Ogham Tree Teaching Stone commission

In this final post of creating the Ogham Tree Teaching Stone, I cover sourcing, working and installation of this large standing stone. At the beginning of this project, I spent some time wandering fields and the mountainside looking for a natural stone for the Ogham stone. However, all the stones were much too big (too much volume) to get a stone of the height of 2.0-2.5m. I also went to a stone yard (Carlow Stone Centre in Ballon) to price getting the stone cut out of Carlow granite. Then, Albert (a friend) alerted me to the possibility some stones just up the hill from me, so Holly and I headed up there immediately to find a number of old granite gate posts and lintels many greater than 2.0m in length. The tallest one was 2.6m in length and was slightly curved and this was the stone I selected. Thanks to Michael for letting me have it.

I made a small maquette for the piece in very soft sandstone. This helped to think about how to remove the squareness/straightness of the large stone. I then worked the large stone by completely grinding down the soft more weathered granite to reveal a fresh clean surface. Then I bush hammered the whole surface to give the stone a worn-rough texture. I finally marked and cut the ogham letters. The process is in the photos below.


Installation: the weather was beautiful when I prepared the foundation for the standing stone and on the day of installation (18th May). I got the foundation materials locally from  John Joyce from Ballymurphy and note, I have used ECOCEM (more environmentally friendly)! I got a local contractor, Eamon Nolan to excavate the foundation and to transport and erect the stone (with a little help from his father Martin Nolan). Eamon did a great job, thanks Eamon! The installation was slightly stressful as it was filmed for Blackstairs Eco-Trails  for their Celtic Tree Walk in which the Ogham stone is to feature. The film crew consisting of Judy, Greg and Peter were there to film every movea beautiful summer’s evening. Thankfully, it all went very well and to plan.




With regard to the sequence of letters, it took me a while to come up with a design. I felt it was important that I didn’t make up something or try to write something in Ogham. As it would be inaccurate and spurious and I’m no expert in Old Irish. Also, to just leave the letters in their 5 letter groups or aicme would have not been visually interesting.

The groups are known as aicmi (pl. of aicme ‘family, class, group’) in Irish and are named after the initial character giving Aicme Beithe, Aicme hÚatha, Aicme Muine and Aicme Ailme.

Beithe, Luis, Fern, Sail, Nin
hÚath, Dair, Tinne, Coll, Cert
Muin, Gort, (n)Gétal, Straif, Ruis
Ailm, Onn, Úr, Edad, Idad

As mentioned before,  a number of the Ogham characters were named after trees and plants, but it is now no longer accepted that all were. However, in folklore, trees and other plants have been assigned to the 20 letters.

So I ended up creating rough groups consisting  of a trees, shrubs, bush and plants to give a good visual and plant variation. The stone has been set in a newly planted forest of native trees. It will form an integral part of the Blackstairs Eco-Trails “Celtic Tree Walk” with the aim to impart knowledge of the native flora of Ireland to visitors from near and far and enhance interest in our ancient culture and long lost forests. Also, to promote the granite built heritage of south Co. Carlow.



I (Idad) – Yew (Cherry)


Ng (nGétal) – Fern

L (Luis) – Rowan

N (Nin) – Ash


G (Gort) – Ivy

S (Sail) – Willow

T (Tinne) – Holly


O (Onn) – Gorse

R (Ruis) – Elder

B (Beithe) – Birch

C (Coll) – Hazel







D (Dair) – Oak


U (Úr) – Heather

Z (Straif) – Blackthorn

H (hÚath) – Hawthorn

Q (Cert) – Apple


M (Muin) – Vine

E (Edad) – Aspen

F/V (Fern) – Alder

A (Ailm) – Pine






Most Ogham stones have names of people on them (often Chieftains, landowners, etc). On many stones, the same letters are seen in sequence, these are “MAQI” or variations of. This has been generally translated as “Son of”. I did put MAQI on one of the two unmarked corners but only very faintly.

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