Lochaber Trump or Jew’s harp is undoubtedly one of the most popular musical instruments ever. Literary references consistently note that every child had one, and Scottish poets coined the phrase “Tongue of the Trump” to describe the person who was the leader (or the loudest) of a group. ‘Jeu trumpe’ and ‘Jeu Harpes’ are the oldest names for the instrument which became the “trump” in Scotland and Ireland and is known known as “Jew’s Harp” or “Jaw Harp” in the United States. Because they are small, easy to play, and can accompany any musician, trumps were popular throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. From the 1400’s until the Industrial Revolution, trumps came from a small village, Piperheugh, in the Lochaber District, where the main industry was the manufacture and playing of trumps. The village is gone and only a few rocks remain, but, until the Industrial Revolution, this 15-home town in Lochaber manufactured trumps for all of Europe. When the Scots emigrated to the United States, the Lochaber trump traveled with them, and the twang of the jaw harp has now become associated with Appalachia as the dance and fiddle styles that have been passed down over the generations.
Whether you’re a native Scot or just celebrate Scottish heritage and culture, please come to the Harp tent and try your hand at playing this popular instrument. You won’t regret it and you just might learn something fun. Trumps will be available for you to use or purchase at the tent.