Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lament For Sir William Johnson

Sir William Johnson was a chosen sachem and adopted member of the Mohawk Nation and on July 11th 1774, the death of the beloved “Warraghiaghy” was deeply mourned. He had been their leader in peace and war, and had been commissioned the sole superintendent of the Six Nations by King George the Second. Even though he often lived and roughed it on the trail with his native allies, while home at Johnson Hall, he lived the life of an Irish gentleman, and tried to surround himself with as much tradition from his homeland as he could, including the keeping of a traditional Celtic bard and harper.

It was Sir William’s beautiful blending of Celtic tradition with the American colonial frontier that inspired the creation of this Irish Lap Harp. It was totally hand made using only traditional tools from rough cut black walnut wood that was harvested, sawn and air dried locally. The design of the harp is based on traditional antique lap harps of the 18th century, and has 27, bronze wire strings that are tuned with square headed, tapered iron pegs. It stands 32 inches tall, and is 14 inches wide across the base.

The pillar is 30 inches measured on the curve, and the scrolled arch measures 28 inches. The harp was polished and finished with varnish and waxes, and further embellished with raised Celtic knot work and deeply incised chip carvings.

The famous image of Johnson by Benjamin West is draped in black ribbon, and the harp in black gauze as a sign of respect and mourning.

The harp is also surrounded by items familiar to and popular with the people of The Six Nations including a medallion engraved with a thunderbird, a brass figural handled trade knife, an effigy carved scalping knife, a crucifix necklace strung with glass beads, and a traditional war club, and most importantly, with a variety of furs. It was the acquisition furs, like the deer, the bobcat, beaver and marten that fueled both the wars and the trade that Sir William and his friends the Mohawk, knew so well.

Copy and photos by T.C. Albert. All items made and crafted by T.C., including the harp.

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