The Rose Mooney or Carolan Harp

This page gathers information about modern artistic depictions, copies and reproductions of the Carolan harp in the National Museum of Ireland. I’m sure there are more I have missed; if you send them in I will incorporate them into this web page.

In 2002, a bronze statue of Turlough Carolan was erected in Nobber co. Meath, his birthplace. The statue is a full length figure of the harper dressed in an 18th century coat, with a harp. The harp depicted in the sculpture is modelled on the Carolan harp in the NMI.

In 2013, the Historical Harp Society of Ireland applied to the Music Network for a grant to commission simplified working copies of the Carolan harp in the NMI. This was inspired by my talk at Scoil na gCláirseach 2013, on trying to connect repertory to instruments; I thought the supposed connection to Rose Mooney made this an interesting instrument to try and get up and running, to explore her repertory on. The grant was awarded, and two copies were made by Natalie Surina in Oughterard, Co. Galway, Ireland. The first was completed in the summer of 2016.

Copy of the Rose Mooney harp by Natalie Surina, Oughterard, Co. Galway, Ireland, 2006
Copy of the Carolan harp by Natalie Surina, Oughterard, Co. Galway, Ireland, 2016

The second of Natalie's reconstructions was completed in 2018. I have strung both of them with brass wire strings, trying to copy Rose Mooney’s range and gamut as described in James MacDonnell’s letter.

The owners of Alderford House, which was the home of the MacDermott-Roe patrons of Carolan, have an ongoing project to make carbon-fibre strung lever harps, with the frame shape loosely based on the the Carolan harp in the NMI, under the name “Carolan Harps Alderford”TM or “Alderford Harps”. So far I have seen one instrument, made by Co. Galway harpmaker Brian Callan.

Simon Chadwick