Rory Dall is famous for playing the harp. But what kind of harp did he play? It certainly was not the modern orchestral pedal harp! But neither was it the modern neo-clàrsach or lever-harp.
The type of harp that both the Scottish Rory Dall and the Irish Rory Dall played is nowadays referred to as the "early Gaelic harp". With a soundbox typically carved from a single block of willow wood, and strings of brass wire, it has a unique sound - rich, resonant and sustaining - quite different to what most people expect from a harp. Traditionally played with long fingernails, the long resonance of the strings is individually stopped with the fingertips in a complex and difficult playing technique. The early Gaelic harp was played in Scotland and Ireland from over 1000 years ago but died out in the 19th century. Recently there has been a revival, using replica historic instruments to play the old repertory.
Although at least 18 early Gaelic harps survive from before the 19th century, none have even a pretend romantic connection with either Rory Dall. However we can guess what their harps looked like by comparing extant harps from their respective dates: