The inside of the forepillar at the bottom bears an inscription. It is very abraded and hard to read and has been the source of some speculation and argument.
In the 19th century, Petrie saw the harp and reported that “it bears the date 1707”.
Armstrong published a line drawing of part of the inscription (right). Armstrong read this as a number, 1410 or 0171. He says “immedietely following which, the name Cormac O'Kelly rudely carved can be indistinctly traced, after which there are letters or figures now scarcely visible”
A detailed photo survey of the harp has never been done and for many years, photos of the inscription were not available. However, students and staff of Scoil na gCláirseach view the Otway harp in Trinity College every August for half an hour, and the inscription is always a topic of lively discussion. In 2010 I made a sketch of the incised lines that I could see. It looks to me that the figures published by Armstrong are much cruder and more deeply incised, and are not part of the main inscription - at least the cross bar looks like a worm hole to me!
The base of the forepillar is to the right. The whole area of the inscription is quite badly damaged by woodworm, but I am sure that a proper survey in better light would be able to show many more lines, allowing a full reconstruction of the inscription.
In 2012 and 2013 photography was permitted by Trinity College, and I am now reading the inscription pretty confindently as
I I I I O CORMAC KELLY 1707 O
where the bold letters represent the broad carved lines and circles shown by Armstrong, and the plain letters represent the delicately inscribed name and date.
Armstrong is not impressed by the inscription and does not think it good enough to be the makers signature, but I was struck by how similar the strokes and letter forms were, to the inscription on the soundbox of the Downhill harp, made by Cormac O'Kelly in 1702.