The Mulagh mast harp

Mullaghmast harp

Made probably during the 17th or 18th Century

Known as the Mullaghmast or Mulagh Mast or Mulagh harp

Owned by the National Museum of Ireland, in storage (not on display). Museum registration number NMI DF:1944-249

"High Headed" design;
33 strings. Longest approx. 130cm.

This harp was in Scotland during the 19th Century. (History of this harp by Keith Sanger).

The soundbox is mrked out with a series of incised markings; diagonal lines or lozenges all over, and heart-shaped designs where we might expect soundholes. It is possible that this represents an unfinished decorative scheme, but it is not clear to me now if this is the case or not.

The metalwork (tuning pins and cheek bands) has been removed.

The shape of the neck and pillar are very interesting. The metal cheek band rises very steeply into the bass, giving very long bass strings, but then turns at the joint between neck and pillar, so that the lowest three bass strings are foreshortened, a bit like on German baroque harps, but much less obvious or extreme.

Mike Billinge has studied this harp and an interesting article suggesting it is the same instrument as played by Charles Byrne can be found on wirestrungharp.com.


Simon Chadwick