If you’re not from Ireland, or if you’re from Ireland but not up to date on your local history (oops, you better get on that) you might not have heard of the Irish Harp. This is because most of the time, Ireland is associated with the symbol of Ireland; the Shamrock. Yep, the three-leafed clover trumps the Irish Harp in the popularity contests, but although the Irish Harp is a lesser-known symbol of Ireland, it has been used in both ancient history and popular culture. In fact, you might know it from a popular Irish drink of choice you might enjoy down the local pub…

What is the Irish Harp?

Well, we don’t want to harp on about it (lol), but the Irish Harp is an important symbol in Irish culture. It is often referred to as the Celtic Harp or the Gaelic Harp – and isn’t only associated with Ireland. Instead, this item is traditional in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. As you can tell by the name, the Irish Harp is a musical instrument in the harp variety (shock, horror). The instrument is made from a solid block of wood and then carved to create a curved neck and forepillar. Brass strings are then strung in the center, just waiting to be plucked.

The history of the Irish Harp

Like many historical artifacts, the exact birthday of the Irish Harp is unknown (sorry, Harp). However, many researchers have been able to pinpoint evidence that dates back a whopping 1000 years. It’s believed that High King Brian Boru – who died in 1014 – was a keen player of the Irish Harp, and held it in high esteem in the royal court. During the Celtic reign, it was commonplace for English, Scottish and Irish kings to have a harpist in their midst. This trend continued until Henry VIII decided that the Irish Harp should become a national symbol for the country. The rest is history…quite literally!

The meaning of the Irish Harp

Although the Irish Harp is in fact a real instrument, the harp is also a major Irish symbol. However, few people know what it really means and represents. Well, to find the answer you just need to set your eyes on the Coat of Arms of Ireland. Emblazoned on the Coat of Arms is the Irish Harp, which has long been associated with royalty. In fact, it’s believed that the strings of the harp represent the arms of the king. I assume this means the arms of many kings, instead of one octopus-like king…

Irish Harp in modern Ireland

If you’ve been wandering around Ireland recently, you might have noticed this musical instrument around the place. This is because the Irish Harp is still hugely popular as a traditional symbol of Ireland. The harp appears on the Irish Euro, on the Coat of Arms, and even on a can or glass of Guinness!

Although most of us know Ireland for its Shamrocks, the Irish Harp still holds precedence as one of the most traditional symbols of Irish culture…