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The Trinity College harp

The Trinity College harp, being so long on display in Trinity College Dublin, and so known to the public, and also being an iconic symbol, first of the legendary Irish high king, Brian Boru, and more recently, since the early 20th century, as a symbol of the Irish nation, has long been the model for instrument makers to copy. “Replicas” of the Trinity College harp vary widely in how accurately they approach the original, but even the best are not entirely accurate, since full details about the original are still not available.

A few copies of the Trinity College harp were made in the late 19th and early 20th century. The ones I am aware of seem to be as much art objects as musical instruments, and look to be fairly accurate representations. One made by William Savage of Ards, c.1900, was illustrated by Hayward (1954) and said by him to be in the Belfast Museum. A much plainer one made by Richard Henebry seems to have been used by him to explore historical Irish music; from a photo it looks accurate but I have not seen it in person.

Rev. Chris Warren made himself a harp based on the 19th century engravings of the Trinity College harp. Unfortunately he did not have access to Armstrong’s book, and so his instruments were much too small. He made plans available, and instruments based on these plans can still be found occasionally.

Simon Chadwick