The MagAonghuis (Mac Aonghuis) clan have long held the territory of Iveagh (Uí Eachach) which covers much of County Down. Over the centuries, many anglicised versions of this name have sprung up from the original Irish, resulting in numerous variations in spelling. Of these, the most famous would undoubtedly be that of Guinness, but some of the other variants would include Innis, Ennis, McInnis, McGinnis, McGennis, McGuinness, MacGuiness, MacGennis, MacGenis, Maginnis, Magennis and Magenis.
There is little to relate in the way of hard fact concerning Captain Arthur Magenis. He lived in Cabrah (also spelled Cabragh or Cabra), about ten miles east of Newry, and died in 1737, a year before Turlogh OCarolan. Captain Magenis and his wife were buried at the old church of Clonduff, Ballyaughian Townland, near Hilltown, Co. Down. A rubbing was made of his restored memorial stone in about the year 1900, and details of this were printed in The Ulster Journal of Archaeology. His arms and the inscription are reproduced below:
HERE LYETH THE BODY
OF CAPTN ARTHUR MAGENIS WHO DE
PARTED THIS LIFE THE 15TH DAY OF
ANNO DOMINI 1737 IN THE FL
YEARS OF HIS AGE.
HERE LYETH THE BODY OF MRS.
CATHERIN MAGENIS ALIAS HALL
THE WIFE OF CAPTN ARTHUR
MAGENIS OF CABRAH WHO DEPA
RTED THIS LIFE YE 12TH DAY OF XM
1713 IN YE FL YEARS OF HIR AGE.
Very little is known for certain regarding his military career, but he is thought to have served as a captain in the Irish Army of King James (II/VII). There is an Arthur Magennis, Cornet noted under Commissions of Horse in a list of commissions obtained prior to 21st June 1687. Although the rank of cornet is junior to that of captain, it is quite likely that promotion would have been rapidly awarded during the war of 168991.
In 1691 the Treaty of Limerick was signed, following the defeat of King James forces. One of the terms of this agreement allowed certain gentlemen to maintain their personal weapons (viz. a sword, a case of pistols, and a gun). In 1704 Magenis is recorded as having renewed his license to keep such arms, at which time he was noted as residing in Cabragh, Co. Down. Other terms of the Treaty granted the Irish regiments (as well as others who so wished) liberty to leave Ireland and enter the service of France or other foreign nations, an action that became known in popular history as The Flight of the Wild Geese. So there is also the possibility that he may have chosen to pursue a military career in France at some subsequent period.
John OHart, in his work Irish Pedigrees, makes references to a Captain Magennis serving in the de Galmoy cavalry regiment in France in the early 1700s. (Piercy Viscount Galmoy was one of the signatories to the Treaty of Limerick, and his Regiment of Horse subsequently became part of the Irish Brigade in the service of France.) There is also mention of a Capitaine Magennis who served in the Régt. de Lee around 1720. It is uncertain whether any of these relate to the Captain Arthur Magenis under consideration here, but if Arthur did serve in France, it appears likely, for reasons which will become apparent shortly, that he returned to Ireland before the end of 1711.
In the section of The Irish and the Highland Harps relating to
MISSING SPECIMENS, Robert Bruce Armstrong makes a brief mention of a harp made for Captain Art Magennis. The few details he notes were taken from the recollections of George Petrie, who gave a fuller account in a letter to his friend Eugene OCurry. This letter was in reply to a request from OCurry for information on the Irish harps that Petrie had known of, and OCurry subsequently included it in a lecture he gave in 1862, one of a series. In 1873 a transcript of all of these talks was published posthumously under the title On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. The section of Petries letter which relates to the Magenis harp reads as follows:
Superior in many respects to any of the harps of this period I have now noticed, was one which, through the kindness of a friend, I had the pleasure of seeing in 1832, and of which, unhappily, I can now speak only from a faded recollection. It was at that time the property or in the keeping of a country solicitor, who had his Dublin office on Bachelors Walk, and who was then out of town.
This harp was of moderate size, about four feet in height, and, with the exception of a fracture which it was obvious it had recently received, was in the most perfect state of preservation. Its colour was that of a precious and well cared for Cremona violin, and no instrument of that class could exceed it in the beauty and perfection of its workmanship, while, from the antique character of its ornamentation, one would suppose it an instrument of much antiquity, but for the presence of an inscription which gives its history and the year of its making. This inscription was not, as usual, engraved on the woodwork of the harp, but written in the Irish language and characters on parchment, which was under glass, on the soundboard, and, amongst other matters which I forget, it informed us that it was the property of a Captain Art Magennis, of some place in the county of Down, for whom it was made in the year 1725, or thereabout.
Shortly after my seeing the instrument, the friend to whose kindness I was indebted for the privilege emigrated to America, where he died, and its owner having given up his lodgings, I could learn nothing from his successor as to his town and country residences. I can only, therefore, indulge the hope, I confess a feeble one, that this interesting memorial of a past state of feeling and condition of society in Ireland may have escaped the usual fate of such relics, and I have a pleasure in penning this imperfect notice of it, from the hope that, if it yet exists, such notice may lead to our acquiring a knowledge of its locality, and perhaps to a conserving appreciation of its interest and value." 
Though Petrie had not been able to locate the harp, his fears that it might have been destroyed were unfounded, at least at that time; for it was certainly still in existence in 1889 when a watercolour painting was made of it.
This painting has been in private collections for many years, hence out of public view, so previous commentators on the subject of the Irish harp have remained unaware of its existence. However it was recently brought to my attention by the art expert Rupert Maas, who recognised its importance to those with an interest in historical harps.
The picture (produced in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolour) is not large: the harp itself measures approximately nine inches across the diagonal, yet it has been executed with great skill and for its size preserves an incredible amount of detail. As such, it is of value not only for its own sake but also because it adds to our knowledge of one of the most important Irish harp makers of the early 18th century. I am currently undertaking a fuller study of this painting and its various implications, but in the meantime I offer this descriptive overview, along with some preliminary comments.
In his description, Petrie only gives a few specific details of the harp, but these correspond to the picture: the mention of a recent fracture would agree with the crack in the soundboard which is clearly visible in the painting, and the size (approximately four feet) seems to be appropriate. Otherwise his comments are confined to its overall appearance: the colour of a well cared for Cremona violin, the beauty and perfection of its workmanship, and the antique character of its ornamentation all of which certainly concur with the watercolour.
Probably the first thing that strikes the eye when viewing this illustration is that the harp bears a great similarity in character to the Downhill harp, the famous instrument made by Cormac OKelly and played for so many years by Denis OHampsey (or Hempson). Indeed, a closer look reveals an inscription carved on the left side of the soundbox which not only informs us that the harp was made for Captain Arth Magenis in 1711, but that it, like the Downhill, was made by OKelly as well.
The lettering of this inscription is similar to that written on the side of the Downhill, but there are differences too. On the Downhill, the words may well have been added as an afterthought, as they were carved into the side of the soundbox after it had been worked down to its final thickness. Also, it is quite apparent that the text on the Downhill had to be squeezed and readjusted to fit within the limited space available; and there is evidence that some of the original markingout for the wording was in a different position. However, on the Magenis harp the message is shorter, giving the text greater room. This allowed the lettering to be of a more consistent size, regularly spaced to form two lines of equal length, and large enough to enable the inscription to be carved so that it stands out in relief. OKelly used the same basic style of lettering for both the Downhill and the Magenis harps, but the whole thing is better executed on the latter, with fewer mistakes. The Magenis has none of the ligated letters or reverse sloping or mirrored Ns that look so strange on the Downhill, and only one letter is written backwards (the "S" in "SVM"). The full inscription reads:
EGO SVM REGINA MVSARVM MADE BY CORMICKO
KELLY FOR CAPTAIN ARTH MAGENIS 1 7 1 1
It may be remarked that once again the Queen of Music raises her head, but whereas the Downhills inscription grants leave to use that name (
QUEEN OF MUSICK YU MAY CALL ME), on the Megenis harp the Latin text makes a definitive statement:
EGO SUM REGINA MUSARUM (I am the Queen of Music).
When Captain Arthur Magenis commissioned this harp in 1711, he must have been in a fairly comfortable financial position. Certainly little expense seems to have been spared, and far more decorative work is evident here than on the Downhill. The overall appearance of the workmanship is of a higher standard, and where there are similarities between the two harps, the features on the Magenis exhibit extra refinements.
Examples of this can be seen in the additional embellishments carved around the (otherwise similar) hexafoil soundholes. The design on the Magennis includes a pattern of three petalshapes, repeated five times around each hole, as well as raised decorated semicircles running along the inside of the soundboard edging all of which are absent on the Downhill. The sides of the box also have extra working at the treble end, where a section has been further recessed, with four semicircles demarcating the upper and lower ends of a flat inset face. Six thin brass(?) bands three per side have been fixed across the soundboard. These seem not to have been an original feature, as they run over the top of the carved decoration, obscuring it. Nevertheless, they too are finely crafted, with patterned embossed edges, and are far more ornamental than the plain (sometimes even crude) metal straps found on some of the other harps.
The forepillar clearly exhibits a similar basic pattern to that of the Downhill, with the stylised foot profile (though, once again, slightly modified and more complex); the unusual form of its Tsection (which otherwise is only found on the Downhill); and the characteristic ropework down the back. The front face of the pillar is also recessed, as on the Downhill, but with some further elaboration. At the lower end a serpentine line has been left standing proud, which perhaps bears an interesting similarity to that seen on the side of the Bell harp. Above this is some additional decoration but its exact nature cannot be accurately discerned. Moving slightly higher, at about the centre of the pillar, what appears to be a sheet of material has been attached (it is not carved into the wood). Exactly what this might be is not clear perhaps a thin sheet of brass or a piece of parchment. Whatever the material, it is likely to have been of some significance to warrant being included here. If brass, then it may have had the Magenis/Hall Arms engraved upon it (see above), perhaps along with other text. If parchment, then it could be a documentary record of some sort. It is even possible that it may be the parchment that Petrie mentioned in his account. However, without more information it is unwise to attempt further speculation at the moment. Above this the profile of an animal, which I take to be a hind, is carved to stand in relief within the panel.
The carving along the top edge of the neck is extremely similar to that of the Downhill, but once again the Magenis has some further embellishment, including a small amount of scroll work and extra beading. At the shoulder end of the neck, another fourlegged animal is carved in relief, though it is difficult to discern exactly what creature it is meant to be. Its tail seems too bushy for a lion (an animal associated with the Magenis Arms); if it is intended to be a horse, this could relate to a cavalry connection; but a dog or fox are also likely possibilities.
The characteristic head at the top of the instrument also bears an uncanny resemblance to that found on the Downhill, with the shape, general aspect, and manner in which the teeth in the open mouth are carved being virtually identical. However, the head of the Magenis harp appears to have an additional decorative cap carved on its crown, and a metal strap has been nailed across what I assume is the joint where the head is attached to the neck. The probability that the head on the Downhill was originally made as a separate unit is something I have suggested before.
A most striking feature of the Magenis harp, one not attempted on the Downhill, is the long undulating tongue flailing from the creatures mouth. It is not apparent what material this was made of, but it seems too delicate to have been carved from wood. To help keep it in place, its end is supported by a bracket connected to the forepillar. Certainly the addition of this tongue and bracket makes for a dramatic decorative embellishment.
The harp is shown unstrung, which is probably the state it would have been in by 1889, but string reinforcements, or shoes, are clearly visible on the soundbox. As far as can be seen in the picture, these shoes appear to be identical in form with those used on the Downhill. This shows another strong connection between these two instruments, because this feature is nearly unique. Of all the surviving harps, only one other is known to utilise this particular design of shoe: the Royal Irish Academy No. 2, or Carolan harp.
There is a difference in colour between the string band and the rest of the soundbox. This may indicate the presence of another material, and could suggest that the shoes were nailed to the string band through an additional thin metal strip. However, this contrast may merely be due to the way the artist has highlighted it, and in itself is not conclusive. The artist also shows that the two lowest shoes were missing, but has drawn in the empty string holes. From this we see that there were holes in the soundbox for a total of thirtythree strings.
An examination of the number of tuning pins is not as straightforward as it might seem. A count would appear to result in thirtyseven, but this figure is almost certainly a mistake on the artists part, as it would be illogical for any harpmaker to add four extra pins when there are no string holes for them. Getting pin positions correct in a small drawing is not an easy task, and the problems become more difficult as the pins move up the curve and into the high treble range where they are crowded closely together this is especially true in an illustration of this size, where the pins must be drawn little more than a millimetre apart. (It should be noted that some other fine draughtsmen in the past have also mistaken the numbers of pins or misrepresented their positions.)
The harps thirtythree strings would have enabled this instrument to be tuned in a similar way to the Downhill, but with three extra notes. These would probably have been added in the bass, giving an overall range from low G (one octave below the bottom line of the bass staff) to high D (in the octave above the treble staff). However, a range from A in the bass up to E in the treble could also be a possibility, and if the player wanted both the low G and the high E, the two bottom strings could be droptuned a full tone, and the B omitted.
The harp does not seem to have been subject to the level of damage produced by the rugged life on the road that took its toll on the Downhill, judging from its apparent good condition in the watercolour and Petries complimentary observations on its
most perfect state of preservation. Nevertheless, the artist has carefully recorded some of the wear that would have resulted from practical use, which shows that it was not a mere ornament. This rendering is quite subtle, but looking closely at the bottom edge of the soundbox by the corner (to the left in the painting) one can see areas of erosion. These are a characteristic result of the sides of the box being gripped by the harpers lower legs and feet, to steady the instrument and free the arms for playing, and the artist has accurately depicted how the decorative beading line has been worn away at the corner. This relatively low degree of wear would also be consistent with a harp that was kept in good condition and not used excessively. On the more heavilyplayed Downhill, the soundbox became so eroded that a new piece of wood had to be inset into its corner. Similarly patched corners can be observed on the FitzGerald Kildare harp. 
The basic resemblance between the Magenis and Downhill harps is immediately apparent, but there is one significant and very interesting difference. Although the two instruments are more or less contemporary, and built by the same maker, the ways in which OKelly joined their necks and forepillars are entirely different. On the Downhill, the end of the neck is jointed into the forepillar, which rises to the full height of the instrument; whereas the Magenis exhibits what might be considered the older method, in which the forepillar is inserted up into the underside of the neck.
The practice of utilising the full height forepillar, as on the Downhill, was well established by the middle of the 17th century and by then was probably the norm on most Irish harps, but the Magenis is proof that the older method was still considered to be an option for some time after this, even into the 18th century. The juxtaposition of these two styles shows that the manner of construction cannot necessarily be used as a reliable indicator when trying to date a harp. The various advantages and drawbacks of each, and the reasons why a maker might choose one over the other, is something that I intend to expand upon another time.
Having described at length the similarity between the Magenis and Downhill harps, a third one the Bell harp should also be mentioned here, as it bears comparison with them, though perhaps to a lesser degree. Robert Bruce Armstrong wrote that
this Harp [the Bell] is a bad copy of the OKelly Harp at Downhill, though that has only thirty strings and the Bell has thirtyfour, which is actually closer in number to the Magenis. But in fact, the Bell is not really a copy of either of them, poor or otherwise, and this raises two intriguing possibilities. The first is that the Bell may have been an attempt to reproduce another (as yet unknown) OKelly harp; and the second is that it may be a later product of the OKelly workshop itself, albeit with a change to the profile of the neck and pillar. But certainly a number of aspects of the Bell harp are in keeping with characteristics of the Magenis and Downhill, and I will undertake a fuller comparative study of harps with an OKelly connection in another article.
Now hangs as mute on Taras walls
It may seem strange that the inscription on the side of the Magenis appears to have been carved upside down. But it only looks upside down if the harp is viewed lying on its back, as shown in the painting. When the soundbox is viewed upright, as it would be when hung on a wall with the box in a vertical position, the inscription is no more difficult to read than if it had been written the other way around.
Although it is often thought that the old harps were kept flat on their backs when not being played, this is not necessarily the case, and some would have taken up a lot of room if stored recumbent. Suspending a harp, especially a highly decorative one, would not not only save floor space but also protect it from harm and display it more prominently and their ornate, finelywrought beauty shows that they were clearly meant to be seen as well as heard. One can imagine the figureheads on the Magenis and Downhill harps glaring down on the viewers like some trophy stags head.
When Thomas Moore wrote:
The harp that once thro Taras halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Taras walls,
As if the soul had fled.
When the light of my song is oer,
Then take my harp to your ancient hall;
Hang it up at that friendly door,
Where weary travellers love to call.
Then if some bard, who roams forsaken,
Revive its soft note in passing along,
Oh! let one thought of its master waken
Your warmest smile for the child of song.
He may well have based this poetic imagery on a stillremembered practice. A very old photograph shows the Hollybrook Harp hanging vertically on a pillar in the hall of Hollybrook House, and this may be how it was displayed when Petrie described it as
preserved with an honoured place in the hall of Hollybrook House.
Further evidence to support the suggestion that these harps were intended to be displayed on the wall when not in use may be contained in the watercolour itself. Where the neck joins the soundbox, there are what appear to be two dark studs, one situated by the animals front foot and the other at the end of the metal neck band. I can't identify these in further detail, but they could possibly be related to some method of strapping or suspending the instrument when not in use. No other purpose for these comes to mind.
It seems fitting to conclude by returning to Petries letter. He clearly regretted not making notes at the time, and neglecting to follow up with his enquiries before it became too late, because he expresses only a
feeble hope that all was not lost:
I can only, therefore, indulge the hope, I confess a feeble one, that this interesting memorial of a past state of feeling and condition of society in Ireland may have escaped the usual fate of such relics, and I have a pleasure in penning this imperfect notice of it, from the hope that, if it yet exists, such notice may lead to our acquiring a knowledge of its locality, and perhaps to a conserving appreciation of its interest and value.
Petrie would no doubt be relieved to know that this portrait of the "interesting memorial" was made, and that much of the harps important detail has indeed been
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Rupert Maas for bringing this painting to my attention. Without his foresight and action, this picture and all that can be learned from it might have remained hidden for many more years.
 Francis Joseph Bigger,
The Magennis Armorial Stone, The Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol. VII, 1901, p. 63.
N.B. The Arms here depicted would relate specifically to Captain Arthur Magenis, as they are a compound of the Arms of Magennis (on the right half of the shield) and those of his wifes family, the Halls (on the left half of the shield).
 John DAlton, Illustrations historical and genealogical of King James Irish Army List, 1855, p. 10. The source cited by DAlton is
a manuscript of the British Museum (Lansdowne Collections, No. 1152, p. 229).
 Ibid. See article number 7 of the Treaty:
Every nobleman and gentleman comprized in the said second and third article, shall have liberty to ride with a sword and case of pistols, if they think fit, and keep a gun in their houses for the defence of the same, or for fowling.
 Catholic Historical Society of Ireland,
Irish Catholics Licensed to Keep Arms (1704), Archivium Hibernicum, Vol. IV, 1915, pp. 5965; provides
A list of all such Papists as have had their licences for keeping Arms renewed... On p. 61 Arthur Maginnis of Carbragh is listed:
24th June 1704 Maginnis Arthur Cabragh Downe 1 Sword, 1 Case of Pistolls, 1 Gunn.
 John OHart, Irish Pedigrees; or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, Vol. II, 1892 (5th edition); provides lists of those serving in the Irish Brigade in France.
List of Irishmen who served in the Armies of Francewhich, he states, was
extracted from the de la Ponce MSS., in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy. In this section there is another reference to a Magennis serving in Galmoys regiment.
 Ibid. p. 791:
In this list there are further mentions of a Captain Magennis, but these may be different people:
Note the use of the word 'Réformé' (i.e. discharged). Since Captain Arthur Magenis of Cabrah died in 1737, it is possible, but unlikely, that this was he.
 It may seem strange that Petrie, in his recollection of the Magenis harp, didn't mention the inscription carved on the soundbox, but this can easily be explained by the possibility that he would not have seen it if the carved side was turned to the wall and not visible. This is all the more likely when one notes that in the painting, the crack in the soundboard (which is probably the one Petrie was referring to) is on the left. It would be more likely for someone displaying this instrument to place the damaged side to the back where, though still noticeable, it would be less prominent.
I am not too concerned by the apparent conflict of the date Petrie thought had been written on the parchment (
1725 or thereabout) with that actually carved on the harp, as he made it clear that he was neither certain of the date nor confident in his memory. Petrie could all too easily have misread, misinterpreted, or misremembered this handwritten document he had, after all, only seen the harp briefly, some thirty years before he wrote this
faded recollection in his
imperfect notice. His statement that "unhappily I can now speak only from a faded recollection" indicates that he made no written record at the time, an omission that he clearly regretted.
N.B. The lecture (XXXIII) which quoted Petries letter was given by OCurry on 26th June 1862. Although OCurry supplies no date for the writing of this letter, it contains a comment in which Petrie refers to himself as a
septuagenarian, i.e. in his seventies. Since Petrie would have been 70 in 1860, it seems reasonable to assume a date of 1861 or early 1862 therefore his "recollection" would have been based on his memory of an event which took place thirty years previously.
 For further information on this inscription see the notes on the Downhill harp, specifically those in Appendix 1 of Building a Reproduction of the Downhill harp (The Harp of Denis Hempson) for the Irish Television Documentary Banríon an Cheoil.
 Petries statement that the parchment, written in Irish, was
under glass, on the soundboard might at first seem to negate this suggestion. However, it is perfectly possible that this parchment could subsequently have been moved to what would seem a more sensible position; nor is it beyond plausibility that Petrie had misremembered the exact location on the front of the harp where he thought he had seen it (see Footnote 10 above). Also, placing a protective glass cover over it would make sense, especially if the document held some importance.
 The suggestion that the creature carved on the Downhill harp was probably meant to represent a Péist was made in Building a Reproduction of the Downhill harp... (see Footnote 27 in this article) and it follows that the same would apply to the Megenis harp. This observation may be expanded upon as part of a further study.
 For example, Charles Bells drawing of the Trinity College harp. See
Charles D. Bell,
Notice Of The Harp Said To Have Been Given To Beatrix Gardyn... Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol. XV [Vol. III of the new series], 188081, Fig. 11, p. 24.
Also the positioning of the tuning and bridge pins on McIntyre Norths drawing of the
ONeil harp (more commonly known as the Sirr harp). See Charles N. McIntyre North, The Book of the Club of True Highlanders, 188081, Plate XXII.
 For further information on this type of repair, and the wear caused to the corners of the soundbox by the players feet, see comments made in Building a Reproduction of the Downhill Harp and Charles Byrne and His Harp.
 For a contemporary description of the general form of a mid17th century harp see John Lynch, Cambrensis Eversus, 1662, pp. 36, 37.
For an extant example of a harp made circa 1670, see the FitzGerald Kildare harp.
 The photograph which shows the Hollybrook Harp hanging in Hollybrook House is to be found enclosed within Robert Bruce Armstrongs personal copy of The Irish and the Highland Harps preserved in the library of the Royal Irish Academy. For a reference see item 45 of Armstrong Additions and Inserts into the main body of the text).
 Eugene OCurry, op. cit., p. 296.
Submitted by Michael Billinge, 17 December, 2013
The photographs of the painting of the Magenis harp are reproduced with the permission of Keith Sanger, in whom the copyright vests.
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