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Book Reviews & Features


Gatherings of Irish Harpers 1780 – 1840 by David Byers Belfast Telegraph review 15th April 2023

Countless people have been persecuted on this island, but who would have thought musicians and their instruments would have been numbered among them.

“Hang harpers, wherever found, and destroy their instruments,” said the first Queen Elizabeth, motivated at least in part by the fear that harpists moving among high society could be spies. As well as being the tune-bearers, harpists certainly were the poets, the bards, the custodians of Gaelic law and tradition for centuries.

Yet, as with so much of Ireland’s story, the history of the harp is more complicated than that one fact would suggest.