c. 1745 - 1812’
Treoir (Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann)
Vol 26 No. 4, 1994
A black-and-white reproduction of a watercolour portrait of Quin, now
in the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and some notes about his life.
Brian Audley ‘Some Missing Items of the Bunting Collection, Rediscovered’,
Ulster Folklife vol. 49, 2004
Reproduction and description of one of a few loose sheets including jotted notes, names of harpers and portraits apparrently of Arthur O’Neill.
John Bannerman ‘The
Clàrsach and the Clàrsair’ Scottish
Studies vol. 30 no. 3, 1991
A useful overview of the instrument and the people who played it in the
Highlands of Scotland.
Secondhand at the Emporium.
Patrizio Barbieri ‘Gold- and Silver-Stringed Musical Instruments: Modern Physics vs Aristotelianism in the Scientific Revolution’ Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society vol XXXVI, 2010
Concentrating mainly on harpsichords, this article gives historic evidence for gold and silver strings in the 17th century, and then discusses practical issues and modern experiments, with contributions from Gaelic harp practicioners.
Charles D. Bell ‘Notice of
two ancient harps and targets’ Proceedings of the Society of
Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol XV, 1880-81
A useful description and history of the Queen
Mary and Lamont
harps when they first came to the Museum.
Jeffrey William Benedict ‘References to Pre-Modern Music and Performing Arts Culture in the Irish Annals: A Survey of Common Themes’ Eolas: The Journal of the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies Vol.5, 2011
Some interesting observations on musical references in early Irish texts, Includes tables of different types of musical reference including a list of harpists mentioned in the annals.
Michael Billinge and Bonnie Shaljean ‘The
Dalway or Fitzgerald harp (1621)’ Early Music, Vol XV no. 2,
An analysis of the Cloyne
harp and a reconstruction of its partially chromatic tuning,
along with an overview of other evidence for chromatic Gaelic harps.
Available from the Emporium
Michael Billinge ‘Building a reproduction of the Downhill harp (the harp of Denis Hempson) for the Irish television documentary, Banríon an Cheoil’ Bulletin of the Historic Harp Society Vol. xx no. 2, March 2010
A description of a TV film project to make a copy of the Downhill harp, and use it in concerts in Belfast and Derry.
Virginia Blankenhorn ‘Observations on the Performance of Irish Syllabic Verse’ Studia Celtica Volume 44, Number 1, January 2010.
A summary of the author’s experimental performances at the ‘Beyond Text’ seminars held in Bangor and Edinburgh in 2009, setting medieval Gaelic poetry to harp accompaniment.
Seóirse Bodley ‘Technique and structure in “Sean-Nós” singing” Éigse Cheol Tire vol 1, 1972-3
An interesting and useful overview of “Old-Style” Gaelic singing.
Barra Boydell ‘The
Iconography of the Irish harp as a National Symbol’ in Irish
Musical Studies 5 ed. P.F. Devine & H. White 1996.
An interesting and well illustrated overview of how a harp, whether
based more or less on real examples or freely imagined, has been used
as a symbol of Ireland over the centuries.
Padraig A. Breathnach ‘A
musical link between dán and amhrán’.
Ceol, Vol IV no. 4, 1981
A comparison between these two forms of Irish poetry/song, with
suggestions that the musical performance styles may be linked.
‘Harpers in Scotland’s Outlying Communities in the
Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’, online at wirestrungharp.com, 2013
Alan Bruford ‘The Sea-Divided Gaels - Some Relationships between Scottish Gaelic, Irish and English Traditional Songs’ Éigse Cheol Tire vol 1, 1972-3
A useful look at some songs and tunes which appear in English, Scottish and Irish sources, such as Cailín ó chois tSiúire mé.
Alan Bruford ‘Song and
recitation in early Ireland’ Celtica 21, 1990. Read it online (pdf)
An in-depth look at the way in which Irish poetry/song would have been
sung and accompanied by the Gaelic harp.
Andrea Budgey ‘Commeationis
et affinitatis gratia: Medieval musical relations between Scotland and
Ireland’ in R. Andrew McDonald (ed.) History, Literature and
Music of Scotland University of Toronto Press 2002
An exellent overview of many aspects of musical interaction
betweem Scotland and Ireland, centered on the writings of Gerald of
‘A Parallel between Scottish Pibroch and Early Welsh Harp Music’, Hanes Cerddoriaeth Cymru /
Welsh Music History Volume 6, Tachwedd/November 2004.
A very dense and difficult posthumous article which compares not only the Welsh figures of Robert ap Huw with the gracenotes used in piping, but also the Irish harp terms collected by Edward Bunting.Secondhand at the Emporium.
Simon Capp ‘Historic Harps -
a Makers Eye View’ Aspects of the Historic Harp 1992
Some interesting comments and observations about baroque Italian harps,
which can provide some background to the wider historical harp scene.
Available from the Emporium
Nicholas Carolan ‘Two Irish
harps in Co. Dublin’ Ceol, Vol VII, December 1984
A brief description and photographs of two previously unnoticed 18th
Nicholas Carolan ‘Philip
O’Sullivan Beare on Irish Music’ Éigse Cheol
Tíre / Irish Folk Music Studies vols. 5-6, 1986 - 2001
Extensive quotes with translations from Philip’s two early 17th century
books, including some important comments on Gaelic harps and harpers.
Nicholas Carolan, ‘The Music Manuscripts of Patrick O’Neill (1765-1832) A Preliminary Note’, An Píobaire vol. 5, no. 5, Dec. 2009, p. 18-22
A summary account of the Pádraig Ó Néill manuscripts.
Simon Chadwick, ‘The early Irish harp’ Early Music vol 36 no.4, November 2008, pp.521-532
An overview of the historic Gaelic harp in both Scotland and Ireland, including terminology, surviving instruments, repertory, technique etc. and illustrated with photographs of 7 old instruments.
Available from the Emporium
Simon Chadwick, ‘Medieval Gaelic harp setup’ Early music performer 40, Spring 2017, p.16-25
An overview of evidence for harp setup and tuning, to try and come to a solution for setting up a replica of the Trinity College or Queen Mary harp.
Free PDF download.
‘Provenance and recording of an eighteenth-century harp’
The Galpin Society Journal LXXIII, March 2020, p.85-110 & 199-201
An in-depth investigation into the history and provenance of one of the old Irish harps belonging to the National Museum of
Ireland, and a technical analysis of its design, construction and damage. Also includes analysis of a reconstructed stringing and tuning scheme.
Simon Chadwick, ‘The contest between instrument and idea: “the harp”’, in The Cultural History of Musical Instruments in Scotland, 1700-Present Day, eds. Hugh Cheape
& Vivien Williams. Birlinn, forthcoming
Chapter in a forthcoming book, discussing the place of harps in Scottish music and imagination, from literature to art, from the last
of the old tradition bearers to the ongoing revival, from the extant historic instruments in the museums to the wildest fantasies.
Hugh Cheape & Keith Sanger ‘Mock eulogy on a bad piper and his pipe’ Scottish Gaelic Studies 25, 2009
An edition of a poem by piper and harper William McMurchy, c. 1750, with some comments on the rise of the pipes and the decline of the harp.
Patrick L. Cooney ‘Drogheda Harp Society’ Journal of the Old Drogheda Society 1976 p. 38-40
A short and curious note of the harp & temperance society set up in Drogheda in the early 1840s. A teacher was brought from Belfast and there were 15 or 16 students; harps were made by a Drogheda carpenter. The quotes concentrate much more on the temperance side of things.
John Cunningham ‘A tale of two harps: issues arising from recordings of William Lawes’s harp consorts’, Early
Music Performer, 21, November 2007.
A discussion of previous recordings of the harp consorts, exploring the sonority and sound of the harps and harpists, and the difficulties
and challenges of making a chromatic Irish harp.
John Cunningham ‘some Consorts of Instruments are sweeter than others’: Further Light on the Harp of William Lawes’s Harp Consorts’ Galpin Society Journal LXI, 2008, p.147-176
This article lists and compares the notes required to play each of the pieces in Lawes’s early 17th century compositions, and suggests how a harp to play them might be tuned. There is also some discussion of the nature of the sources, and of what kind of harp was intended - this author favouring a chromatic Irish harp.
Seán Donnelly ‘Feaghan
Geleash’ Ceol Tíre 25, 1984
Some background to the “tuning prelude” collected by Edward Bunting from
Denis O’Hampsey. Online at ITMA
Seán Donnelly ‘An
Irish harper in the Royal Musick’ Ceol, Vol VI no. 2, April
A brief look at the career of Cormac MacDermott
Seán Donnelly ‘The
Irish harp in England 1590-1690’ Ceol, Vol VII, December 1984
An overview of the historical evidence for the use of the Gaelic harp
in England in the 17th century.
Seán Donnelly ‘An
Irish harper and composer - Cormac MacDermott (?-1618)’ Ceol
vol VIII , July 1986
A detailed look at Cormac‘s life, including musical examples.
Seán Donnelly ‘Cranngha(i)l
“a sound or effect in music”’ Celtica 22, 1991
Read it online
A short article on a musical term, used for a certian type of ornament by Irish pipers.
Seán Donnelly ‘An Eighteenth century harp medley’ Ceol na hÉireann / Irish Music 1, 1993
A series of brief notices on diverse subjects, with interesting background info illuminating what is usually known about them:
I. Cormack O’Kelly, the maker of the Downhill harp (1702)
II. Carolan’s son and the Carolan collection of 1748
III. Parson Sterling (1706-62) and ‘The priest of Lurgan’
IV. Irish harpers in Dublin newspapers (1757-8)
V. The Granard harp balls (1784-6)
VI. An abortive harp school (1793)
Seán Donnelly ‘An
Eighteenth-Century minister and piper’ Ulster Folklife, Vol
A look at Edward Sterling (1706-62), his music and associates including
Arthur O’Neill and other harpers.
Seán Donnelly ‘A
Cork Musician at the Early Stuart Court: Daniel Duff O’Cahill (c. 1580
- c.1660), “The Queen’s Harper”’ Journal of the Cork
Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol 105, 2000
This biography of Daniel Duff O’Cahill also summarises and updates
Seán’s work on the Irish harp in England and discusses the
chromatic Cloyne harp and its background.
Sean Donnelly ‘The Captain
and the Harper - Two Mayo Brothers of Elizabethan Times’
Cathair na Mart,
Journal of the Westport Historical Society No. 23, 2003
An account of the exploits of harper Richard Barret in Elizabethan high
Seán Donnelly ‘The
Famousest Man in the World for the Irish Harp’ Dublin
Historical Record vol LVII No. 1 Spring 2004
An investigation into the performances of Mr. Murphy in 18th century
Dublin, with some comments on links between Gaelic and classical music.
Seán Donnelly ‘The ‘Whip of Dunboyne’ and other Irish dance tunes from Tudor and Stuart Leinster’ Ossory, Laois & Leinster 3, 2008
A superb article ostensibly about a late 16th/early 17th century dance tune, but with sweeping context including many fascinating details of early Irish harps in Ireland and England.
Seán Donnelly, ‘A Scottish Gaelic piping term in a poem to the MacDonalds of Antrim’, Ulster Folklife 52, 2008
A detailed commentary on a 16th century poem, discussing a number of Gaelic musical terms in relation to harp and bagpipe traditions.
Paul Dooley, ‘Reconstructing the medieval Irish harp’, Galpin Society Journal LXVII, 2014
A long and technical look at the Trinity College harp’s geometry and stringing, based on measurements and photos of the harp, and calculations of wire strength and performance. An appendix can be downloaded from the Galpin Society website, and the set of CAD models referred to in the text can be downloaded from Paul Dooley’s website.
Paul Dooley, ‘The harp in the time of Giraldus’ in Harp studies, ed. Sandra Joyce & Helen Lawlor, Four Courts, Dublin, 2016 p.32-56
A broad overview of some evidence for harps in Wales, Scotland and Ireland around the 12th century, with some ideas as to what the instruments and the music may have been like. Available from the Emporium.
John Downing, ‘An Analysis of Irish harp Scaling’, comm 112, FOMRHI Quarterly no. 68, July 1992, p.24-36
An analysis of the string lengths of various extant old Irish harps. The author considers that the old Gaelic harps were strung chromatically, and the data is not taken from measurements, so its value is limited. Read online at www.fomrhi.org
James F. Dunne and Lucy McCaffrey ‘O’Cahan,
the Blind Harper of Johnston Hall’ Folk Harp Journal 47, Dec
An interesting investigation into a harper, John Kain, who went out to
America in 1766. The authors suggest that this is the same person as
Michael Keane whose emigration is described in the memoirs of Arthur O’Neill.
Máire Egan ‘Reflections
on Ogham and the Irish harp’ Éigse, Vol. XIX part
A response to Sean O’Boyle’s 1980 book Ogam the poets’ secret (which is Available from the Emporium),
article outlines various European musical backgrounds to the tuning of
the Gaelic harp.
Robert Evans ‘A copy of the
Downhill harp’ Galpin Society Journal no. 50, 1997
An account of the constrution of Bob Evans’ and Guy Flockhart’s
replicas of Denis O’Hampsey’s Downhill
G Ewart & J Triscott, ‘Archaeological excavations at Castle Sween, Knapdale, Argyll & Bute, 1989-90’ Proc Soc Antiq Scot 126, 1996
includes a small plain medieval-style harp tuning pin as well as a fragment of bronze wire.
Henry George Farmer, ‘Some Notes on the Irish Harp’, Music and Letters, vol. XXIV, April 1943
Excerpts from John Bell’s notebook with traditions reported by harper Patrick Byrne.
Fanny Feehan ‘Suggested
links between Eastern and Celtic music’ in The Celtic
Conciousness ed. R. O’Driscoll, 1981.
Only suggestions are presented but there are some interesting ideas and
personal observations here.
William Gillies ‘Music and Gaelic Strict-metre Poetry’ Studia Celtica Volume 44, Number 1, January 2010.
A very useful and interesting discussion of how the medieval syllabic poetry may have been performed with harp accompaniment, with many pointers and ideas for future work in this field.
Robert Hadaway ‘A knot of
harp strings’ Early Music, Vol. 11 no. 1, January 1983.
A discussion of the tunings of Gaelic harps, with especial reference to
chromatic tunings in the 17th century, evidenced by the Praetorius
engraving and the Cloyne
harp. See also Ann Buckley’s letter in vol. 11 no. 3 , July
1983, and Robert Hadaway’s response in vol. 11 no. 4, October 1983.
Available from the Emporium
Janet Harbison ‘The Legacy
of the Belfast Harpers’ Festival, 1792’ Ulster Folklife vol.
Although written from the point of view of a lever harp player in the
contemporary neo-Irish harp tradition, this article is very interesting
in the way it contrasts the two diferent legacies of the 1792 meeting, and Bunting’s work: the
romantic music of his published works and Moore’s Irish Melodies and
the unpublished manuscript collections. Includes rare facsimiles of
pages from Bunting’s manuscripts.
Sally Harper ‘So how many
Irishmen went to Glyn Achlach? Early accounts of the formation of Cerdd
Dant’ Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 42, Winter 2001.
An investigation into the semi-mythical Irish origins of Welsh Cerdd
Dant harp music.
Available from the Emporium
Ruth-Ann M. Harris & Sally K. Sommers Smith ‘The eagle and the harp: the enterprising Byrne brothers of County Monaghan’ Irish Studies Review, vol 18, no. 2, May 2010
An overview of the lives and careers of Patrick Byrne and his brother Christopher, including excerpts from the latter’s letters.
Ann and Charlie
Heymann ‘Cláirseach: the lore of the
Irish harp’ Éire-Ireland XXVI no.3, fall 1991
A concise but full exposition of Ann and Charlie’s theories regarding
the sacred and mystical symbolism of the Gaelic harp’s construction,
tuning and playing. Secondhand at the Emporium.
Ann and Charlie
Heymann ‘Strings of Gold’ The
Historical Harp Society Journal, Vol. XIII no.3, Summer 2003, pps.
Ann and Charlie set out the historical evidence and the practical need
for experiments with precious metal strings in the bass of low-headed
Gaelic harps. Read the article online.
Ann Heymann, ‘Three iconic Gaelic harp pieces’ in Harp studies, ed. Sandra Joyce & Helen Lawlor, Four Courts, Dublin, 2016 p.184-208
This important paper discusses tunes collected from Denis O’Hampsey in the 1790s, with facsimiles of Edward Bunting’s manuscripts, commentary, and speculation on origianl performance issues.
Available from the Emporium.
Tim Hobrough ‘A Description of the Early “Irish Harp”’, comm 104, Fellowship of Makers and Restorers of Historical Instruments Bulletin and Communications no. 10, January 1978, pp.43-48
A useful summary of the physical and structural characteristics of early Gaelic harps; mentions the use of silver wire strings. Read online at www.fomrhi.org
Tim Hobrough ‘Notes on European harps’, comm 184, FOMRHI Quarterly no. 14, January 1979, pp.47-57
Illustrated overview of the different types of harps used in Europe from earliest times to the 20th century. Mentions toggle marks inside the Lamont harp soundbox. Read online at www.fomrhi.org
Peter Holman ‘The Harp in
Stuart England - New light on William Lawes’s Harp Consorts’
Early Music, Vol XV no. 2, May 1987
A strong argument that William Lawes was writing for a chromatic Gaelic
harp, and some notes on other evidence for the use of the Gaelic harp
in England. See also Layton Ring’s letter in vol. XV no.4, November
Occasionally Available from the Emporium
‘A Drogheda Harp: Instrument and Icon’, History Ireland Volume 21 issue 1, January-February 2013, p.34-37
A brief account of the 19th century Irish Harp Society in Drogheda, and an instrument apparently built or finished by one of the students, discovered in private hands in Drogheda.
Sandra Joyce ‘An
Introduction to O’Carolan’s Music in Eighteenth-Century Printed
Collections’ in Irish Musical Studies 4 ed. P.F. Devine
& H. White 1996.
This article includes some discussion of the basses in some of the
printed editions, and considers whether or not they may reflect
original harp basses. Includes a number of facsimile pages.
J.K. Knight, ‘Excavations at Montgomery Castle’, Archaeologia Cambrensis: Part I in vol CXLI (1992), part II in vol CXLII (1993) and part III in vol CXLIII (1994).
A drawing and description of one of the set of 24 Gaelic harp tuning pins excavated from mid-17th century layers in the castle, plus a commentary by Graeme Lawson.
Sara C Lanier ‘"It is
new-strung and shan’t be heard": nationalism and memory in the Irish
harp tradition’ in British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Vol.
An intriguing look at the way in which the historical wire-strung Irish
harp, and its music collected by Edward Bunting, is treated as a
symbol, and the way in which this clashes with attempts to revive it as
a performing musical instrument. Read an extract.
Andrew Lawrence-King, Katerina Antonenko & Natalia O’Shea, ‘The historical Irish harp: myths demystified’, Studia Celto-Slavica 7, 2015
This article attempts to bust some Irish harp myths, addressing issues in the scholarship and politics of the current early Irish harp revival scene
Graeme Lawson, ‘Musical tuning peg from Edinburgh Castle and the
stringing of medieval harps’. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of
Scotland Vol 146, 2016, pp. 167-180.
Re-assessment of a very small bone tuning pin excavated in 1988-91. The article discusses microscopic analysis
of wear on the pin, and materials anaylsis of stains from where the string was wrapped around, to conclude that it was
from a small wire-strung instrument.
Karen Loomis, David Caldwell, Jim Tate, Ticca Ogilvie, & Edwin J. R. van Beek, ‘The Lamont and Queen Mary Harps’. Galpin Society Journal LXV, March 2012.
Description and commentary on recent work on the two old Scottish clarsachs, with plenty of cross-sections and transparent rendered images from the CT scans of the two harps, information from visual inspection and X-ray fluorescence, and contour maps of the soundboard thicknesses. A huge amount of new information about the design and construction of two of the most important old Gaelic harps. Available from the Emporium, or read online at academia.edu.
Karen Loomis, Ticca Ogilvie and Lore Troalen, ‘Reidentifying the wood of the Queen Mary and
Lamont harps’, Early Music November 2015
This technical paper details the identification of the soundbox wood of the Queen Mary and Lamont harp. SEM closeup photos of the timber samples are labelled and described, allowing the diagnostic features used for the ID to be followed and understood. The old 1960s identification of hornbeam is challenged and replaced by a new conclusive ID of willow. The status of wood identifications for the other components of these two harps, and for the other early Gaelic harps is also discussed. Read online: advance access via em.oxfordjournals.org.
Terence McCaughey ‘The
Performing of Dán’ Eriu, Vol XXXV, 1984
An investigation into how old Gaelic poetry may have been performed,
based on percieved similarities and differences from the living
tradition. Harp accompaniment is mentioned briefly.
Aiken McClelland ‘The Irish
Harp Society’ Ulster Folklife, Vol 21, 1975
A detailed look at the Irish Harp Society of Belfast, and the people
involved with it between 1808 and 1840. Contains some interesting
quotes from accounts, correspondence and minute-books.
Christopher Macklin ‘Approaches to the use of iconography in historical reconstruction, and
the curious case of Renaissance Welsh harp technique’ Early
Vol. 35, No. 2, May 2007
Appears to be trying to use raw statistics to interpret iconography,
has many errors of fact and methodological problems.
Raghnall MacilleDhuibh ‘A Game of Chinese Whispers’, West Highland Free Press c. June 2002
This newspaper column by Ronald Black investigates the song Cailín ó Chois t-Siúir Mé, tracing its words from Shakespeare to Gaelic waulking songs via some Irish poems. A very solid account of an interesting and otherwise neglected area. Unfortunately (as it is a newspaper column) there are no references or footnotes.
Cuthbert McGrath ‘Two
Skilful Musicians’ Eigse 7, 1953-5
Poems on Eoghan Ó hAllmhuráin and
Alf MacLochlainn, ‘Thomas O’Shea, a Kerry harper’, Journal of the Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol.3, 1970
A brief note of this 18th century Irish harper, who is briefly mentioned by Bunting in 1840 (p.78) including a complete transcript of a broadside written and published by him.
Colette Moloney ‘Style and
Repertoire in the Gaelic Harp Tradition: Evidence from the Bunting
Manuscripts and Prints’ in Irish Musical Studies 4 ed. P.F.
Devine & H. White 1996.
This article presents much the same material as is given in greater
depth in the introduction of her 2000 ‘Introduction and
Colette Moloney ‘Edward Bunting as a collector of Irish music and song’
in Harp studies, ed. Sandra Joyce & Helen Lawlor, Four Courts, Dublin, 2016
A handy overview of Bunting’s collecting activity.
Available from the Emporium.
Michael Newton and Hugh Cheape ‘The Keening of Women and the Roar of the Pipe: From Clàrsach to Bagpipe, ca 1600-1782’ Ars Lyrica 17, 2008
An interesting look at how the clarsach gave up its status to the pipes, with detailed consideration of the evidence from Gaelic poetry.
Colm O Baoill ‘Some Irish
Harpers in Scotland’ Transactions of the Gaelic Society of
Inverness 47, 1970-72, p.143-171
A look at the lives of Ruairí Dall O Catháin,
Thomas O Connellan, Echlin O Catháin, and Denis O Hampsey.
Colm Ó Baoill ‘Alexander Grant, 4th of Shewglie’ The Society of West Highland and Island Notes and Queries
No. 23, March 1984.
A reply to Keith Sanger’s article of the previous year including details of poems and manuscripts.
Colm Ó Baoill ‘Moving
in Gaelic musical circles - the root lu- in music terminology’
Scottish Gaelic Studies 19, 1999
A technical discussion of words built on lu mostly Gaelic pipe terms
but also including barrluth, casluth and glasluth from Bunting’s list
of Irish harp terms.
Colm Ó Baoill ‘Highland Harpers and their Patrons’ in James Porter (ed.) Defining Strains: The Musical Life of Scots in the Seventeenth Century. Studies in the History and Culture of Scotland 2, Peter Lang, Berne, 2007
An investigation of the hereditary harpers, and the ssocial structures in which harpers worked. Part of a book of very useful essays. Available from the Emporium.
Colm Ó Baoill ‘Two Irish Harpers in Scotland’ in James Porter (ed.) Defining Strains: The Musical Life of Scots in the Seventeenth Century. Studies in the History and Culture of Scotland 2, Peter Lang, Berne, 2007
A revised version of the first half of Colm’s 1970-2 paper, with biographical details of Ruaidhrí Dall Ó Catháin and Thomas Connellan. Part of a book of very useful essays. Available from the Emporium.
Diarmaid Ó Catháin
‘Revd Charles Bunworth of Buttevant, Patron of Harpers
and Poets’ Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological
Society 102, 1997
An interesting article about the harper Bunworth, including a photo of his harp and of his
house. After his death his servants notoriously burnt his extensive
collection of early Irish harps for firewood. Available from the Emporium.
Mary Louise O’Donnell ‘Owen Lloyd: De-Anglicizing of the Irish Harp’
Éire-Ireland48, vols 3 & 4, Fall 2013
This article starts rather offputtingly with some wooly jargon but settles down into a quite straightforward account of the important position of Owen Lloyd in the Irish harp revival in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is full of useful and interesting information about his life, training, and music, and his importance in the wider Gaelic language and cultural revival.
Mary Louise O’Donnell ‘The Bengal Subscription: patriotism, patronage and the perpetuation of the Irish harp tradition in the early 19th century’ in Harp studies, ed. Sandra Joyce & Helen Lawlor, Four Courts, Dublin, 2016, p.75-89
Some interesting research and commentary on the activities of the second Belfast harp society from 1819 to 1839.
Available from the Emporium.
Madagáin ‘Irish vocal music of lament and
syllabic verse’ in The Celtic Conciousness ed. R.
A detailed investigation into the different types of funereal music.
Réamonn Ó Muirí
‘A 1798 Court Martial With Reference to Arthur O’Neill, Harper’
Seanchas Ard Mhacha Vol 12, No. 2, 1987
The full text, with commentary, of a court case brought by Arthur O’Neill’s brother against the captain of a group of soldiers who burnt the brother’s house and killed his wife. Arthur’s harp and son were in the house and are mentioned in the testimonies.
John H. Pierse ‘Nicholas
Dall Pierse of Co. Kerry, Harper’ Journal of the Kerry
Archaeological and Historical Society No. 6, 1973.
A biography of the 17th century harper Nicholas Pierce, who was
credited with “compleating said Instrument with more wires than ever
before” this article also looks at the development of the Irish harp
and discusses possible interpretations of the Cloyne fragments.
Joan N Radner ‘“Men will
die”: Poets, Harpers and Women in Early Irish Literature’ in
A. T. E. Matonis and Daniel F.Melia (eds), Celtic Language, Celtic
Culture California 1990
A discussion of the Irish origin-myths of poetry and harping, focussing on the female connections of these arts in contrast to others.
Joan Rimmer ‘James Talbot’s
manuscript: VI. Harps’ Galpin Society Journal no. 16, 1963
An annotated transcription of Talbot’s notebook of c. 1690, including
his observations and measurements of at least two Gaelic harps.
Joan Rimmer ‘The morphology
of the Irish harp’ Galpin Society Journal no. 17, 1964
This article sets out Joan’s classification of the surviving
instruments, and includes other observations as well as detailed
measurements of the Lamont,
Joan Rimmer ‘Patronage,
style and structure in the music attributed to Turlough Carolan’
Early Music, Vol XV no. 2, May 1987
This article traces the people and musical influences behind some of
Carolan’s compositions, with musical examples.
Occasionally available from the Emporium
Joan Rimmer ‘Harp repertoire in Eighteenth-century Ireland: perceptions, misconceptions and reworkings’ in M. van Schaik (ed), Aspects of the historical harp: proceedings of the International Historical Harp Symposium, Utrecht 1992. STIMU, Utrecht, 1994
A discussion of various source notations for 18th century Irish harp music, with a hard-to-follow commentary suggesting alternative ways of understanding this music, with contributions from Breandán Ó Madagáin.
Joan Rimmer ‘Harp function
in Irish eulogy and complaint - two late examples’ Galpin
Society Journal no. 50, 1997
An interesting but unconvincing attempt to set words to music from
early printed and manuscript sources, based on the idea that the
measure and barlines of the tunes are later distortions, and that they
should be understood as a free song interspersed with harp melismas.
Alasdair Ross ‘“Harps of
Their Owne Sorte”? A
Reassessment of Pictish Chordophone Depictions’ Cambrian
Studies 36, Winter 1998
This article is an interesting reconsideration of the material covered
in the second chapter of Keith Sanger and Alison Kinnaird’s 1992 book
Tree of Strings but it ranges much more widely to consider the
international organological and art-historical as well as the local
historical contexts for early medieval stone sculptures of stringed
instruments in Scotland, with important implications for our
understanding of the origins of the Gaelic harp.
Keith Sanger ‘An attempt to
reintroduce the Highland harp 1784-1786’ Notes and Queries of
the Society of West Highland and Island Historical Research no. XVII,
Discussion of the letters and accounts of the Highland Society of
Keith Sanger ‘Alexander Grant, 4th of Shewglie’ The Society of West Highland and Island Notes and Queries
No. 20, March 1983.
Some notes on the life of this piper, fiddler and harper. See also Colm Ó Baoill’s reply in no. 23, March 1984.
Keith Sanger ‘The McShannons
of Kintyre: Harpers to Tacksmen’ The Scottish Genealogist
vol 38 no 3, Sept 1991 (originally published in the Kintyre Magazine)
Details of the 16th and 17th century genealogy and landholdings of this
family of hereditary harpers.
Keith Sanger ‘An Irish
harper in an English graveyard?’ Irish Music, Vol. 2 1994
A photograph and description of the grave-slab at Heysham, and some
thoughts on its background.
Keith Sanger ‘Elouis, The
Edinburgh Years’ Unpublished typescript, 1996 (since published online, undated, at wirestrungharp.com)
Elois was a pedal harp teacher, who played on the Queen Mary Harp when
it was re-strung for the Highland Society in 1805. This article
details his time living and working in Edinburgh.
Keith Sanger ‘From Taynish
to West Meath - a musical link?’ West Highland Notes and
Queries series 3 no. 4 August 2002
A trail of people, families and cultural contacts between Scotland and
Keith Sanger ‘For the
Scottes Musicke’ Kilt & Harp Scottish harp Society
of America, Summer 2009
A few historical notes on the early 17th century Scottish harper Malcolm Groat, aparrently from Caithness, who was employed in London at the Royal court.
Keith Sanger and Alison Kinnaird, ‘Harps in Scotland’, in John Beech, Owen Hand, Fiona MacDonald, Mark A. Mulhern, and Jeremy Weston (eds)
Scottish Life and Society, A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, Volume 10, Oral Literature and Performance Culture
published by John Donald in association with the European Ethnological Research Centre and National Museums Scotland, 2007
This chapter in a very useful volume summarises the outline of their book "Tree of Strings" with some new developments and discoveries added in. Available from the Emporium.
Keith Sanger, ‘Final Chords’ West Highland Notes and Queries Series 3, No. 14, December 2009
A useful overview of the decline and extinction of the Gaelic harp tradition in Scotland in the late 17th and early 18th century.
William Sayers ‘The Bound
and the Binding: The Lyre in Early Ireland’ in G. W. MacLennan
(ed), Proceedings of the first North American Congress of Celtic
Studies Ottawa 1998
Súilleabháin and Seán Donnelly
‘“Music has ended”: the death of a harper’
Celtica, Vol 22, 1991 Read it online (pdf)
Some discussion of a poem, a lament for Conchubar Mac Conghalaigh,
early 17th century harper to Domhnall Ó
Derick S Thomson ‘The Harlaw
Brosnachadh’ Celtic Studies: Essays in memory of Angus
Matheson (1912 - 1962). Routledge & Kegan paul, 1968
An edition of the 15th century poem, which may be connected with the
various pipe and harp tunes of the same name.
Gráinne Yeats ‘Some
thoughts on Irish harp music’ Ceol, Vol IV no. 2, December
Some interesting and thoughtful notes on the nature of the old Gaelic
harp music and suggestions (from the very start of the revival) on how
it could be played by modern harpers. Includes some musical examples.
Gráinne Yeats ‘The
Rediscovery of Carolan’ in Integrating Tradition: The
Achievement of Seán O Riada ed. Bernard Harris &
Grattan Freyer, Irish Humanities Center & Keohanes, 1981
This, a single chapter in a book celebrating Seán’s life,
covers some similar ground to Gráinne’s web article The Rediscovery of Carolan but
also contains other material on Seán O Riada and the Gaelic
Many thanks to Keith Sanger and Seán Donnelly
who have pointed out many of these articles to me.
Ordering instructions: Gaelic harp articles, books, and CDs available at the Emporium.
I also will buy secondhand copies of many of these
items. Contact me with details of what you have and we can discuss