Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Trump in Scotland

No I am not talking about the millionaire Donald Trump !, but rather one of the oldest musical instruments which is known by various names throughout the world such as Jaw harp, Jews harp and in Scotland where it is called the trump.


Literary references are quite rare , though ( The Tongue of the trump ) is a Scottish proverb - used by Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns , no less , describing the main or most active person in a group.

Another early reference to the trump is found in the fantastic book Highland Folk Ways by I F Grant on page 135 which states - The highlanders also played a humbler instrument - the Jews harp - generally called the trump. the earliest allusion to it I have met is in a record of a trail at a Justice Court held at Inveraray in 1677 . a certain Donald McIlmichall , vagabond was accused of stealing a cow and consorting with evil spirits. Donald told the court that one Sunday evening he had noticed an lightened opening in a hill in Appin, and on entering , he had seen a crowd of men and women dancing in a place having many lighted candles. He said he did not know who they were but judged them not to be worldlie men. He admitted that he returned to meet in various shians ( fairy mounds ) on ilk Sabbath nights and that he played the trumps to them quhen they danced. There is more to the incident but you will need to read the book to find out more. 

The jaw harp , trump is often overlooked today as nothing more than a children's toy when in fact as a musical instrument is has a history spanning 1500 years or so