The building of the Blarney Castle was a prodigious affair, requiring many hands and several years. Originally started in 1210 it was not completed until 1446. The Castle was completed by King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. Blarney Castle is located in Blarney, approximately 5 miles (8 km) from Cork, Ireland. The castle would have been used not only by the McCarthy clan but also by their retinue of knights and retainers. A powerful stronghold, it was designed to provide safety in times of attack, one of which happened in 1646 when Oliver Cromwell attacked Ireland and had a devastating effect on the castle.
The McCarthys were not only powerful leaders and warriors, they were also patrons of Irish culture, music and art. They established a Bardic School at Blarney, which attracted scholars from throughout Ireland. By the 1600’s Blarney had become well known as a Court of Poetry where poets gathered to read their compositions, many of which have survived in the original Irish form.
The word blarney has come to mean “clever, flattering, or coaxing talk”.
The Blarney Stone (Irish: Cloch na Blarnan) is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the stone and tour the castle and its gardens.
Legend of the Stone:
An early story involves the goddess Clíodhna. Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle, being involved in a lawsuit, appealed to Clíodhna for her assistance. She told MacCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, and he did so, with the result that he pleaded his case with great eloquence and won. Thus the Blarney Stone is said to impart “the ability to deceive without offending”. MacCarthy then incorporated it into the parapet of the castle.
The proprietors of Blarney Castle list several other explanations on the origins of the stone on their website. Many of these suppose that the stone had previously been in Ireland, was taken to Scotland and then returned to Ireland in 1314. The stories listed include one suggesting that the stone was presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 in recognition of his support in the Battle of Bannockburn. This legend holds that this was a piece of the Stone of Scone and was installed at McCarthy’s castle of Blarney. Although colourful, this folk legend doesn’t account for that fact that it supposes that the stone was removed from Scotland 18 years before Bannockburn. hmmmm
Kissing the Stone:
Prior to the installation of the safeguards, the kiss was performed with real risk to life and limb, as participants were grasped by the ankles and dangled bodily from the height. In the Sherlock Holmes radio dramatization “The Adventure of the Blarney Stone” (first broadcast March 18, 1946), a man attempting to kiss the Blarney Stone falls to his death. Holmes’ investigation reveals this as a murder, the man’s boots having been surreptitiously greased before the attempt.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is for some people a difficult physical feat. In past times, to kiss the Stone people were hung by their heels over the edge of the parapet. One day a pilgrim broke from the grasp of his friends and went hurtling downward to certain death. Since that time the stone has been kissed by another method. First, you sit with your back towards the stone and then someone sits upon your legs or firmly holds your feet. Next, leaning far back and downward into the abyss while grasping the iron rails, you lower yourself until your head is even with the stone to be kissed.
I doubt I will be kissing the Blarney stone anytime in the near or distant future. As I loath heights, I certainly do not plan on hanging over the edge of a castle backwards!
But you are brave, willing and able – I have a link to the website for Blarney! Get your reservations and become clever and flattering!
“There is a Stone that whoever Kisses.
Oh! He never Misses to Grow Eloquent
‘Tis he may clamber to a Lady’s Chamber,
Or become a Member of Parliament.”
- Francis Sylvester Mahony
Have a Great Day!