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Recent Stone Finds

Carved Stone-Head -
Kilgarvan Ogham Stone.

Carved Stone-Head found in Balla.

A recently discovered carved stone-head found built into a wall in Balla might be the relic of the old monastery, destroyed by fire in AD. 1179. The carving probably dates to somewhere between the 10th and 12th centuries. The original monastery is reputed to have been founded by St. Crónán (also known as Mochua) a 7th century saint from the great monastic foundation at Bangor, Co. Down, who died, according to the Annals of Ulster, in A.D. 693. The head is inserted in the wall lying on its side, but it is shown here upright for ease of viewing.

Kilgarvan Ogham Stone.

During a recent informal outing by some members of the Mayo Historical & Archaeological Society a most interesting and important discovery was made in Kilgarvan churchyard in the parish of Bonniconlon, Co. Mayo. A previously unrecorded ogham stone was found lying in the graveyard, close to where an ancient church once stood. Local tradition tells us that the church was founded by St. Feichin of Fore, a 7th century saint, who was born in Leyney in Co. Sligo.

Members of the Mayo Historical and Archaelogical Society
pictured at the find site

Ogham was a cumbersome method of writing used by the ancients to inscribe the Irish and Pictish languages on stone monuments. It was popular between the 4th and the 7th centuries but there are some scholars who think the stones date back at least to 100 AD. Ogham script consists of lines and notches incised on the edge of a stone, with each line or notch, or series of lines and notches, representing different letters of the alphabet. It is usually read from the bottom upwards. The origins of ogham is in dispute with some scholars seeing it as having a connection with the runic alphabet, (a writing system used by the peoples of northern Europe, Britain, Scandinavia, and Iceland, from about the 3rd century AD.) while others maintain it is simply a transformation of the Latin alphabet.

The Kilgarvan stone was reported to the authorities in Duchas and an archaeologist, who is an expert in deciphering the script, examined the monument. He was of the opinion that it was a memorial stone bearing the name of an individual, and that the inscription was in Old Irish. However, it will take some more detailed study before any firm conclusion can be reached. We await the outcome with interest.