Rose Mooney played the type of harp nowadays referred to as the "early Irish harp", with
strings of brass wire, Though the original tradition was to play with long fingernails,
Rose is said to have followed 18th century practice in playing with the tips of her fingers for a
There is a description of Rose Mooney’s harp,
written in the early 19th century. The description gives us her tuning schedule as well as discussing some of the
damage and repair to her harp:
Rose Mooney’s had thirteen strings below and eighteen above the ‘sisters’. A piece of timber of triangular
shape (the angle truncated) was placed within the belly of the harp, through which the strings passed, being fixed by
transverse pegs of wood, like quills of the Welsh harp differed in this respect, and there was of consequence a greater
facility in replacing a string. The belly of Mooney’s harp was split and cracked upon one side where it was covered
with canvas, or pasteboard beneath yet it was light, sonorous, and much superior to Quin's harp.
Its body was composed of three pieces of timber. There were four strips of copper placed transversely, and one strip
longitudinally, to strengthen the timber. The transverse strips were closer as you ascended to the treble, where the tension
of the strings or purchase is greatest. The obliquity of the short strings is greatest, and the management of this is a
principal difficulty in the mechanical construction of the instrument.
Letter from James MacDonnell to Edward Bunting, c. 18398
The “thirteen strings below and eighteen above the ‘sisters’” implies that her harp ran from
treble e''' at the top, down to bass GG at the bottom, with a gap in the lowest octave (perhaps missing F), and with the
doubled tenor g strings called na comhluighe.
An 18th century harp preserved in the National Museum of Ireland,
has been claimed to be Rose Mooney's harp.
However recent research has cast doubt on this claim. I am currently writing up a study of the
provenance and technical details of this harp, and it should be published in the next year.
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