Know Your Local History 2 Revealed

So AGES ago I asked you where you would find this:


So you’ll find the plaque here at Maynooth Library (note my bike included!). Robert Emmet had his rebellion in 1803. We’re told that ‘Maynooth was in arms’. The Duke of Leinster went to the people to persuade them to put down their weapons and they did so, piling them up at Carton. This does go against the plaque which commemorates the people! Ah well…




Donaghmore (Ogham Stone)

The Donaghmore Ogham Stone (CllC 026)* was discovered by Lord Walter Fitzgerald in Grangewilliam churchyard in 1902. The Ogham inscription upon it is fine and faint and, were it not for Fitzgerald’s keen eye, the monument could easily have been lost to us forever. He found it lying under a bush, where it had been discarded, in the north-east part of the churchyard. The stone was subsequently removed to the relative safety of nearby Carton House for a number of years before ultimately finding its way to the National Museum of Ireland in 1931. The stone is composed of a soft limestone and measures approximately 76cm x 36cm x 23cm. The inscription runs upwards along two edges of the stone, which is unusual, but not unheard of (normally, the longer Ogham inscriptions run upwards on one edge, across the top, and then downwards on the other side). In this case, the inscription reads:


MAQI, literally means ‘son-of ‘, but in the context of Ogham inscriptions it has a looser definition: perhaps ‘devotee’. It is the most frequently occurring word in Ogham and provides little indication of the date of the inscription. The origins of the word MUCOI remain unclear, but it almost certainly indicates membership of a sept (a division of a nation or tribe), and is, in most cases, followed by the name of that sept. Although MUCOI is also a very common word in the inscriptions, it is less common in the later period of Ogham tradition.

The name NETTAVRO[E/I]CC consists of two elements: NETTA (Old Irish: Nad), meaning ‘hero’ or ‘champion’, and VRO[E/I]CC  (Old Irish: Froích,  Modern Irish: Fraoch) meaning ‘heather’, or in this case perhaps, more specifically ‘heath’. So, roughly translated into today’s Engligh language, NETTAVRO[E/I]CC may become ‘Heath-champion’. Interestingly, later literary sources record the name of Natfraích, a 5th century Munster King, and two similar versions of the name (NIOTTVRECC and NETAVROQI) occur on Ogham stones (CllC#202 & #271) in Kerry and Waterford (respectively).

TRENALUGGO too is a ‘compound name’ consisting of the words TRENA and LUGGO. Although the inscription of the word LUGGO is very faint and difficult to read, it almost certainly refers to the pre-christian god Lugh, of whose name appears quite frequently in Ogham inscriptions. TRENA is more difficult to interpret: it was  once considered to correspond to the Old Irish word tréna, simply meaning ‘strong’, but it is more likely to be trian, meaning ‘a third’,  as in the fraction 1/3. The same name (although spelled ever so slightly differently) appears on Monataggart lll (CllC#120), from County Cork.

It must be remembered, when deciphering Ogham, that it is Primitive Irish, the oldest known form of the Irish language, ‘Latinized’, that is, sounded out using the Roman alphabetic system, and only then converted into the arcane Ogham script. The heavily formulaic inscriptions do not translate well into modern Engligh, and the significance and power which they once carried is sadly lost on us. Nevertheless, the inscription of the Donaghmore Ogham Stone may be read:

Nadfroich, son/devotee of [the sept] Tríanlugh**

*CllC refers to Macalister’s Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum (1945), which listed and described all known Ogham inscriptions of the time. Macalister’s numbering system is still used today for the majority of stones, excepting those that have been discovered since 1945.

**I have resisted the temptation to translate the names here for two reasons: firstly, because it is not presently possible to offer a definitive interpretation of them; and secondly, because that would only serve to clutter up what is essentially a very simple inscription and its true meaning.

David Jackson


Fitzgerald, W. (1902): Discovery of on Ogham Stone near Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 32, 267-268.

Grosjean, P. (1960) Espoic Branduibh Aui Trenloco Anchoritae, Celtica 5, 45-51

Macalister, R.A. S. (1945): Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum, Dublin: Stationery Office.

McManus, D. (1991):  A Guide to Ogam. Maynooth: An Sagart

Rhys, J. (1903): Notes on the Ogam-inscribed Stones opf Donaghmore, Co. Kildare, and Inisvickillane, Co. Kerry, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 33, 75-87.

Thurneysen, R. (1946): A Grammar of Old Irish. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.