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The Blarney Stone
The Blarney Stone ( ) is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castlemarker, Blarneymarker about from Corkmarker, Irelandmarker. 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.

The word blarney has come to mean clever, flattering, or coaxing talk.

Origins

The stone is said to have been presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 in recognition of his support in the Battle of Bannockburnmarker; popular legend holds that this was a piece of the Stone of Scone. This stone was then installed at McCarthy's castle of Blarney. When the castle was rebuilt in 1446, Dermot McCarthy had the stone preserved in the new castle.

The proprietors of Blarney Castle list several explanations other than the Stone of Scone for the ancient origins of the stone, many of which suppose that the Stone had previously been in Ireland but was then taken to Scotland and returned to Ireland in 1314. The theories listed include those that the stone:
  • was part of the wailing wall in Jerusalam brought to Ireland during the Crusades.
  • was half of the original Stone of Scone - presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 in recognition of his support in the Battle of Bannockburnmarker.
  • was the stone that Jacob used as a pillow, and was brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah.
  • was the pillow used by St. Columba of Ionamarker on his deathbed.
  • was the Stone of Ezel, which David hid behind on Jonathan's advice, while fleeing from King Saul, and may have been brought back to Ireland during the Crusades.
  • was the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites, during their flight from Egypt.
  • was related to the stone was known as the Lia Fáil or "Stone of Destiny" - part of the king's throne, with mysterious powers.
None of these provenance stories account for why a stone of such significance and antiquity would be used in the construction of a fifteenth century castle, inconspicuously incorporated into an exterior wall and exposed to the elements. Apart from discoloration and wear caused by human contact, the stone is not readily distinguishable from its neighbors.

Ritual

View of the Blarney Stone from the ground
Person kissing the Blarney Stone
The ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone, according to the castle's proprietors, has been performed by "millions of people", including "world statesmen, literary giants [and] legends of the silver screen." The kiss, however, is not casually achieved. To touch the stone with one's lips, the participant must ascend to the castle's peak, then lean over backwards on the parapet's edge. This is traditionally achieved with the help of an assistant. Although the parapet is now fitted with wrought-iron guide rails and protective crossbars, the ritual can still trigger attacks of acrophobia.

Tripadvisor.com recently ranked the Blarney Stone as the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

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.

William Henry Hurlbert wrote in 1888 that the legend of the stone seemed to be less than a hundred years old at that time, suggesting the tradition began late in the 18th Century, or early in the 19th.

Legend

It is claimed that the synonymy of "Blarney" with "empty flattery" derives from a circumstance in which Queen Elizabeth I, while requesting an oath of loyalty to retain occupancy of land, received responses from Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, which amounted to subtle diplomacy, and promised loyalty to the Queen without "giving in". Elizabeth proclaimed that McCarthy was giving her "(a lot of) Blarney", thus apparently giving rise to the legend.

Echoing the supposed power of the stone, an Irish bard of the early nineteenth century, Francis Sylvester Mahony, added a number of (humorous) lines to Richard Milliken's "The Groves of Blarney". (Right)

According to tradition at Texas Tech University, a stone fragment on display since 1939 outside the old Electrical Engineering Building is a missing piece of the Blarney Stone. , also cited in

How this was determined is unknown.

References

Further reading



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