Currower Ogham Stone, Attymass in Co. Mayo

The Currower Ogham Stone stands within one hundred and twenty yards of the public road, is ten and a half feet in height and averages four feet in width and about one foot in thickness. It is in such a conspicuous position that those with some interest in archaeology had for many years passed it by without bothering to examine it. They remained under the impression that if it bore an Ogham inscription it must surely have been noted long ago. But it was never noted until recently.

When local national school teacher Mr Cunney got this stone thoroughly cleaned in the 1940’s he observed the marks as follows; beginning at the top right hand corner, he found regular markings were on an average, one and a half inches apart and that thirty-three of them succeeded each other in regular order before two gaps of three and a half inches and three inches occurred to be followed again by five regular signs. Much the same occurred on the left side, except that about one foot at the bottom, which may have borne Ogham characters was broken off. To ascertain the average distance between the markings is important, as when some letters are obtained the value of the missing strokes can be calculated and the name can be restored conjecturally as in the case of worn letters of a name on a tombstone.

There can be no doubt about portion of the readings on this stone, but in some cases the scores and notches are practically obliterated, not by any human agency but by the weather. Having noted down the signs and allotted the corresponding letters to them, the next step was to find the keyword MAQI, which would guide Austin to the side from which the entire context read and on the left hand side is the word. Underneath MAQI were sufficient characters to supply the name of the person to whom the monument was erected and oobserve that no less than fifty characters follow the keyword.

Professor MacAlister gives his opinion as follows: "Assuming that this inspection is genuine, as it appears to be, it is certainly new. The copy as it stands cannot be exactly the text, but this is probably easy to rectify. I can trace Maqi in the left hand line, and Maqi mucoi is possible, though not certain".

With the discovery of the Currower Ogham Stone, another important new monument had been added to the relatively small number of Ogham stones known from Mayo. This raises the question of what is the geographical distribution of Ogham monuments. They are practically confined to Ireland and Wales and to a particular area in Scotland. Approximately three hundred and sixty one are recorded, and of these only sixty are outside Ireland. One hundred and twenty have been found in Kerry, eighty-one in Cork and forty in Waterford, giving a total of two hundred and forty-one for those three counties, as against fifty-one for the rest of Ireland. In seven or eight counties no Ogham has so far has been discovered. N.E Scotland, or the Pictish region, has sixteen; Wales has twenty-six, the Isle of Man has six as does S.W England. Some are reported from Saxony. Except a few in Scotland, which are in Pictid, all the other inscriptions are in an early form of Irish and are a work of the wandering Gael.

When the stone was discovered a preservation order was issued and even in the absence of this there would have been no danger to the monument, as the owner was interested in its preservation and facilitated the archaeoligical work in every way during its examination and furthermore, provided the archaelogists with the only local lore concerning it. The stone emits a hollow sound when struck and this varies in pitch from its base to the top. This, it is said, is due to some cavity or chamber beneath in which some pot of gold is hidden. But to get to the bottom of the stone is no easy matter, for it is said that it extends twelve feet into the earth. Very many years ago two men from the village began to dig for the gold. They burrowed six feet into the ground, and then the stone gave a list towards the east. The men got alarmed and fled, leaving the hole to be filled up by the others who, in order to prevent the monument from falling over placed a large stone as a prop against it on the east side. This prop is still there and so we may presume, is the pot of gold.

The previous owner Mr Mullen says that one night some years ago a stranger visited the place examined the stone in the light of a bicycle lamp, and stated that it contained writing and that someone else would be sent to investigate it. There is an opinion held that the stranger was none other than a mysterious gentleman who visited years ago to solicit subscriptions from priests, teachers and others for the publication of a work on Ogham writing. He actually issued receipts for cash received, but he was never heard of himself or of his work since.

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