It’s not just Blarney, there’s a stone atop a castle in IrelandFor those without Irish ancestors or connections, all the hoopla surrounding St. Patrick’s Day celebrations may seem much ado about nothing. However, for the Irish and those who claim to be on March 17, it’s an opportunity to celebrate.
By: By Jon Kelly Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
For those without Irish ancestors or connections, all the hoopla surrounding St. Patrick’s Day celebrations may seem much ado about nothing.
However, for the Irish and those who claim to be on March 17, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the eloquence of the Celts in song and dance, spirits and stout, poetry and porter. For expression ’tis a gift the Irish have, said to be enhanced if one climbs the steps and hangs upside down at the top of the nearly 600-year-old castle in Blarney, Ireland, to kiss the famous stone.
The Blarney stone is steeped in legend going back to biblical times. One claims it was Jacob’s pillow brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah and was used as the throne of Irish kings.
Another legend claims it is the deathbed pillow of St. Columba on the island of Iona that was removed to mainland Scotland where it served as the Stone of Destiny for royal succession.
When Cormac McCarthy, king of Munster, sent 5,000 men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English a Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone of Scone was awarded by the Scots in gratitude and returned to McCarthy’s castle in Ireland, another story claims.
Yet another piece of folklore says it may be a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades.
The blarney part has at least two tales to explain the source.
One version says a witch, or old lady, was saved from drowning, cast a spell on the stone and revealed its power to the McCarthy’s.
Another version, probably closer to the truth, says the Earl of Leicester was commanded by Queen Elizabeth I of England to take possession of the castle, but when he tried to negotiate the matter, McCarthy always suggested a banquet or some other form of diversion. When the queen asked about the progress, the earl sent long, involved reports but the castle remained untaken.
Elizabeth was so irritated by the delay and involved explanation that she said the earl’s reports were all “Blarney.”
The Blarney Stone is incorporated in the battlements of Blarney Castle. To kiss it and gain the gift of eloquence, you have to lie on your back and bend very far back to reach the stone on the underside edge.
I went through the ritual while on vacation in Ireland in September 1968 between college graduation and enlistment in the Navy. Ireland was less affluent than I hear it is now, so there wasn’t a lot of tourist promotion surrounding the kissing of the stone.
As I remember it, a tourist was informed that the stone was at the top of the castle ruins, no elevator, all ancient steps, 127 of them, and you had to get on your back to kiss the stone.
What wasn’t completely revealed was I not only had to lie on my back, but also grab railings to move my head way below my body to kiss the bottom of the battlement where the stone was.
There was a kindly, middle-age tour guide helping out in the process that made things easy. However, I remember being a little lightheaded after bending backwards some 37 feet above the ground.
Digging around in some old scrapbooks and albums recently, I came across the official certificate I received at Blarney Castle 42 years ago and remembered the warmth and charm of the Emerald Isle. Maybe it’s been too long and I should plan another trip soon to climb to the top of Blarney Castle and recharge my Blarney battery.
For more information on Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone contact www.blarneycastle.ie.