Visiting the O’Ffogarty harp

During my travels in Ireland, I visited the O’Ffogarty harp, a big, grand, 17th century low-headed instrument that resides in the upstairs room at the public library in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

The O'Ffogarty harp in Thurles.

How I itched to play a few of the bass strings on this enormous old harp.  The soundbox is massive at the base, and contains six soundholes, some of which are decorated with thin, concentric circles.  Although not all of the repairs to the harp are in good condition, it is clear that some of the bands added to stabilize the harp’s cracked soundbox have either fallen off or have been removed over the centuries.

The harp is located upstairs in the Co. Tipperary library at Thurles, in a large, modern silver community arts center called The Source.  Simon Chadwick’s top notch Early Gaelic Harp Information site provides excellent information on the O’Ffogarty harp.  While you’re there, be sure to click on the links to the high quality photographs of this instrument taken by Ann and Charlie Heymann.

Incidentally, I found the staff at the library very gracious and accommodating when I expressed an interest in seeing the harp.  They permitted me to go behind the barrier into the stacks, and also permitted photography without a flash.  One of the librarians or archivists set out Armstrong’s book for me to browse, which was, from this librarian’s point of view, very well done!  Armstrong’s book, Musical Instruments, Part I: The Irish and the Highland Harps, published early in the 20th century, is now out of copyright, and may be found electronically here.


The scroll on the O'Ffogarty harp

Design of some of the O'Ffogarty's soundholes.

2 Responses

  1. Great pictures Sue! I’m glad you got to see this monster, lurking in its lair down by the river in Thurles.

  2. Hi, Simon.
    What caught my eye was the way in which this late low-headed instrument stretched the limits of soundbox and forepillar construction to the edge of manageable for a player. And, of course, there’s that curious Downhill-esque lobed base of the soundbox–so handsome. Hopefully I’ll get to try playing someone’s replica one day. Have fun at Scoil!

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