The Irish Harp symbolism and Irish history

The Irish Harp symbolism and Irish history inspire a design that is featured one of our Urns. The Journal of Music writes that the harp has been played in Ireland since the year 1000. It is a large wire-strung instrument and it is now Ireland’s national emblem.

Our Bean na h-Éireann Cremation Urn is one Urn that features a harp symbolism with Irish Urns. Ireland is often represented as a woman on the ancient Irish Harp which is unique to our Celtic Irish heritage. This elegant Irish Urn is named as a celebration of the“ woman of Ireland” or Bean na h-Éireann in Gaelic.

The Irish Harp is also attributed to the many prominent Irish women our culture has produced throughout history. Ériu – Matron Goddess of Ireland to which she gave her name ‘Érin’ to Erins green Isle. Gráinne Ní Mhaol, Countess Markievicz, and the Cumann na mBán, and more recently president Mary Mc Aleese. 

Our Urn for human ashes marries together the iconic harp symbol of Ireland with its beauty, form, and grace. A Celtic collar knot represents how the Irish are all bound together for eternity. This Urn has a beautiful feel and texture and you will clearly see the hand-thrown nature of the piece designed and created by a National award-winning Ceramicist Ciaran.

Included with the Urn is a handmade Oak plinth – Created and signed by an Irish National award-winning Woodturner- Seamus. It can be engraved on request.  


Turlough O’Carolan is a prominent name in Irish history when it comes to the Irish harp. He was born near Nobber, county Meath in 1670. O’Carolan, who was the son of an iron founder, became blind from smallpox at the age of 18. 

He was befriended by Mrs. MacDermott Roe, the wife of his father’s employer, who apprenticed him to a harper, supported him for the three years of his training, and then gave him money, a guide, and a horse. He traveled throughout Ireland and is regarded as a composer. His songs have been interpreted and appeared in 18th-century collections.

One example of an interpretation of his work is Mark Harmer playing Carolyn’s Dream. Harmer said he recorded “this piece very late one night, and just went with the first take so the playing has the odd rough bits. I like to think that’s authentic – apparently, Carolan never played the same way twice.”

In the early eighteenth century, harp imagery was used in newspapers, political letters and other printed material however it was also seen in the hands of figures such as ‘Hibernia’ and the ‘bard’.  ‘It is new-strung and shall be heard’ was the optimistic motto of a new political organization of that period, The Society of United Irishmen, according to Mary Louise O’Donell in Ireland’s Harp: The Shaping of Irish Identity. 


In 1792 a pivotal moment in the history of the Irish Harp occurred with The Belfast Harpers Meeting. The organisers called it an assembly or festival while others referred to it as a meeting where transcription of the harp music was taken there by the teenager, Edward Bunting.

Edward Bunting of Armagh was a nineteen-year-old professional musician in Belfast when he was engaged at the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 to note down the music of the last of the oral-tradition Irish harpers. 

O’Donnell writes that although news of the Belfast Harpers’ Meeting of 1792 had made it as far as County Kerry in the southwest and possibly also abroad, there were no attendees from County Meath. After this, Bunting noted a steep decline in the number of harp players in Ireland.

However, Harp Ireland states that there are currently 1,000 harp players across Ireland which means it is an instrument that isn’t going anywhere. The Irish harp was adopted as the official emblem of the Irish Free State in 1922 and it has remained an image of continuity and stability in Irish politics and society for almost a century.

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