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Welcome to the website for the AHRC/IRC Project OG(H)AM: Harnessing digital technologies to transform understanding of ogham writing, from the 4th century to the 21st.

An ogam stone adjacent to a laptop - the laptop shows a green 3D model of the adjacent stone.
Digital scanning of ogham stone, Lugnagappul, Co. Kerry (c) Nora White.

Who could have foreseen that ogam script would make international headlines twice, for entirely unrelated reasons, on the same day (8 May), and who would have thought that an ogam text could even become the centre of a political controversy? The OG(H)AM team will reserve the small portable ogam-inscribed stone from Coventry (E-WAR-001), which was the subject of a full article in the Guardian, for another occasion, but we will seize the opportunity to honour the respectable sixth place at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 for Bambie Thug’s song Doomsday Blue

Already in the Irish selection round for Eurovision 2024 on 26 January, the full-body costume of one of the accompanying dancers, besides featuring the odd runic character, also bore the ogam inscription CHAMPION (Image 1). Following a common practice in revivalist ogam, the language of the writing was English and not one of the several stages of Irish. 

Image 1. The CHAMPION ogam inscription on Bambie Thug’s backup dancer from 26 January 2024.

For the contest in Malmö, Sweden, Bambie Thug (Bambie Ray Robinson) themself decided to sport body-paint tattoos in the ogam script, a not inappropriate choice for the County Cork-born singer. In line with the major political commotion around the 2024 ESC, their intention for the dress rehearsal on 6 May and the first semi-final on 7 May was to wear a facial ogam calling for CEASE FIRE in Gaza (Image 2), and an ogam on each leg. The one on the right leg read in Modern Irish SAOIRSE DON PHALESTIN ‘Freedom for Palestine’, the left one CROUUN THE UUITCH for what normally would be ‘Crown the Witch’ (Image 3). Due to the poor resolution of the available photo, some of the letters aren’t very clear to read. While the facial ogam followed the standard orientation of the script, the ogams on the legs, although going bottom-up, had the letters of the B- and H-aicmi swapped (B-group: B L F/V S N; H-group: H D T C Q). This orientation appears wrong for on-lookers, but it makes sense from the perspective of the singer, who sees them in the correct orientation. 

Image 2. Bambie Thug’s CEASEFIRE facial ogam.
Image 3. Bambie Thug’s SAOIRSE DON PHALESTIN and CROUUN THE UUITCH ogams.

The use of the two politically themed inscriptions was blocked by the European Broadcasting Union’s rule that the ESC has to remain strictly non-political. Therefore, the only text borne by Bambie Thug in the semi-final and in the final round was the neutral, English-language CROUUN THE UUITCH. 

It is fundamentally possible to write any language in the world in any writing system of the world, but like the roman alphabet, the ogam script is not ideally suited for English. However, there are ways to get around the shortcomings. One issue that Bambie Thug was confronted with is the fact that the traditional ogam alphabet has no sign for W. Some automatic transliteration sites on the internet use the simple, but senseless and non-user-friendly strategy of dropping any non-traditional ogam letter altogether. The team of Bambie Thug came up with a clever solution: instead of W ‘double-u’ they used a double U. This shows that a proper amount of thinking went into the ogam used by the singer. 

The OG(H)AM project’s approval of Bambie Thug’s ogams was even acknowledged in print in the Irish Times (© Karl McDonald).

We congratulate Bambie Thug and the team on their success. 

The OG(H)AM project seeks to harness digital tools from different fields to transform scholarly and popular understanding of ogham—an ancient script unique to Ireland and Britain. It is jointly funded by the Irish Research Council and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council under the UK–Ireland Collaboration in Digital Humanities Research scheme. The project provides the long-awaited opportunity to complete the corpus of ogham-inscribed Irish stones begun by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies Ogham in 3D project (2012-15, 2016-17), to extend it beyond stone monuments to cover ogham in all media (including portable objects and manuscripts), and to incorporate the many examples from outside the Republic of Ireland.

The OG(H)AM project runs from 1 August 2021 till 31 July 2024 and is a collaboration between the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and Maynooth University, Ireland. For details about the Project team, see here.

The project’s name is explained here.

This web resource is under construction and will be updated as the project progresses.