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Mystery at Montgomery Castle

Created on 26/05/2016 @ 05:25
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The mystery surrounding the origins of a set of Irish harp pins unearthed at Montgomery castle over 45 years ago will be revisited next month as part of Wales’ oldest music festival.

Twenty-four tuning pins for an Irish harp were discovered during an archaeological dig in 1967 and are displayed in the town’s Old Bell Museum.

Archaeologists, historians and musicians have been left puzzled as to why a near-perfect set of Irish harp pins should have been excavated at the site.

The mystery will be re-examined as part of the Gregynog Festival when a harp historian and a world-famous harpist give a historical and musical presentation about the pins.

Researcher Dr Karen Loomis and Siobhán Armstrong, founder of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland and one of today’s leading players of the early Irish (or ‘Brian Boru’) harp, will host the evening at Montgomery Town Hall on June 20 and attempt to unravel the mystery.

Originally built by Henry III in 1223 as a border stronghold, Montgomery Castle was later home to Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Chirbury, during the 17th century.

“Since the harp pins were discovered, there’s been great mystery surrounding their origins,” said Dr Rhian Davies, Artistic Director of the Gregynog Festival, which runs from June 16-26.

“Were they part of a complete Irish harp? Who owned the instrument, where was it made, and what kind of music would have been played on it? And, most intriguing of all, what was an Irish harp doing at Montgomery Castle?”

More will be unveiled at “The Montgomery Castle Harp Pins” event at 7.30pm in Montgomery Town Hall on June 20.

This year Gregynog Festival’s theme is Eire and a packed programme of events includes world-class Irish musicians plus international artists who specialise in performing Irish repertoire.

Music, drama and talks inspired by the Easter Rising and Fron-goch feature during the festival programme as well as forming part of the Welsh Government’s project Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-1918.

A substantial outreach programme is again planned and will be revealed shortly under the name Irish Coffee.

A Welsh Government Visit Wales signature event, the festival attracts visitors from across the world each year to venues throughout Mid Wales, including the famous Gregynog Hall, near Newtown, home of the Davies sisters who launched the event because of their passion for music and the arts.

In addition to placing the area on the international music and arts map, the Gregynog Festival plays a part in supporting the rural economy, attracting visitors into the area and raising its profile. Last year the festival attracted at least £150,000 of spend into the area as well as working with local people through an outreach programme involving musicians and artists visiting local schools, cafes and residential homes.

The box office for the Gregynog Festival has just opened with tickets available through and 01686 207100.

PICTURE: Dr An Welton of the Old Bell Museum at Montgomery with Dr Rhian Davies, Artistic Director of the Gregynog Festival with some of the Irish harp pins. (Photo ©Owain Betts, courtesy of Powis Estate)


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