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Fergus Kelly, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.


I graduated from Trinity College Dublin in Early and Modern Irish in 1967, and subsequently spent a year in the Linguistics Institute at the University of Oslo. I also taught a course in Celtic Civilisation at the University of Toronto. I am currently a Senior Professor in the School of Celtic Studies, at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. My central interest is in early Irish legal documents. I am at present working on an edition and translation of an Early Modern Irish Legal Treatise by Giolla na Naomh Mac Aodhagáin (died 1309), and also on an edition and translation of a fragmentary 8th-century law-text on disputes within marriage. I have written a general account of early Irish (‘Brehon’) law entitled A Guide to Early Irish Law (1988) and also Early Irish Farming: a study based mainly on the law-texts of the 7th and 8th centuries AD (1997). Many of the law-texts contain detailed information on Irish agriculture, stock-raising, wildlife and landscape, and some of them have been edited and translated for the first time in the Appendices to Early Irish Farming. I have a particular interest in the Ogham inscriptions, the earliest form of writing in Irish, which mainly date from about the 5th and 6th centuries AD. I am a member of the Advisory Panel of the Ogham in 3D Pilot Project currently underway at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.


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Research Interests

Early Irish legal documents - natural history of Ireland - history of domestic livestock - development of Irish crops - human uses of wild plants - relationship between documentary and archaeological evidence.


Earth, Air, Water.

Selected Publications

Kelly, F. (2010) Cauldron imagery in a legal passage on judges, Celtica, 26, 31-43.

White, N. and Kelly, F. (2010) The Ogham in 3D Pilot Project: a report on work in progress, Celtica, 26, 200-204.

Kelly, F. (2005) The horse in early Irish society, In: McGrath, M. and Griffith, J. C. (eds.), The Irish draught horse: a history. Cork: The Collins Press, 30-39.

Kelly, F. (2002) Texts and transmissions: the law-texts, In: Ní Chatháin, P. and Richter, M. (eds.), Ireland and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: texts and transmissions. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 230-242.

Kelly, F. (2001) The beliefs and mythology of the early Irish, with special reference to the Cosmos, In: Ruggles, C., Prendergast, F. and Ray, T. (eds.), Astronomy, Cosmology and Landscape: Proceedings of the Société Europeénne pour l’Astronomie dans la Culture, 98 meeting, Dublin, September 1998. Bognor Regis: Ocarina, 167-172.

Kelly, F. (1999) Medicine in early Irish law, In: Lyons, J. B. (ed.), 2000 Years of Irish medicine. Dublin, 15-19. Reprinted in: Irish Journal of Medical Science, 170 (1), (January-March 2001), 73-76.

Kelly, F. (1999) Trees in Ireland, Augustine Henry Memorial Lecture 11th March 1999, Irish forestry: Journal of the Society of Irish Foresters, 56, 39-57.

Kelly, F. (1997)Early Irish farming: a study based mainly on the law-texts of the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Kelly, F. (1988) A Guide to Early Irish Law. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Charles-Edwards, T. and Kelly, F. (eds.) (1983) Bechbretha: an Old Irish law-tract on bee-keeping. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Reprinted with new Appendix in 2009.

Kelly, F. (1976) The Old Irish tree-list, Celtica, 11, 107-124.