Thesaurus Indogermanischer Text- und Sprachmaterialien

CIIC no. 012

  CIIC:   012   Epigraphy:   0   Ferguson:   83   ECMW:  

  Original site:   Glenballythomas   Irish name:     Surroundings:   Souterrain / Cave
  OS map:   0   Coordinates:   0.0 / 0.0   Description:  
  Parish:     Barony:   Castlereagh   County:   Roscommon
  Present site:   =
  OS map:   0   Coordinates:   0.0 / 0.0   Description:  

  Romanization:   (V)RAICC(I) [||] MAQI MEDVV(I)
  Ogam transcription:   (ᚃ)ᚏᚐᚔᚉᚉ(ᚔ) [||] ᚋᚐᚊᚔ᚞ᚋᚓ(ᚇᚃ)ᚃ(ᚔ)
  Ogam transliteration:   (ᚁ)ᚁᚁᚋᚋᚋᚋᚋᚐ᚞ᚐᚐᚐᚐ(ᚐ) [||] ᚋᚐᚆᚆᚆᚆᚆᚐᚐᚐᚐᚐᚋᚐᚐᚐᚐᚆᚋᚁ(ᚁ)᚞ᚁᚁᚁ(ᚐᚐᚐᚐᚐ)


Location and history:

As in former times, this stone still serves as a lintel in the artificial entrance of a natural cave near the earthworks of Rathcroghan, i.e., the monuments of the court of the Connaught kings in Cruachu. The entrance, "a drystone masonry porch in the style of a souterrain" as it was styled by Macalister, CIIC, is concealed underneath a track leading in South-East direction from the road after passing by the so-called "Rath na-dtarbh" in South-Western direction (a detailed map of the Rathcroghan monuments is given in Herity, Rathcroghan, 10, where the cave is marked no. 19).

According to Ferguson, PRIA 9, 1867, 160 f., the "spot" was "marked with the name Owneygat, that is, the Cat's Cave" within "the townland of Glenballythomas" (this is Umhaid na gcat according to a ms. 14 F. 8, p. 191 ff., deposited in the Library of the Academy; Herity, Rathcroghan, 16 has "Oweynagat" and Uaigh na gCat instead. Another name was "Queen Meave's treasure-house" according to OI, 56). It is situated "310 yards ("30 yards westward" in OI) north-west of the ancient sepulchral enclosure called Relig-na-ree" which is believed to have been the cemetery of the Cruachu kings. In his article about "Cemeteries" (PRIA 15, 1872), 117, Ferguson stated that "about three hundred yards to the south-east of Relig-na-ree stands the pillar-stone thought to indicate the grave of Dathi, the last Pagan Monarch of Ireland, who is recorded to have been buried at Rathcroghan A.D. 428". Cf. Ferguson, PRIA 15, 1872, 114-118 for details about the whole site as well as figures showing the Relig-na-ree and Dathi's pillar; the first description can, according to PRIA 9, 1867, 160, be found in a note to O'Donovan's translation of the "Annals of the Four Masters", for A.D. 1223. A thorough description has recently been published by M. Herity; cf. his "Rathcroghan and Carnfree".

The site was visited by Ferguson on the 30.9.1864 (PRIA 9, 1867, 161) who "observed" (for the first time?) two "inscriptions in the Ogham character" in the souterrain. According to him, the cave was surrounded by "the remains of a tumulus of about twenty yards in diameter" at that time (cp. his Fig. 1, where "A" marks the entrance as shown in his Figs. 4 and 5). Today, the tumulus no longer exists, the entrance being hidden underneath the path mentioned (cp. photograph 9). If compared with Ferguson's description, the souterrain cannot be entered to the same extent as in his days now because it has filled up with mud (cp. photograph 6). The present stone (numbered 12 by Macalister, CIIC), is still in reach, however.

An exact reading was not possible under the given circumstances when the cave was visited in 1978; in 1996, conditions were much better because the afternoon sunlight fell just into the entrance.

No size is given by Macalister, CIIC.

The stone is not included in Macalister, Epig.

Published illustrations:

Ferguson, PRIA 9, 1867, 162 ff. (three woodcuts, no. 1, 2, 3, showing the structure of the souterrain, one draft showing the presumed original shape of the stone, and one sketch of the inscription);

Herity, Rathcroghan, Pl. 2a, p.12 (photograph showing the entrance to "Oweynagat")

Macalister, CIIC (draft).

Reading Ferguson, PRIA 9, 1867, 168:

Outer angle, west to east | inner edge, west to east:


"(The stone of) [Fraic?] son of Medf."

Given the "generally observed rule that these inscriptions read from bottom to top, and from left to right", there is "no reasonable doubt that" the line starting with MAQI "contains the patronymic, and the line on the opposite side the name, of the person commemorated". Of FRAICCI, -R-CCI "are free from doubt". Ferguson was able "to examine the whole under surface and edge, and to state that no further inscribed marks exist upon it" (164).

The author wonders whether the "two ribbed projections, separated by shallow grooved indentations" he found on "the inner edge, at the eastern end" (i.e. after the letters read "FFI") might have resulted from intentional "preparation with the tool". He compares "similar indentations" on a stone from New Grange and one of the "Ogham inscribed stones in the Academy's Lapidarian Museum, No. 5" {142: Ballineanig}. "These indentations, whatever object they may have had, appear to indicate that this is the upper end of the stone, and raise a probable conjecture that it originally stood upright."

Reading Ferguson, OI 57 (83.-84.):

83.: Outer arris:


"There is nothing to indicate how these vowel equivalents are to be divided." - "Fraic or Freoc (is) a proper name, which in the Tain bo Fraich has local associations with Rathcroghan.

84.: Inner arris:


Maqi Medffi

"The over-line digits forming the D and the under-line digits forming the first F are in some degree apposited, and might be taken as GB, Megbfi, but I make no doubt but this slight overlap indicates no real modification of the text .." - "The name of Medff .. is even harder to dissociate from an historical identity .. Medff may be masculine as well as feminine."

Interpretation Macalister, JRSAI 27, 1897, 231:


"Assuming the correctness of the published copy of Rathcroghan I, which I have not seen", this "is certainly `of Fraech, son of Medb'; it is highly improbable, though, that the title hero from Táin Bó Froích could be meant here.

Interpretation McNeill, PRIA 27/C, No. 15, 1909, 345:


This may be taken as an example for "Ogham V after d (aspirate)" becoming MS. b (aspirate), cf. nom. Medb (masc.) L.Arm. So doubtless after l, n, r".

Reading Macalister, CIIC:


The Inscription is of the "up-up" type. -DV- was "cut carelessly, so as to overlap". - Macalister here prefers to "abstain from speculation as to whether" MEDVVI could mean "Medb, the queen of Connachta, whose traditions are linked so closely with this site".

Interpretation Korolev, DP, 60:


The inscription is preserved complete; it belongs to an early period.

Interpretation Herity, Rathcroghan, 16:


The reading is "plausible"; it means "`[the pillar] of Fraech ... son of Medb'".

Reading Gippert (5.4.1996):

"Outer" angle "west" to "east" -

"Inner" angle "west" to "east":


(ᚃ)ᚏᚐᚔᚉᚉ(ᚔ) [||] ᚋᚐᚊᚔ᚞ᚋᚓ(ᚇᚃ)ᚃ(ᚔ)

(ᚁ)ᚁᚁᚋᚋᚋᚋᚋᚐ᚞ᚐᚐᚐᚐ(ᚐ) [||] ᚋᚐᚆᚆᚆᚆᚆᚐᚐᚐᚐᚐᚋᚐᚐᚐᚐᚆᚋᚁ(ᚁ)᚞ᚁᚁᚁ(ᚐᚐᚐᚐᚐ)

The stone would have to be taken off the cave in order to finally decide whether the inscription was really intended to read up-up and contains no Ogham on the "top" edge; cp. the Cloonmorris case {2}. The angle containing (V)RAICCI is the one directed outward. V1 is irregularly shaped like a vowel score; this may be due to a later added fissure. - The arrangement of DV in MEDVV[I is indeed remarkable, as Macalisterobserved. As against his suggestion of "carelessness", we have to note that the distance between E and V is just the same as the distance between the vowel notches of E and the V strokes; (cp. fig. 5); we might therefore rather think of the D having been added later, either as an insertion into an original *MEVVI or as a correction of a misspelt *MELVI. The latter possibility is suggested by the fact that the third stroke of the first V in the name is much shorter than the V1,2 and does not reach the angle so that it is doubtful by itself.

Additional literature:

JRSAI 28, 1898, 230; 409: Rhys
PRIA 9, 1864-66, 160-170: Ferguson
JRSAI 113, 1983, 121-42 / 114, 1984, 125-138 / 117, 1987, 125-142 / 118, 1988, 67-84: Herity
JRSAI 41, 1911, 93-116 / 105-240 / 301-342: Knox
JRSAI 44, 1914, 1-50 / 48, 1918, 157-163: Knox
Ó Ríordáin, S.P., Antiquities of the Irish Countryside (5th ed., 1979)
Journ.Ir.Arch. 1, 1983, 21-46: Waddell
Emania 5, 1988, 5-18: Waddell

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Copyright Jost Gippert, Frankfurt 2000-2001. No parts of this document may be republished in any form without prior permission by the copyright holder. 28.2.2001.