Valentine Rennie

Valentine Rennie was a traditional Irish harper and tradition-bearer in the first half of the 19th century. He taught the harp in Belfast for fifteen years, passing on the inherited tradition to perhaps twenty or more young harpers in the next generation. We have loads of information about him including two different portraits (header image courtesy of National Museums NI)

In this post I am going to try and cover everything so it will be very long. We will start by going through his life in order, and then after that we will look at things like his harps and his portaits.

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John MacLoughlin

John MacLoughlin was a traditional Irish harper in the first half of the 19th century. He had an interesting working life in Dublin, playing before the King, working in taverns and ending up in poverty. This post is to gather together the different scattered references to him, to build a picture of his life and work.

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James MacMonagal

One of the problems with trying to trace these harpers in the 19th century records, is when there are multiple variant spellings of names. Sometimes it becomes unclear if we are dealing with two different people or not. This is a big problem if we are trying to reconstruct the life story of an individual.

Sometimes there is direct evidence that helps us to divide one name into two people (e.g. concerts by Mr. Rennie after the death of Valentine Rennie). Other times the record-keeping helps us to be sure that two names belong to one person (Hamilton Graham / Hamilton Gillespie in the Harp Society minutes, 1820-21). But often we just have to guess based on circumstantial evidence or hints.

We have references to James MacMonagal, and also to James McMolaghan. I really don’t know if they are two different people, or two different versions of the same name. This post is to draw together the references we have so far, and then to be a place where further references can be added in the future.

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Mr O’Connor was a traditional Irish harper in the mid 19th century. He was originally from Limerick; he was blind, and was enrolled into the Irish Harp Society school in Belfast some time in the late 1820s or early 1830s. He had a very good performing career, touring and playing concerts usually with other traditional harpers, and also playing at private functions at the big houses of the nobility. Most of his work was in the South-East of Ireland.

This post is to draw together references and information about him, to try to piece together his life story.

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W. J. Winnington

W. J. Winnington was learning to play the traditional wire-strung Irish harp under Valentine Rennie, but he died when he was still a student, in 1833. I don’t think there is much more that we can say about him at this stage. But this post is to remember him, that he was one of our boys.

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