When Guinness decided to respond to changing drinking tastes and produce a lager in 1960 they considered a number of names; Atlas, Cresta and Dolphin among them. Cresta was to emerge some years later as a frothy soft drink favoured by a polar bear in sunglasses, so it’s perhaps as well that they chose a different name, and one that fitted well with the Guinness brand.
The symbol that was already part of the Guinness logo, and has been associated with Ireland for centuries, in fact the Trinity Hall Harp, (one of the three oldest surviving Gaelic harps in the world) was long believed to have been owned by the 11th Century Irish monarch, Brian Boru (who founded the O’Brien dynasty). Modern testing has disproved this, but the instrument still dates back to 14th/15th Century times.
Similarly, the harp as Irish heraldic symbol can be traced back to Norman times, but was formally recognised and adopted by Henry VIII as a means of removing papal symbolism. Ironic in a country where Roman Catholicism has been such a force. Many Irish companies adopt it as part of their logo (Ryanair for example) as well as the state and in fact there were fears in the 1980’s that attempts by the Irish State to register the harp as intellectual property might by challenged by Guinness who were using the symbol 50 years before the founding of the state. Solution? The Guinness harp faces right, the Irish harp faces left. (Well most of the time as you can see below!)
With a recent revival of interest in the playing and manufacture of the instrument it seems the harp has an interesting future, and one underlined by the construction of an iconic bridge across Dublin’s River Liffey in recent years. Although it is named for Irish writer and Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett, there is no doubting where architect Santiago Calatrava drew inspiration. Much better than his other bridge featured on these pages! It might even have usurped the Millennium Bridge in my affections!