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Early Gaelic Harp Info

10 years ago today, on 26th November 2004, I started the website

Thankyou to everyone who has helped and followed the project over that time!

When I started 10 years ago, the Gaelic harp scene was very different to today. There was a lot less information out there, a lot fewer good replica instruments, a lot fewer people playing. My aim at the beginning was to organise and set down what information we did have – I always said that the historical Irish and Scottish harp traditions were amazingly rich in sources, repertory, traditions, and material remains, but no-one knew about them.

One of the first projects I started was the directory of the museum instruments. This was a ground-breaking task at the time, working out which instruments were in each museum, and arranging them all so you could compare them side by side. I also tried to find out new info about them. Not everything I have said has been 100% correct but there have been some cool new discoveries – I think I am proudest of my work on the Trinity College harp history and decoration, with my poster of the pillar decoration and my tracking down of the 18th century manuscript description of its silver strings:

The site now has a number of little self-contained mini-sites, drawing together information about a particular person or aspect of the tradition. The one that I spent the most effort on, and which is perhaps the most complete and groundbreaking, is the section about Raghnall Mac Ailein Óig, which I made as part of the research for my most recent full-length CD, Tarbh:

When the website was brand new in November 2004, I had not yet thought of the Emporium – it was about 3 months later that I realised it would be worth offering physical information in the form of CDs and books, as well as the free online information. The Emporium has grown steadily since then, with the accessories section growing to include things as diverse as fingernail repair supplies, medieval harp chocolate, pens, souvenirs, and a range of handmade brass, silver and gold wire strings. I still try to keep a pretty comprehensive selection of books and CDs that are key resources for the study of the old traditions, as well as more unusual items from parallel traditions, and I always welcome your suggestions for things I may have overlooked or ought to get in.

There is a lot of research and writing still to be done on the site. The latest project, a series of pages each looking at one tune from the repertory, is growing much slower than I had hoped, mostly because it is a lot more work than I imagined to properly chase down all the variants of a tune, and get them marshalled in some kind of order! You can look at the latest tune to be added here:

Many thanks to each and every person who has helped with the project over the years. From the people who have sent me interesting information or references, those who have asked difficult questions, those who have ordered books and stuff from the Emporium, and those who have set up a subscription via the little buttons at the bottom of the home page. Each of these things is a great help and encouragement to keep the site going, keep new stuff being added, and keep developing as a source of free information to support the ongoing work of reviving the historical Gaelic harp traditions.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

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