The Stone Corridor – ogham stones at University College Cork (Part 1)

The Stone corridor at UCC

Ogham stones in Stone Corridor (‘Rúin na gCloch / Stories in Stone’ exhibition), University College Cork. (images by author)

By Dr Nora White, OG(H)AM’s Irish Postdoctoral Researcher

The Stone Corridor at University College Cork (North Wing of UCC’s Main Quadrangle Building), is unique in having a large collection of carved stone (including ogham stones) on public display. For anyone interested in ogham there is nowhere else that you can easily see so many examples together in one place. There are 28 ogham stones in total in the collection, 27 from Co. Cork and one from Co. Waterford (see Part 2 in a later blog post). They are a wonderful representation of Irish ogham stones generally in that they show the wide variety in stone type, shape and size of monuments (ranging from under 1 meter to over 3 meters high) as well as the various layouts and carving techniques employed. They also include a range of inscriptions from earlier and later linguistic phases. To put the scale of this collection into perspective, out of roughly 400 ogham stones known from Ireland, there are approximately 100 originating in Co. Cork and over a quarter of these are in the UCC collection.

Rev. Canon Power, who was Professor of Archaeology at UCC from 1915 to 1934, published the first account of the ogham collection at UCC in 1932. Damian McManus’ guide, which is the one most used today, was published in 2004. A couple of years later (2006), the ogham collection underwent major conservation, research and exhibition design (‘Rúin na gCloch / Stories in Stone’). Before being redisplayed, the opportunity was also taken at the time to 3D scan the stones (by Archaeoptics).

This collection of ogham stones is in fact older than UCC itself. The first 6 ogham stones were collected in the early 19th century by the South Munster School of Antiquaries, in particular John Windele and Richard Brash, and were originally housed in the Royal Cork Institution before being moved to the newly established (1845) Queen’s College Cork, as the university was formerly known, in 1861.

Five of the UCC ogham stones, each different in terms of the placement of the carving, the stone type, or carving type, are on display.
L-R: Barrahaurin (I-COR-052), Tullig More (I-COR-079), Glenawillin (I-COR-011), Glenaglogh (I-COR-056) and Coolineagh (I-COR-054)

The first of these (I-COR-052 = McManus 1. CIIC 103) served as a lintel in a souterrain (like so many others from Co. Cork in particular – see earlier blog post on Recycled ogham stones) in the townland of Barrahaurin (Barr an Chárthainn, barony of East Muskerry) in mid Cork. The story goes that the souterrain was dismantled in 1845 (during the Great Famine in Ireland) when the ringfort it was in was cultivated as a ‘cabbage-garden’; apparently a number of lintels were raised and ‘laid on the rampart of the fort for subsequent disposal’, however one bearing an ogham inscription was carried off by night and sold to the antiquarian John Windele for £1 (Macalister, 1945). The inscription (‘finely cut scores’) is in reasonably good condition, although possibly incomplete, and appears to commemorate an individual named Carthach (anglicised in the surname (Mc)Carthy): CARRTTACC MMAQI MU CAGG[I] ‘of Carthach son of ?’. It is unclear here if MU is short for MUCOI ‘Sept/kin group’ or the possessive (mo) ‘my’, which is later quite commonly used with personal names in a hypocoristic form or pet name (especially clerical names, e.g. Mo Chuta, hypocoristic form of Carthach). CAGG[I], which may be incomplete, appears to be the same element found in NETA-CAGI ‘champion of C?’ from Casteltimon in Co. Wicklow (I-WIC-001). This inscription is a good example of the doubling of consonants sometimes found in ogham (see Harvey 1987), although the doubling of the initial M of MAQI may be unique, or at least very rare.

Another of the first stones in the collection (I-COR-079 = McManus 20. CIIC 127) was discovered in 1841 in Tullig More (An Tulaigh Mhór, barony of East Muskerry), also in mid Cork. The shape of the stone is very irregular and the inscription is quite uncertain but is perhaps to be read up on two angles (following McManus): MAQI LAS?OG, BM[ ]TTM[ ]Cge (with lower case letters representing uncertainty). McManus notes that the character after the S on the middle angle of the front face looks like the first of the supplementary characters, the X-forfid (ᚕ) usually transliterated as K, but not actually crossing the stemline (><). Unfortunately, this is now difficult to check as there is a bracket around the stone to hold it in place which hides the character.

An ogham stone with a grey bracket supporting it around the top 1/3 of the stone visible in the image; the inscription is visible on the two edges of the front face.
Tullig More ogham stone (I-COR-079)

Next is another souterrain lintel (I-COR-011 = McManus 21. /CIIC 63), this time from Glenawillin (Gleann an Mhuilinn, Barony of Barrymore) in East Cork, where a second ogham stone remains on site to this day. Unusually, there are two independent inscriptions on this stone, one on the facing angle, the other against the display stand at the back and therefore, unfortunately, inaccessible. Two very different techniques were used in the carving of these inscriptions – the one facing is pocked in bold scores, while the one on the angle at the back is finely cut in a style often referred to as the ‘Cork style’ (finely scratched rather than deeply and broadly pocked), since more of the inscriptions from Cork than anywhere else are of this type. The first inscription reads: BR[U]SC[O MAQI] DOVALESC[I], the second more delicately carved reads: COLOMAGN[I] [A]V[I] DUC[U]R[I]. The name BRUSCO is found elsewhere in ogham inscriptions and may correspond to later brosc ‘thunder’. DOVALESCI also seems to correspond with later Duiblesc. COLOMAGNI is an early form of the name Colmán, diminutive of colum ‘dove’ (from Latin columba). AVI ‘grandson, descendant’, like MAQI ‘son of’, is a common formula word in ogham inscriptions.

The landscape surrounding the souterrain at Glenawillin, with another ogham stone standing proudly in the foreground.
Field close to the souterrain at Glenawillin where the second ogham stone (I-COR-012) still stands.

There is also an ogham stone (I-COR-056 = McManus 22. /CIIC 107) that once formed part of a stone circle in Glenaglogh North, (Gleann na gCloch, barony of West Muskerry) also in mid Cork. Before joining this collection in 1835 it also spent some time as a lintel in a pig-sty. The surviving name on this stone is CUNAGUSSOS MA… (later Congus) containing the elements ‘hound’ and gussu– ‘strength’.

Next is a stone (I-COR-054 = McManus 23. /CIIC 105) discovered in 1838 built into the structure of St Olan’s church, in Aghabullogue (Achadh Bolg) graveyard in Coolineagh (Cúil an Fhéich, barony of East Muskerry) in mid Cork. Unfortunately the inscription is quite damaged and uncertain, apart from the last name, which is unidentified (Macalister’s 1945 reconstruction: AN?M N[ETACU]N[A]S [CE]L[I] VIDETT[A]S). The stone also displays deep v-cut marks or grooves on the face, often mistaken for ogham but actually part of a broader phenomenon of incised marks in stone (see Newman 2009 and Roaringwater Journal blog post). A second ogham stone (I-COR-053 = CIIC 104) still stands in Aghabullogue graveyard.

The sixth ogham stone (I-COR-087 = CIIC 135) of this early group in the collection is from Mountmusic (Cnoc Amhráin, another from the West Muskerry barony of mid Cork). Although it was recorded by Canon Power in 1932, it was not included in McManus’ Guide in 2004, as it was at that time lying on the ground with the inscription hidden. The 2006 conservation works saw the cleaning and repair of damaged stones, as well as re-mounting of the stones, including this neglected cross-carved ogham stone, which was discovered by Windele in 1845. The cross-of-arcs design is later than the ogham inscription (in fact it cuts into the ogham scores) and was carved at the bottom of the stone in relation to the ogham inscription, so that for the cross to be at the top (which it is in its current position) the inscription reads down the right-hand side instead of up the left as was probably the original intention. It reads: MI]NNACCANNI MAQI AILLUATTAN. These names are unidentified.

A close-up image of a cross-of-arcs, with one arm cutting into the first of the five strokes of an ogham inscription.
Detail of the deeply carved cross-of-arcs cutting into ogham scores on the Mountmusic stone.

Then in 1911, a further 6 ogham stones (I-COR-062 to I-COR-067 = McManus 2-6; 26a/b; 27 / CIIC 112-117) were discovered in another souterrain in the townland of Knockshanawee (Cnoc Seanmhaí, barony of East Muskerry) in mid Cork. Quite controversially at the time, the souterrain was dismantled by RAS Macalister (see International Day of Ogham Blog post) and Sir Bertram Windle (president of the university and its first Professor of Archaeology 1910-1915). The ogham stones were all transferred to the college a couple of years later. As pointed out by McManus, ‘these inscriptions are characterised in particular by the faint scratch-like nature of their scores’ (more examples of the ‘Cork style’). This group of stones also contains the tallest stones in the collection ranging from 1.5 to 3 meters high. One of the stones (I-COR-064 = McManus 26a/b / CIIC 114, no.3), re-used as a lintel in the souterrain, was found in two fragments supported by one of the other ogham stones (I-COR-063 = McManus 5 / CIIC 113, No.2) standing upright.

Three ogham stones from the same region are pictured side by side.
Three of the Knockshanawee ogham stones: I-COR-064 (McManus 26a/b = CIIC 114, No.3), I-COR-066 (McManus 6 = CIIC 116, No.5) and I-COR-062 (McManus 27 = CIIC 112, No.1).

The inscriptions on the Knockshanawee stones read (according to Macalister 1945) as follows:

  1. (I-COR-062): [M]I[C]ANAVVI MAQ L[U]G[U]N[I]
  5. (I-COR-066): BRANI MAQQI MUCC[OI –]R[A]L[–
  6. (I-COR-067): COLLOS[– (or McManus: COLLI)

Interestingly, we find a possible close relationship (brothers? as both MAQI LUGUNI ‘sons of Luigne’) between the individuals recorded on the first two of the stones, found side by side in the souterrain. The second inscription has an example of the early use of the X-forfid (ᚕ), transliterated K. Most of the names in these inscriptions do not appear to occur in the later record. However, Bran ‘raven’ (5. BRANI) is an exception in that it is commonly found as a name (element) in ogham and later sources (see also Ballyknock I-COR-037 = McManus 19 / CIIC 88 in part 2 of this blog post). Another identifiable word/name is coll ‘hazel’ (6. COLLI) and possibly cerc ‘hen’ (3. CERC[C–).

In Part 2 of this blog post (in the coming months) I will present the remaining 16 ogham stones in the UCC collection, including an outlier from Co. Waterford and the largest number of ogham stones from a single souterrain!

Further reading:

Harvey, Anthony (1987): ’The Ogam Inscriptions and Their Geminate Consonant Symbols’, Ériu 38: 45–71.

McManus, Damian (2004): The Ogam stones at University College Cork. Cork : Cork University Press.

Newman, Conor (2009) ‘The Sword in the Stone: previously unrecognised archaeological evidence of ceremonies of the later Iron Age and early medieval period’, in G. Cooney et al (eds), Relics of old decency: archaeological studies in later prehistory. Festschrift for Barry Raftery, 425-36. Wordwell, Dublin.

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