250th | Ogam: Ireland’s oldest alphabet

This illustrated talk touches upon the origin of the Ogam alphabet, its nature, the Ogam inscriptions, their language, distribution, and date. A selection of photographs of Ogam monuments from Ireland and Britain are shown, along with illustrations from medieval Irish manuscripts.

Professor McManus is author of A guide to Ogam, joint editor of Stair na Gaeilge, and has published many articles in learned journals on Celtic Studies.

Funded by the Department for Communities, this talk was originally delivered as part of a week of free online lunchtime lectures organised to link with Irish Language Week (Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia). The series is also designed to highlight Irish language items in the collection of Armagh Robinson Library (formerly Armagh Public Library), which is celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2021. These include an Ogam stone dating from about the time of St Patrick (5th century AD). It was found in the townland of Drumconwell some 3 miles south of Armagh and presented to William Reeves, a renowned scholar and Keeper of Armagh Public Library, who had it removed to the Library in 1879. The markings on the stone suggest that it was the burial marker of a local man called Conmáel. As such, it is early evidence of literacy and one of the earliest written records of an Armagh life. Conmáel’s name is also preserved in the name of the townland in which the stone was found: ‘Drumconwell’ means ‘Conmáel’s ridge’.