The Downhill Harp

also known as Dennis Hempson's Harp

Downhill Harp, the clarsach once played by Dennis Hempson

Drawing by Robert Bruce Armstrong,
from The Irish and Highland Harps

Feature Detail
Date After 1702 but before 1713
String Count 30
Height 125 cm (49 inches)
Soundbox Hollowed out from a single block (alder), maximum width is 31 cm. (12 inches)
Current Location The Guinness Storehouse, Market Street, St. James' Gate Brewery, Dublin

This harp was made by Cormac O’Kelly of Ballinascreen, County Derry. Please visit Building a Reproduction of the Downhill Harp here on for more detailed information on this harp. The Appendix 1 to that article is an examination of the interesting legend engraved on the side of the harp (visible in Robert Bruce Armstrong's drawing pictured here.)

For Armstrong’s account of this harp, see The Irish and Highland Harps pages 88 through 91.

This harp was played by the famed Dennis Hempson (Donncha Ó hÁmhsaigh) who lived to be well over a hundred years old. He was the last known harper to play the strings with his fingernails, until those of the modern era. He also had the honor to have once played before Bonnie Prince Charlie.