Some of you might remember this from a post I did for the Monochrome Madness Challenge a couple of weeks ago. I was really excited about this stone as it was the first Ogham stone that I have encountered in person. I found it in the small rural village of Donard in Co. Wicklow as I was heading home from my recent explorations at the Monastic City in Glendalough. Donard takes it’s name from Dún Ard – High Fort – the ruins of which are said to still be visible above the town. Situated on a small public green, to the center of the village. It shares this space with a religious shrine and a nice little park bench, surrounded by well cared for flower beds. I am only starting to study these stones, as I know very little about their history or purpose, so please bear with me. I will update and/or correct and errors or omissions as I become aware of them. But for now, here is what I know.
The Ogham Stone in Donard Village did not always rest here, I believe it only moved to its current location in 1995, after being moved around on a number of occasions. It was a tricky one to trace, but I believe that it was originally known as Old Mills Piper stone and was part of a set of standing stones. The other stone it seems still sits in a field on a nearby farm. So I guess a return visit will be in order to track down this other stone. The Ogham stone itself is almost rectangular in shape, measuring 1.52m X .68m X .53m with a slight lean of about 15°. Sadly this stone has not stood the test of time and is badly worn. As a result it is quite difficult to make out the full inscription, even after using editing software to enhance the images for the best possible view, it is still near impossible to make out the text. However according to the National Monuments Service website, a chap referred to only as Macalister read the inscription back in 1897 as IAQINI KOI MAQI MUC … As an incomplete text it translates as follows, ‘Of Iaqinas(?) here son of (the tribe of)‘,
So what Where Ogham Stones? What purpose did they serve? Who made them? Well I always believed that they dated back to ancient times, but this would not seem to be the case according to modern research. But don’t knock the idea just yet! Ogham was essentially a 25 letter alphabet said to be based on the Roman alphabet, which is believed to be the earliest form of writing in Ireland, it dates back to around 4th century A.D. and was in use for around 500 years. This alphabet is made up of twenty five characters which are represented by a series of straight or slanted lines. It would seem that in In early Christian times the Ogham Stone appear to have been used as commemorative stones, normally to mark someone’s final resting place or as boundary markers. Interestingly Ogham is sometimes referred to as the “Celtic Tree Alphabet” as many of the characters are connected with the sacred trees of Ireland.
Now back to my thought on its ancient origins, I recall mention of Ogham in various stories I heard over the years about Cúchulainn. Then there is the belief that It was inspired by the ancient Tuatha Dé Danann deity Oghma! Then we have ‘Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta, a christian manuscript said to have been written around 1390 A.D. which tells of Ogham being used as a secret or ritual language! So whilst there is no physical evidence of Ogham existing before the 4th century, it is still possible that Ogham did exist in ancient Ireland and underwent some form of transformation with the arrival of the new religion to Ireland. For further reading on the subject, my fellow Irish Blogger Ali Isaac did a fantastic piece on the subject which strongly recommend you check out. Ogham; The Secret Code of our Ancestors