Blarney Castle located in Blarney Village, Blarney Castle is just northwest of Cork City was built by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy and is one of Ireland’s most sought-out attractions. The MacCarthys held sway over Blarney and Munster throughout the many tumultuous centuries of Anglo-Irish conflict until the defeat of the old Irish nobles at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, after which the Lord of Blarney was exiled.
The Blarney Stone, also known as the Stone of Eloquence, is located atop the castle’s tower, going up the 127 steps to the top of the castle, 37 feet high, will find the Blarney Stone, the legendary Stone of Eloquence, found at the top of the Tower. Kiss it and you’ll never again be lost for words. But don’t take our word for it – everyone from Sir Walter Scott to a host of American presidents, world leaders, and international entertainers has been eager to take advantage.
While the Blarney Castle that visitors see today was constructed in 1446, the history of the place goes back two centuries before that time. The story begins with a magical stone, its origins shrouded in mystery. One legend says it was the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. Another legend relates that it had once been Jacob’s Pillow and that the prophet Jeremiah had brought it to Ireland. According to this telling it became the Lia Fail or ‘Fatal Stone’ and was used as an oracular throne of the Irish kings.
Some, however, believe it was the Stone of Ezel, which David hid behind on Jonathan’s advice, while fleeing from King Saul, and that it was brought to Ireland during the Crusades. Yet it may have once been the Coronation Stone of Scottish monarchs and later used by St. Columba as a traveling altar during his missionary activities throughout Scotland. After Columba’s death it had been brought to Ireland where it served as the Stone of Destiny, the prophetic power of royal succession.
The most commonly accepted story of the stone is that, in gratitude for Irish support at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 (a Scottish defeat of the English), Robert the Bruce gave a portion of the stone to Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster. Installed at Cormac McCarthy’s stronghold, Blarney Castle, it became known as the Blarney Stone. A century later, in 1446, King Dermot McCarthy then installed the stone in an enlarged castle he constructed.
Just how long the custom of kissing The Blarney Stone has been practiced or how it originated is not known. One local legend claims that an old women, saved from drowning by a king of Munster, rewarded him with a spell, that if he would kiss a stone on the castle’s top, he would gain a speech that would win all to him.
It is known, however, when and how the word Blarney entered the English language and the dictionary. During the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dermot McCarthy, the ruler of the castle, was required to surrender his fortress to the Queen as proof of his loyalty. He said he would be delighted to do so, but something always happened at the last moment to prevent his surrender. His excuses became so frequent and indeed so plausible that the official who had been demanding the castle in the name of the Queen became a joke at the Court. Once, when the eloquent excuses of McCarthy were repeated to the Queen, she said “Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!” The term Blarney has thus come to mean ‘the ability to influence and coax with fair words and soft speech without giving offense’.
Echoing the power of the stone, Francis Sylvester Mahony, an Irish bard of the early nineteenth century, wrote:
There is a stone there, 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.
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