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The Brian Boru Harp.




The so called Brian Boru Harp now in Trinity College Dublin, does in fact not date from the time of Brian, but was made in 1220 for Donnchadh Cairbre O'Brien, King of Thomond, it had thirty metal strings. Throughout its history the harp was in the possession of of many people some of which were kings.

In 1221 it was sent to Scotland to pay a pledge for the return of Muiredach O'Daly of Lissadil, County Sligo a noted bard of the time. O'Daly had fled Ireland to Scotland after killing Finn O' Bradley, a stewart of Donal mor O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell, apparently O'Daly took exception to an insult O' Bradley made against the bardic profession. O'Daly was pardoned in his absence.

O'Brien tried unsuccessfully to buy back his harp from Scotland in 1229, little was heard of the harp for over three hundred years, it was in 1543 that Henry VIII of England appointed Ulick MacWilliam de Burgo Earl of Clanrickarde and presented him with the Brian Boru harp, it seems the harp had been seized by the English many years earlier.

MacWilliam only kept the harp a short period of time and sold it to a Lady Huxley, the next owner was to be a Henry MacMahon of Clenagh, Co. Clare.

The next owner was a Councilor at Law named MacNamara from Limerick who received it in a will, MacNamara was for many years the recorder for Limerick city. It is recorded that the famous harper Arthur ONeill played the Brian Boru harp through the streets of Limerick in 1760.

Next the Brian Boru Harp became the property of one Ralph Ouseley of Limerick in 1778, three years later in 1781 he passed it on to a Colonel Conyngham, the next year Conyngham presented it to Trinity College where it remain to this day.

Background Music.
Brian Boru's March.
This is probably one of the oldest Irish traditional tunes.
Refresh the page to play it again.

Read about Brian Boru from P W Joyces' book 'A Concise History of Ireland'