UCC Things

The Ogam (Ogham) Stones Collection in UCC is the largest collection of such inscriptions on open display in Ireland. They are part of an exhibition called 'Stories in Stone' which can be viewed free of charge in the Stone Corridor of the historic Main Quadrangle Building.

About Ogam

Ogam is:

  • the earliest written source of the Irish language
  • the oldest recording of Irish personal names
  • the earliest real evidence of Irish scholarship and learning.

Ogam is both a script and an alphabet using strokes cut on, across and either side of a line. It was designed specifically for the Irish language and was originally used to commemorate named persons. The stones may have been used as boundary markers, property markers or burial markers.

The oldest Ogam inscriptions known date from about the fifth- to the seventh-century AD and were written on stone. The Ogam stones in UCC are examples of this. From the seventh century it was mainly used by those studying poetry and grammar. This later form was written on manuscripts and this ensured the survival of ogam into modern times. Inscribed stones bear the oldest known form of Ogam.

UCC Collection

The UCC collection was started in 1861 and the last Ogam stone was added by 1945. With a single exception all are from Co. Cork, the exception being from Co. Waterford.

The first six stones were collected by the South Munster School of Antiquaries and given to Queen’s College Cork in 1861. They were originally housed in the Royal Cork Institution, a centre for public education, from 1807 to 1861.

One stone was added around 1907 by Sir Bertram Windle, President of UCC from 1904 to 1919 and the first Professor of Archaeology of the College.

A further six stones were added in 1913, after their removal from the souterrain (underground chamber) in Knockshanawee, Co. Cork. Sir Bertram Windle was involved in the acquisition of these stones too.

12 more were added in 1920 from Ballyknock, Co. Cork and were also originally part of a souterrain. They were given to UCC by the landowner, the Duke of Devonshire.

Of the remaining stones, two were added to the collection before 1932 by Rev. Canon Power, who was Professor of Archaeology here from 1915 to 1932. He published a guide to the ogams of this college in 1932. The last was in place by 1945, when it was published by Professor R.A.S. Macalister in his Corpus of Ogam Inscriptions.

The oldest Ogam alphabet uses a series of 20 characters arranged in four groups with five characters in each. Each group is made up of one to five scored lines or notches which are placed to the left or right of a line (the stemline), or diagonally across it, or cut into it as small notches.

The inscriptions are generally read from bottom left to top right, and the classic inscription records the name of a man, his father and their broader tribal links.

A Guide to the Collection

This text is adapted from a guide to these Ogams by Professor Damian McManus, published by Cork University Press and available from the UCC Visitors’ Centre.

The statue of Queen Victoria, presently on display in the Graduates’ Room, UCC, was originally carved in 1849 for the pinnacle of the eastern gable of the Aula Maxima, overlooking the President’s Garden. It was unveiled when Queen Victoria visited Cork in 1849. 

Made of Cork limestone, the simple design depicts a young Queen Victoria in a medieval (neo-gothic) style. It was carved by a local Cork sculptor and was a personal gift to Queen’s College Cork [QCC] by the architect, Sir Thomas Deane. Working with Benjamin Woodward (later a partner in the firm), he was the architect of the original QCC buildings now known in UCC as 'The Main Quad'.

In 1934 the statue of Queen Victoria was replaced by one of St Finbarr. The removal of a queen and her replacement by a saint took place in the context of the strongly nationalist and Catholic religious atmosphere of the 1930s.

The replacement figure was that of St Finbarr, patron saint of Cork and from whose tradition was derived the motto of QCC/UCC, ‘Where Finbarr Taught, let Munster Learn’. The renowned Cork carver and sculptor, Seamus Murphy, then newly returned to Ireland from his studies in Paris, was given the commission to produce the figure of St Finbarr. His plaster maquette (model) of the Finbarr statue can be seen in the UCC Visitors’ Centre.

Five years later the then Registrar of UCC, Alfred O’Rahilly, would cite the removal of Queen Victoria as an example of peaceful nationalist action, to which our own students replied, anonymously, through the Cork Examiner: '… the dear old lady is still tucked away intact'!

Following her removal, the statue was placed in a room in the East Wing of the Main Quad. From 1934 to 1946 it remained there until the weight began to prove too much for the floorboards, and the decision was made to bury it in the President’s Garden nearby. Lowered into a pit lined with straw and buried by college gardeners, this protected it from the destructive impulses of iconoclastic nationalists and the effects of atmospheric pollution for nearly 50 years. It remained hidden, and nearly forgotten, until preparations began in 1994 for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the college.

In preparation for an exhibition called ‘Universitas’, dealing with the history of Queen’s/University College Cork, the statue of Queen Victoria was located and dug up, cleaned and placed on display in the former Council Room, now the Graduates Room. Since then, the figure of Queen Victoria in this room has become a generally accepted fixture of the college and an interesting reminder of the long and varied history of UCC.

In 2011 the statue was moved temporarily to UCC Lee Maltings to be viewed by Queen Elizabeth II during her historic visit to Ireland.

The statue may be viewed by arrangement with UCC Visitors’ Centre.

Sources:

The College – A History of Queens/University College Cork by Prof. J.A. Murphy (Cork University Press, 1995) pp. 233-5, 240 and 244-5.

Cork University Record/University College Cork Record, 1948 (no. 120), 1968 (no. 43) & 1974 (no. 49).

The Architecture of Deane and Woodward by Frederick O’Dwyer (Cork University Press, 1997) pp. 84-86.

The historic mace of UCC is the symbol of the authority of the university.

The shape is derived from the medieval weapon of the same name, a metal version of a wooden club, which has come to be adopted as a symbol of authority and identity by civic and other public bodies, including universities. The mace was commissioned in 1910 by Sir Bertram Windle, President of UCC, as a suitable symbol of UCC as part of the National University Ofof Ireland (founded in 1908).

The mace is of beaten silver, decorated with surface and relief ornament, mounted 'jewels' and enamelled coats of arms. It consists of a hollow ball-shaped head surmounted by a spiked open crown, which is placed on the heads of three seated dog figures, which in turn are placed on the flat disc-shaped top of the mace stem. The stem is essentially a cylindrical tube with knops and an expanded end. The quality of the workmanship, design, construction and decoration is of the highest order.

The enamelled coats of arms are of the principal towns of Munster, with the crest of UCC. The silver is sterling silver, 97.5 % pure, weighing about 150 ounces. The mace is marked with the normal marks of assay (from The Assay Office, Goldsmiths Hall, Dublin), on the head and on the stem, as these are two separate parts that screw together just under the three canine figures supporting the head of the mace.

The makers, Egan’s of Patrick Street and Maylor Street in Cork, made this as their first item in modern times, reviving an industry that had died as a result of cheaper, mass-produced, English imports. The mace is thus the very first item of modern Cork silver. Egan’s silver is highly sought-after today by collectors and connoisseurs.

The stem of the mace is inscribed, in Latin:

Me Socii et Alumni Pii Collegii Universitatis apud Corcagiam Almae Matri Suae Dono Dederunt A.D. MCMX. Bertramo Windle Praeside. Egan et Filii Argentarii Corcagienses me Fecerunt

In English this can be read as:

The pious friends and alumni of University College Cork gave me as a gift to their Alma Mater in [the year of Our Lord] 1910, in the Presidency of Bertram Windle. Egan and Sons, Silversmiths of Cork, made me

Notice how the mace is made to speak of itself. This is typical of ancient inscriptions on precious and important objects. Translation and related notes kindly supplied by Professor Keith Sidwell, Department of Ancient Classics, UCC.

The mace is still used at conferring ceremonies in UCC, being carried in academic procession in front of the President by the Macebearer, and displayed in front of him as he confers degrees on our graduates.

Sources:

Coakley, D.J. (ed.), Cork: Its Trade and Commerce: Official Handbook of the Cork Chamber of Commerce and Shipping (Guy & Company, Cork, 1919). A useful review of Cork industry and commerce of the day, with an introduction by Sir Bertram Windle in which he describes the commissioning of the UCC Mace.

University College Cork Official Gazette, April 1910.

Airgeadóir – 400 years of Cork Silver and Gold, catalogue of an exhibition held in Crawford Gallery of Art (Cork European City of Culture), by Conor O’Brien and John R. Bowen, 2005.

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