Ogham Stones

The number of these stones discovered in Ireland is near 300, and they are chiefly confined to the South, Kerry furnishing nearly one-half, the barony of Corkaguiny being rich in those remains. There are 54 of these stones in Great Britain—10 in Scotland, and 44 in Wales and Devonshire. They are from about 3 to 19 feet high.

The Ogham alphabet was applied to wood, bone, amber, gold, silver and lead. The book of Ballymote gives a key to the translation of inscriptions. In old MSS. there are many passages referring to the use of Ogham writing on pieces of wood to convey messages by hand.

Ogham stones were sepulchral in the first instance, but some may have served the purpose of boundary marks. As to their antiquity, antiquarians are divided in opinion. Brash and others claim for them a pre-Christian origin, but recent authorities as Dr. Rhys do not consider them anterior to the introduction of Christianity into the British Isles. Considering that they are chiefly confined to the South of Ireland, we may draw the conclusion that they were erected by a colony that settled down there. The colony was not numerous, which is shown by the number of Ogham stones erected, which are not many. As to the period the colony arrived, it may be put down to the beginning of the Christian Era. Most of the Welsh and South-West British Ogham stones have Roman lettering of a rude type. In the Lebar-na-Heera, on the death and burial of Fothad Aigthec, who was killed near Larne in 285 A.D., we are told of his burial in a stone sepulchre, which contained the Ogham inscription: “Fothad Aigthec is here.” There are several Ogham stones existing recording the death of historical persons who lived in the second, third, and fourth centuries; but we have no such monuments raised to any historical person who lived before the first century of the Christian Era.

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