Tag Archives: London

Irish harpist busking in London, c.1900


Ealasaid was looking through George Sims’s amazing books Living London, published around 1900-1903, searching for images to use in her artwork, when she found this lovely photograph in a section about street musicians. This gentleman is playing what looks like an Egan portable harp, or perhaps one of the late 19th century imitations made by Holderness, Morley or other London harpmakers.

He also appears to have a concertina under his arm and there is what I imagine is a collecting box strapped to the pillar of his harp.

The Egan Royal portable harps usually have a strap button at top and bottom of the soundbox, but I don’t recall ever seeing a picture of someone with the harp strapped to themselves before.

Henry George Farmer, in his paper ‘Some Notes on the Irish Harp’, in Music & Letters vol XXIV, April 1943, describes how he remembered seeing an Irish harper busking on the Old Kent Road in about 1900. Farmer said he did not have time to check out who the harper was or how his instrument was set up, leading to much speculation about whether this was the last of the blind students from the Dublin Harp Society, playing one of the big Society wire-strung early Irish harps. However this image suggests that Farmer might have seen this man or someone like him, playing a gut-strung neo-Irish harp.