Sources for Gaelic harp music

Patrick MacDonald, Collection of Highland Vocal Airs

PmcD facsimile

Published in 1784

A collection of Gaelic song airs, set wth treble and bass. Although this is a key early collection of Gaelic song airs, because the tunes have all been tiedied up and many arranged with conventional harmonies the book does need to be used with caution. The substantial preface is of interest in showing an early attempt to understand and explain Gaelic music, and there are some useful insights and conclusions about early Gaelic performance practice that can be deduced.


A modern performing edition for traditional musicians, published in 2000 by Taigh na Teud, is available here from the Emporium.

Gaelic harp music in this source

Most of this book is Gaelic vocal airs, any number of which may origianlly have been played on the harp. The book is divided into sections; first the song airs: North Highland airs (1-86), Perthshire Airs (87-114), Argyllshire airs (115-155) (including a number of lay tunes), Western Isle airs (156-186). Then follow dance tunes: North Highland reels or country dances (1-24), Western Isle dances (25-32). Then follow a series of ceol mor in bagpipe or fiddle versions. Complete title list from the Wighton Collection.

68. (untitled)
Yet another relative of Burns March (see 141 below).

141. (untitled)
This is a version of Burns March. See my notes on Burns March.
Other versions: Dow: Thug Bonny Peggie dhamhsa Pog - Bonny Peggie kiss’d me; Bunting: Burns March / Imbo Agus Umbo / Pretty Peggy; ; Stamford-Petrie no. 1202: Imbó agas Umbó, a dirge
Burns March is one of the beginners tunes collected from the 18th century harpers Denis O'Hampsey & Patrick Quin.

Simon Chadwick