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Thomas Leigh wrote, quoting John Cowan:

> > I have not been able to nail down the oldest Irish writings in Latin
> > script (as marginal notes in Latin manuscripts, typically), but
> > certainly no later than the 6th century.
>
> In university we were told that the earliest such piece dated to 597,
> and was a lament on the death of Columcille (St. Columba), and could
> likely have been composed in Iona.

This is off-topic, but I recognise the name "St Colmcille" only because
I have a book (and accompanying cassette) tape of Irish poetry from the
sixth century until modern times. The very first poem in the anthology
is a translation of one that St Colmcille wrote in the sixth century. I
have no idea what the symbolism means, and it's rather baffling
therefore, but it runs:

  There's a sea-blue eye
  That stares at Ireland drawing away.
  It will never look again
  On the women of Ireland or its men.

Just in case it's a topic that interests anyone.

Adrian.