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Trinity College Harp, or Clarsach, aka The Brian Boru Harp

Image of the Trinity College Harp by
by Robert Bruce Armstrong (1904)

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The Trinity College Harp

also sometimes called The Brian Boru Harp

Feature Detail
Date Probably 15th century, though 14th and 16th century have been suggested.
String Count Currently 29, though at some time in the past 30
Height 85 cm (33½ inches). This harp has been reconstructed a number of times and this height therefore reflects the current interpretation only.
Soundbox Hollowed out from a single block ("willow"), maximum width 32 cm (12½ inches)
Current Location Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland

For Robert Bruce Armstrong’s account of this harp see The Irish and Highland Harps pages 55 through 63 These pages contain numerous photographs and drawings, along with detailed descriptions, measurements and observations on this harp.

This ancient harp has accumulated to itself a fascinating history, some of it true and some the stuff legends. Two different opinions on the harp's legendary history were related by the 19th century antiquarians George Petrie and Eugene O’Curry (see The Ancient Music of Ireland by Edward Bunting, p.40 for Petrie, and The Manners and Customs...vol.3 p.268 for O’Curry). Some of their observations and conclusions must be treated with caution, and the entire subject of this harp's history, both ancient and modern, is something this project intends to re–examine and explore further in due course.

Should you choose to read the description of this instrument in The Ancient Music of Ireland, with its speculation on its history of the harp, be sure to view the three beautifully detailed line drawings included in the book.

A paper examining the Trinity College Harp by Paul Dooley entitled Reconstructing the Medieval Irish Harp was published in the Galpin Society Journal, Number LXVII, March 2014.