Briggs Harp

Friends of Highland Music have for some time had in our possession a rare 'Briggs' Harp. Members will doubless be interested to be reminded of the Harp's background. The Harp was donated to FoHM some time ago by our previous Treasurer, the Late Alan Findlay, who inherited it from his father, and it has an interesting history as detailed below.

Dalriada Clarsach   Henry Briggs, 1933   Sycamore & Spruce   31 strings

The Clarsach Society was founded in 1931 in Dingwall to promote and encourage playing of the clarsach.  The founders and early members were in a difficult position as there were no harp makers in Scotland.  They asked a Glasgow based violin-maker, Henry Briggs, to make harps for them.  This must have been one of his earliest harps, being produced only a year later.  Briggs came from a family of instrument makers, his father had been making violins since 1876.  Briggs was not initially keen to expand his trade beyond the violins he was trained to make, but by his retirement in 1958 he is believed to have made around 150 harps.  The Dalriada was the most expensive harp Briggs offered, listed at £35 in his 1938 brochure (more than twice the price of some of his other harps!).  The shape of some of the carvings are reminiscent of the Queen Mary harp (Edinburgh Museum, c.14th-c.15th centuries), which was probably used as inspiration although this is not an exact copy.  This harp has gut strings and blades to produce semitones.

With grateful thanks to Harp authority Bill Taylor and to Cheyenne Brown, Convener of the Highland Branch of the Clarsach Society, for background detail and historical information.

In October 2020, Friends of Highland Music donated our cherished 'Briggs Harp' to Inverness Museum who were delighted to receive the exhibit, so do go along and view the Harp!


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