The Cloyne harp

A modern reconstruction by Bob Evans and Guy Flockhart is kept at Collins Barracks, Dublin.

Photo courtesy HHSI

The replica was commissioned by the National Museum of Ireland and was completed in 1996. According to Bill Taylor, who worked on stringing and tuning the replica in 1996-7, it was intended to be a working instrument that would be used for “concerts, recording and teaching”.

However, since 1997 the replica has not been used, but was for many years displayed in Collins Barracks in a glass case. Now (2010) it is in storage.

The replica is extremely high quality, with hand-made decorated tuning pins, and all of the intricate relief carving on the original reproduced to a very high standard. To get the correct paint colours, the remaining paint on the original fragments was analysed and duplicated, so that the replica fairly presents the original colour scheme.

Because the soundbox of the original is lost, we have no idea of its size, shape, decorative scheme, or string layout. Inevitably for the replicas, decisions had to be taken, and as work progresses new understanding of the original fragments and the wider Gaelic harp traditions gives us new ideas. The soundbox of the replica is painted solid green, which against the predominantly red of the neck and pillar looks a little odd. I understand that the original soundbox broke, and had to be replaced by Guy Flockhart, during the tuning and setting up (the strings used are somewhat thicker and higher tensions that I would consider normal for an early Gaelic harp).

The tuning scheme described by Bill Taylor is fully chromatic, paying no attention to the kink in the harmonic curve at position 37 (9 from the bass). Also the string shoes on the soundbox are laid out as a single rank, except for seven offset to the left for the seven extra pins. These seven extra pins on the replica deviate from the original by being longer, allowing the seven extra strings to form a second parallel rank - the seven extra pins on the original are the same length as the main rank of pins, so the extra strings must fall as part of the main rank.


Simon Chadwick