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How the Harp Came to Be
by Grainne Rowland

"Why are you still at the table?" asked Macha impatiently.

"Wife, I just sat down to my lunch five minutes ago. I've been in the fields all day!" replied Cathal.

"Well, get you back out to the fields. You still have work to do. Take your bread and cheese with you," grumped Macha.

"Let me get a drink of buttermilk first. It's hot outside," Cathal said.

"Don't drink it all. It needs to last for a while."

Cathal said, "Woman, will you never be satisfied?"

"How can I be satisfied when you sit in the house all day and do nothing?" harped Macha.

Cathal grabbed his lunch and raced out to the fields.

"She never stops complaining," muttered Cathal. "I wish I could find just one thing that would make her happy."

A few days later, Macha and Cathal were on the beach gathering seaweed for the salt in it. As usual, Macha was grumbling.

Suddenly she stopped.

"What is that sound?" she whispered.

They listened. There it was, the most haunting sound they had ever heard. But where it came from, Cathal and Macha could not see.

They kept on walking, searching for the wonderful sound.

All they could see were the bones of a whale that had gotten stranded on the beach. But as they stood and looked at the skeleton, Cathal noticed that the sound seemed to be coming from the bones. As the wind blew, the sound got louder. When the wind stopped blowing, the music stopped, too.

Cathal said, "The wind is causing the music as it blows through the bones."

"That is the most soothing tune I have ever heard," said Macha in a quiet, calm voice.

And Macha was calm and uncomplaining for the rest of the week!

Cathal was surprised but pleased with Macha's new behavior. He began to think about it. He finally decided that it was the music that had changed Macha.

"I must find a way to keep the music close to Macha. That way she will stay happy," said Cathal to himself.

Cathal thought and thought. He thought some more.

"I know what I will do," he said three days later. He went and cut down a large tree. He bought some catgut. He shaped the wood into the shape of the whale's rib bones. He made strings of the catgut and attached them to the wood. Then he painted and polished the wood. It was beautiful!

Cathal brought the instrument into the house. He strummed the strings and waited. Macha came out from the back room. She had a lovely smile on her face.

"Oh, Cathal," she whispered, "you have brought the music to me! It is so beautiful! I am so happy!"

She sat down and began to strum the instrument, too. It was as if she was born knowing how to play. She played and played.

And Macha was happy from that day forward. Cathal was even happier because Macha was no longer complaining!

That is how the first harp came to be.

A lovely story for kids, but may be you'd like to read a different version for the grown-ups? Click Emblems of Ireland - The Harp

Author's Bio

Grainne was born in Columbus, Ohio, and was totally ignorant of her Irish heritage until the age of 14. One day, in the course of conversation, her Dad casually said, "Well, you know we're Irish. Your great-grandparents came from Co. Donegal." That was IT! Starting with Clancy Brothers records, she studied everything about Ireland she could get her hands on. Finally, in 1980, her dream was fulfilled. She spent two months in Ireland and completely fell in love with it. She also cried all the way back to the U.S.

In the teaching profession for over 21 years, Grainne has taught on two Indian reservations and is nearly as intrigued with the Navajo and Pueblo cultures as she is with the Irish. A few years ago, she also learned that she is part Cherokee Indian. As she puts it, "There are many similarities between the Indian cultures and the Irish, such as the oral storytelling tradition and the emphasis on family."

Since 1994, Grainne has written Irish folktales for children and adults, as well as stories of famous Irish people. Her favorite Irish person is Grace O'Malley, or Grainnauile, for whom she has re-named herself.

If you would like to contact her, Grainne would be delighted to hear from you. Her email address is:

Index of All Children's Stories


Wed, Jan 3, 2018

FOTA Wildlife Park

Only 10,000 cheetahs remain in their natural habitat and Fota Wildlife Park in Co. Cork, Ireland, is the world's leading breeder of this endangered species. Fota is among the most modern wildlife parks in Europe. It was opened in 1983 and has more than 70 species living in natural open surroundings with no obvious barriers. Only the cheetahs are behind fences.
Another species which is being saved from extinction at Fota is the white tailed sea eagle. It disappeared from Ireland in the early 1900's, but is now being bred at the park and re-introduced to the wild in Co. Kerry.
Fota is open to the public in the summer and is very popular with Irish families, as well as tourists.

Click for More Culture Corner.

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