Journey of an ogham stone: from Aghabullogue to UCC (part 2)

Note: please also see our article Journey of an ogham stone: from Aghabullogue to UCC (part 1)

One day in 1841, Edward Hawkesworth was shooting in the townland of Tullig More, when something caught his eye. It was a large stone, irregularly shaped, and red in colour. In itself, the stone was not unusual, but the scorings upon it were. Hawkesworth thought they formed a sort of inscription, and later mentioned it to noted Cork antiquarian, John Windele. On 3 October 1841, Windele visited the site and concluded it was an ogham stone.

Windele was no stranger to Aghabullogue, and had procured an ogham stone from the northern end of the parish at Glounaglogh, Rylane during the 1830s, which had been used for some time as a lintel in a pig-sty. Windele was also later involved c.1851 in relocating an ogham stone at St Olan’s Well, Aghabullogue, which had previously been used as a footbridge over the Delehinagh River.

Abraham Abell was another Cork antiquarian, who was manager of the Royal Cork Institution and head of its antiquities department. He was fascinated by ogham stones and considered a leading authority, at a time when little was known about them, and when these stones were considered by some to possess a mystical quality. Through the exertions of Abell and Windele, the Tullig More ogham stone was removed from its original location and ended up in the care of the Royal Cork Institution, probably at its premises known as the old Custom House (today being the Crawford Art Gallery at Emmet Place, Cork).

This was a time when antiquarians roamed around Cork and Munster, seeking out items and sites. When something of interest or perceived value was found, it was often removed and deposited elsewhere. On the plus side, it could prevent items being damaged, destroyed, or sold on for gain. On the negative side, items could end up in private collections, or were sometimes sold nevertheless or lost in time, and would occasionally re-enter the public realm having left the country and ended up in British museums.

When Tullig More ogham stone was removed, it was taken from its context (as archaeologists would say) which is never a good thing. It was taken from the place it was found; from the soil; and possibly from the very site it bore relation to. A chance of gaining valuable information, or securing answers to questions, or establishing the connection between this ogham stone and its surrounding locality was lost. Instead of adding to archaeological knowledge in this part of mid-Cork, the stone was thereafter reduced to the status of an artefact for observers to look at and speculate on.

Tullig More ogham stone (1879)

We know the ogham stone was found within Tullig More (Tullig in Irish probably being Tulach or Tulaigh, meaning low hill, hillock or mound) a townland of some 480 acres in Aghabullogue parish. Other than that we can only guess as to its exact original location. The Cork Grand Jury Map of 1811 (for which surveys took place in the 1790s) depicts a large circular structure named ‘Tullig Fort’ within the townland. By 1841 this fort seems to have disappeared, and was presumably levelled, as it is not depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey map. The surveys for this first edition map locally took place around 1841 or 1842, and either the ogham stone had been removed a short time before this, or perhaps was still there and the surveyors failed to notice it during their surveying work. Is there the possibility this ogham stone was connected to Tullig fort and did both have early medieval origins? Or was the fort an early ecclesiastical site, to which ogham stones were sometimes connected? This part of mid-Cork had numerous ecclesiastical sites positioned on both sides of the Dripsey River. Was the stone a territorial marker? This would have been towards the eastern edges and fluid borders of the ancient territory of Muscraige Mittane, a petty kingdom north of the River Lee. Was Tullig More ogham stone simply a memorial or grave marker to some important but forgotten person of long ago? Or did it signify land ownership?

After being taken to Cork, the ogham stone was examined by local antiquarian and archaeologist Richard Rolt Brash (1817-1876). He described it as a rough, undressed pillar of old red sandstone, which was fractured and weather-worn. Reading the inscription, Brash questionably concluded the left angle to read MAQI LASEG (‘the son of Laseg’) with a possible name before Maqi, which was now unreadable; and the right angle to read OT MAQ (I) HE (‘Ot the son of He’). By 1932, Patrick Power was describing it as a 5ft x 1 ft 6in pillar with well-cut scorings, but difficult to interpret and he read the inscription as EGSAMVVA MAQI LASCOG [I]. Robert Alexander Stewart Maccalister (who took up Abell’s mantle of being an authority on ogham) in 1945 described Tullig More ogham stone as 5ft 2in x 1ft 9in x 1ft 6in, and of irregular shape due to ‘violent treatment’. He read the inscription as MAQILASPOG B TTMACDE, suggested letters could have been painted between B and TT to make BENEDICATT, and stretched his interpretation to read ‘may the Son of God bless Bishop Maqil’. Interestingly, Macalister also noted that an earlier inscription on the stone was gone, and the actual shape of the stone suggested part of the inscription had been on the base, which was partially buried when the stone was first discovered.

The affairs of the Royal Cork Institution ceased, and the Tullig More stone, along with its parish counterparts from Glounaglogh and Coolineagh (see Journey of an ogham stone: from Aghabullogue to UCC (part 1)) was transferred to University College Cork. Today all three ogham stones grace the Stone Corridor at the Quad in UCC, and keep each other close and silent company. We shall leave the final say on the inscription and the stone’s origins, to the public notice which today adjoins Tullig More ogham stone:

MAQI LAS?OG, B/M[ ]TTM[ ]CGE     EGS[ ] MVV[ ] ?/M

The reading begins on the middle angle reading up and continues on the right, again reading up. There is also a downward reading on the right angle. The position of the inscription is unusual, probably owing to the irregular shape of the stone, which makes it difficult to translate.

A pillar stone, it was found in 1841, and came later to the University from the Royal Cork Institution.

Tullig More ogham stone today

SOURCES

  • P. David Sweetman (ed.), Archaeological Inventory of County Cork Volume 3: Mid Cork (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1997)
  • Patrick Power, The Ogham Stones, University College, Cork (Cork University Press, Cork, 1932)
  • R.A.S Macalister, Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum, vol I (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1945)
  • Richard Rolt Brash, The ogam inscribed monuments of the Gaedhil in the British Islands, ed. George M. Atkinson (Bell & Sons, London, 1879)