The Lamont harp

The treble scaling of the Lamont implies that it may have had extra bass notes; where I interpret the Trinity and Queen Mary harp as descending to cronan G an octave below Comhluighe, the Lamont may have had one, two or even three strings below this. This is a feature of later Baroque stringing practice (cronan G is the lowest note of the medieval gamut). The Lamont has, like the Queen Mary, an extra pin inserted in the bass below the brass cheek-band that holds the other tuning pins; but whereas the Queen Mary also had an iron staple added to the soundbox to receive this extra string, the Lamont has the full complement of string holes on its belly. Curiously, the lowest two string shoes are a different design to the rest: do they signify the two "sub-bass" strings? Or are they merely replacement for broken cast shoes? (at least one of the remaining cast shoes is broken, and the three top shoes are the same simpler design as the two bottom ones. Thick gold bass strings would put a lot of stress on these intricate castings). Was the Lamont's extra pin inserted at the time of its original construction due to a miscalculation on the part of the builder? Or is its original hole damaged beneath the metal end-cap necessitating its relocation?

Because the harp is currently so distorted, and comprehensive technical drawings and measurements are not available, it is not entirely clear how long and what angle the treble strings would have been before the neck cracked, bent and was re-set with wedges in its socket. Certainly the current lengths are very much too short. If I am misinterpreting the data I have, and the treble scaling is actually much shorter that I am assuming, this could imply that the Lamont, as the other two medieval Gaelic harps do, descends to cronan G, with a later pin added for Tead leagaidh.


Simon Chadwick