Over the years, Scottish traditional music has been played on a
variety of instruments: fiddles (violins), flutes, whistles, cellos,
accordions, concertinas, guitars, mandolins, citterns, bodhrans
(single-headed flat drum), and pianos. But none are more closely
identified with Scotland than the bagpipe and the clarsach (harp).
Ancient images of small, triangular Scottish harps and harpers
dating back to at least the 8th century C.E. are found on Celtic
crosses and stone carvings throughout Scotland. In 1187, the Welsh
monk and historian Giraldus Cambrensis wrote that many people preferred
Scottish harpers to those of Ireland. Historically, the term "harp"
was used for gut-strung instruments plucked with the fingers; clarsach
referred to wire-strung harps, which were played with long fingernails.
During the Middle Ages, harpers were employed by Scottish clan
chiefs and nobility. In the Highlands, harpers often accompanied
clan chiefs into battle until the 16th century, when they were replaced
by bagpipers. One of the best-known early harpers was Rory Dall
Morrison (known as "The Blind Harper," circa 1660 - circa
1713), who served the Chief MacLeod of Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.
After the decline of the Highland clans in the 18th century, the
Scottish clarsach waned in popularity and was replaced by larger,
pedal harps introduced from England and the Continent. In 1891,
Lord Archibald Campbell commissioned an Edinburgh bagpipe maker
to build a replica of an ancient clarsach in the National Museums
of Scotland. In 1892, Campbell sponsored a clarsach competition
at the Gaelic Mòd to encourage use of the instrument. It
worked, and the past century has seen a major revival in clarsach
Scottish harp-maker Jack Yule was born into a family of plowmen
and foresters in East Lothian, Scotland, and served a formal apprenticeship
as a boat builder at Cockenzie on the Firth of Forth before establishing
himself as a joiner and cabinetmaker. He turned his skills to harp-making
in the early 1980s, and his instruments are now played by leading
Celtic harpers throughout the world. He recently moved from Scotland