Ogham script is one of the oldest forms of writing and is referenced throughout Celtic mythology. Long before the days of paper, stone was inscribed as a form of communication. Ogham script consists of lines representing twenty letters. These lines can still be seen to this day along the edges of many standing stones found throughout the Celtic nations. In most cases the lines translate to names or a short phrase describing a person. Sometimes they mark a burial site, but they also were used to indicate boundaries and territories.
Around a third of the standing stones inscribed with Ogham letters in Ireland can be found in County Kerry, especially around the Dingle peninsula. Kerry boasts around 360 Ogham stones in total. We've listed a few below and they are well worth a visit if you are in the area:
Dunloe Ogham Stones is a collection of stones in Kerry that mark burial sites. They date back to the 5th and 6th centuries AD.
Another stone from around the same time is the Arraglen Ogham Stone. The inscription reads; "Of the priest Rónán son of Comgán". Please take note of the weather conditions if considering a visit to this stone as it is on an exposed and elevated site.
There are plenty of accessible Ogham stones to be found in the grounds of churches, such as the one found at Kilmalkedar on the picturesque Dingle peninsula.
The inspiration for our bronze sculpture of an Ogham stone came from the story of "The Recovery of the Tain" from the twelfth century Book of Leinster. The sculpture features Ogham script along the side that translates as the name "Vergoso" or "Fergus", meaning "strength". It's a fascinating legend about storytelling, its importance to the Irish people and the dangers of celebrity. You can read the full story here.
Illustration by David Rooney.