The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, Co. Kerry, Southern Ireland

Ballintaggart Ogham Stone (with an unusual incised cross).

Irish Grid Reference: V 4645 9966. On the top of Ballintaggart Hill, just to the southeast of the village of Ballintaggart (Baile an tSagairt) and 1½ miles southeast of Dingle, in County Kerry, Southern Ireland, there is a circular enclosure which was probably an ancient burial ground from the early Christian period; within this enclosure there are nine sandstone grave-markers – cigar-shaped recumbent stones in a circular pattern arrangement – the ninth stone laying in the middle, and all having incised carvings on them; these carvings either being Ogham-script notches or curious thin crosses, some having both. Some of the stones have Ogham inscriptions recalling the devotees of the pagan goddess, Dovinia (Duibhne) of the Corcu Duibne tribe of the Corcaguiny Peninsula. Three of the smooth recumbent stones have thin crosses carved on them. These carvings could well date back to the 5th Century AD. The site is also known as ‘Ballintaggart Nine Stones’. To reach the site: head W for ½ a mile or so along the lane from Doon-shean, then on the right-hand side, look out for the footpath up to the hill, just before the lane turns N to the racecourse and then Dingle town. 

Ogham Stone by R.R.Brash (1879).

The circular enclosure on Ballintaggart Hill, which is a low hillock or knoll, measures around 30m (98 ft) in diameter and approx. 17m W-E – 92° degs X 17m S-N – 1° deg. There is a raised bank around the edge of the enclosure and a shallow ditch. Three of the stones have thin incised crosses and most have Ogham inscriptions. One stone recalls AKEVRITTI another to TRIAM MAQA MAILAGNI or ‘the three sons of Malagnos’, while on its reverse side CURCITTA. And on this stone a triple-ended incised cross. Another stone in memory of INISSIONAS, while another recalls CUNUMACCQQI AVI CORBRI or ‘Conmac grandson of Coirpre’. Another recalls NETTA LAMINACCA KOI MAQQI MUCOI DOVINIAS or ‘the nephew of Laminacca, son of the people of Dovinia’. Dovinia, Dobhinia, or Duibne, being the pagan goddess of the tribe Corcu Duibne of the Corcaguiny Peninsula. This stone also has a cross with expaned ends. Another stone has a similar inscription in memory of MAQQI IARI KOI MAQQI MUCCOI DOVVINIAS recalling the same goddess. There is also a stone recalling someone called SAVL or SAUL, grandson of DOCHAR. Two other stones in memory of: SUVALLOS MAQI DUCOURROS and MAQI DECCEOA MAQI GLASICONAS. The burial ground was apparently the site of a church but nothing remains of that now.

James Mackillop (1998) tells us that Ogham is: “The earliest form of writing in Irish in which the Latin alphabet is adapted to a series of twenty ‘letters’ of straight lines and notches carved on the edge of a piece of stone or wood. Letters are divided into four categories of five sounds. A twenty- first symbol, an upturned arrow, was used for the letter p in British inscriptions. Notches and grooves appear on one or both sides of a foundation line (druim). Designations for the letters q, v, and z, which are not used in Irish, support the now widely accepted interpretation of ogham as an expression of Irish through the Latin alphabet. The current view displaces many colourful speculations on ogham’s origin: runic alphabet of Scandinavia, Chalcidic Greek, northern Etruscan, etc.

“Ogham inscriptions date primarily from the 4th to 8th centuries and are found mainly on standing stones; evidence for inscriptions in wood exists, but examples do not survive. The greatest concentration of surviving ogham inscriptions is in southern Ireland; a 1945 survey found 121 in Kerry and 81 in Co. Cork, while others are scattered throughout Ireland, Great Britain, and the Isle of Man, with five in Cornwall, about thirty in Scotland, mainly in ‘Pictish’ areas, and more than forty in Wales. In Wales, ogham inscriptions have both Irish and Brythonic-Latin adjacent inscriptions.

“Most ogham inscriptions are very short, usually consisting of a name and a patronymic in the genitive case. They are of linguistic rather than literary interest, because they show an older state of the Irish language than found in any other written sources. Many appear to be memorials to the dead, while others mark the border between two lands. Although the knowledge of ogham was never lost in scholars (at least one 19th-cent. grave-marker uses it), the notion that ogham was employed for occult or magical purposes dogs critical commentary. As late as the 1930s the eminent archaeologist R. A. S. Macalister proposed that ogham was part of the secret language of ‘druidic freemasonry’. Sean O’ Boyle suggested (1980) that the key to explaining ogham is harp notation. The god of rhetoric and eloquence, Ogma, is an attributed creator; his name and the word appear to be philologically related”.

Before setting out to visit Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, please check websites to see whether it is open or closed to the public in these times of Covid-19, and also check National rules.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Mackillop, James, Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Matthews, John & Caitlin, The Aquarian Guide To British And Irish Mythology, The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1988.

Image Ogham Stone by R.R.Brash (1879):  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CIIC_156_(Richard_Brash,_1879).png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballintaggart_Ogham_Stones

http://www.ancientireland.org/ballintaggart/

https://ogham.celt.dias.ie/stone.php?lang=en&site=Ballintaggart&stone=155._Ballintaggart_I&stoneinfo=description

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=27329

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/53.8361757,-2.2012261/Ballintaggart+Ogham+Stones+IN+cO+kERRY+-+IS+IT+OPEN+OR+CLOSED+%3F/@52.8993587,-10.7110317,6z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m9!4m8!1m1!4e1!1m5!1m1!1s0x484ffa2aebcaa01d:0x6f921f297f781b5c!2m2!1d-10.2431562!2d52.1278522

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Ballycrovane Ogham Stone, Co. Cork, Southern Ireland

Ballycrovane Ogham Stone (Photo credit: Peter Ribbans - Geograph)

Ballycrovane Ogham Stone (Photo credit: Peter Ribbans – Geograph)

Irish grid ref: V 6569 5291. On the windswept headland to the south of Lough Fadda, at the far-western point of County Cork, Southern Ireland, stands the ancient monument which is known as Ballycrovane Ogham Stone, a very tall standing stone (menhir) which has an Ogham inscription carved on its edge. But this tall, thin pillar-stone pre-dates the Ogham inscription by over two-thousand years – back to the Bronze-Age, at least. The ancient standing stone is located in a field on the top of the hill overlooking the harbour at the south-side of Kenmare Bay – at Ballycrovane on the Beara Peninsula (Ring of Beara) – a few hundred-yards south-east of the ‘Faunkill and the Woods’ road and the little coastguard station, then with ‘possible’ access through the farmyard*. Ballycrovane is 2 miles to the south-west of Ardgroom village and the R571 road; the village of Eyeries being a further 2 miles to the south-east. [*The stone is on private farmland, so you “might” have to pay a small fee to visit the monument!]

Ballycrovane Ogham Stone is said to be ‘the tallest Ogham stone in Ireland’ and probably in Europe, for that matter. It stands at a very impressive 17 feet (5.3 metres) and is said to be several feet below ground, but it is only a very slender pillar-slab and it tapers slowly away to the top. At the eastern edge there is an Ogham inscription which is becoming difficult to see because of weathering. This stone was obviously erected here during the Bronze-Age, with the notches being carved onto it in more recent times, probably during the 3rd-5th centuries AD. The inscription is now thought to recall someone called Deich and Toranus – the full Latin translation being: MAQI DECCEDDAS AVI TURANIAS which would be ‘Of the son of Deich a descendant of Torainn’, but could the inscription in fact be a kind of dedication or memorial to the Deisi – the ancient tribe that inhabited Ireland – during the 3rd-4th centuries AD? We may never know that question.

Ogham was the ancient (Goidelic) language of the Celts who inhabited the western fringes of Britain in pre-Roman times, but it was still being used by the ancient Britons up until the 5th-7th centuries AD – the so-called Dark Ages, at which time many Ogham memorial stones were Christianized with a carved cross. The script consisted of a series of short notches or strokes, carved vertically and also slanting on the edges of grave-covers and some standing stones, similar in fact to the wording and epitaphs that we see on gravestones in churchyards today. Antiquarians and historians in this particular field have now been able to translate, in Latin form, these usually short inscriptions by following the Ogham script alphabet, the key to which was in the 14th century Book of Ballymote.

The author James MacKillop in his work ‘Dictionary of Celtic Mythology’ says of the Ogham language: “The earliest form of writing in Irish in which the Latin alphabet is adapted to a series of twenty ‘letters’ of straight lines and notches carved on the edge of a piece of stone or wood. Letters are divided into four categories of five sounds.” MacKillop goes on to say: “Ogham inscriptions date primarily from the 4th to 8th centuries and are found mainly on standing stones; evidence for inscriptions on wood exists, but examples do not survive. The greatest concentration of surviving Ogham inscriptions is in southern Ireland; a 1945 survey found 12 in Kerry and 80 in Co. Cork, while others are scattered throughout Ireland, Great Britain, and the Isle of Man, with five in Cornwall, about thirty in Scotland, mainly in ‘Pictish’ areas, and more than forty in Wales. South Wales was an area of extensive settlement from southern Ireland , including the migration of the Deisi.” 

Sources:

Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998.

Photo copyright:  http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/507477

© Copyright Peter Ribbans and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Reader’s Digest., Illustrated Guide to Ireland, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1992.

Scherman, Katherine., The Flowering Of Ireland,  Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1981.

The Megalithic Portal:  http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=12