I was reviewing my interview with Mícheál Ó Catháin for forthcoming inclusion on his State of the Art interview series, and a comment on my upbringing in the English change-ringing tradition started me thinking about the potential soundscape of change-ringing in the ears of the old Irish harp tradition bearers.
I was discussing Burns’s March with one of my students, saying how it was the most important model for old Gaelic harp (Irish harp, clarsach) technique and style. They said that there was a need for written-out versions fully marked up with fingering and damping.
I first got hold of one of the HHSI Student Otway harps back in 2007, as part of the very first batch of two, made by David Kortier for the Historical Harp Society of Ireland. I believe there may only have been three made in total – one is in the north of Ireland, one was sold to a private buyer, and I currently have at my house one that was made in 2009.
A set of three variants of this famous tune. Composed by Irish harper Miles O’Reilly, it was taken to Scotland by Thomas Connellan. Celebrating (or lamenting) the defeat of the Jacobites in Ireland in 1691-2, the first section (King James March to Irland) is from a Scottish viol manuscript of 1693. The middle section (Lochaber, or Limerick’s Lamentation) and the third section (the Wild Geese, or Ireland’s lamentation) are from Edward Bunting’s field notebook, c. 1800 (ms33(1)), noted down from the performance of Partick Quin in South Armagh.