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A Bunch of Blarney

Updated on July 13, 2011

Blarney Castle

Nearly six hundred years ago, one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, built Blarney Castle. It has been attracting attention ever since as a world landmark and one of Ireland's greatest treasures. The lower walls are 15 feet with a tower built by the MacCarthys of Munster. During the time the castle was occupied by Cormac MacMarthy, King of Munster, he is said to have supplied four-thousand men from Munster to supplement the forces of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Legend says that Robert the Bruce gave half of the Stone of Scone—also known as the Stone of Destiny—to MacCarthy in gratitude. The Stone of Scone (pronounced skoon) is believed to be the pillow stone used by the Biblical Jacob. Now known as the Blarney Stone, the Legendary Stone of Eloquence, it was incorporated in the battlements where it can be kissed, bestowing the kisser with the gift of gab, never again to be at a loss for words.

Romancing the Stone

That the stone is part of the Stone of Scone is only one of several “beliefs” in the stone's origin, not the least of which is that it was created by a witch during the middle ages. Other myths as to the Blarney Stone's origin include:

  • That it was the pillow used by St. Columba of Iona on his deathbed...
  • That it was the Stone of Ezel, which David hid behind on Jonathan's advice, while fleeing from King Saul and brought back to Ireland during the Crusades...
  • That it was the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their flight from Egypt...
  • And that it was related to the stone known as the Lia Fail, part of the king's throne, imbued with mysterious powers.

With all these beliefs and possibilities, one thing emerges as the undeniable truth, a fact that can't be argued, and that is this: It is, without a doubt, a stone.

The list of Blarney Stone pucker-uppers is a long one indeed, and contains many persons of importance and fame. To name but a few: Winston Churchill; Mick Jagger; Laurel and Hardy; Milton Hershey; Nelly Bly; Sir Walter Scott; and a host of American presidents, world leaders, and international entertainers.

See a video of people kissing the Blarney Stone at the bottom of this article.

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I

"He's Full of Blarney!"

But the term applied as “the gift of Blarney” has an origin unrelated to the stone. Let us first look at the definition of the word “blarney” as defined in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose:

‘Blarney’: He has licked the blarney stone; he deals in the wonderful, or tips us the traveller. The blarney stone is a triangular stone on the very top of an ancient castle of that name in the county of Cork in Ireland, extremely difficult of access; so that to have ascended to it, was considered as a proof of perseverance, courage, and agility, whereof many are supposed to claim the honour, who never achieved the adventure: and to tip the blarney, is figuratively used telling a marvellous story, or falsity; and also sometimes to express flattery. Irish.

Ok, but where did this notion or “blarney” come from? Queen Elizabeth I decreed that all properties should be given over to the crown. MacCarthy wasn't so easy however, and continually delayed giving Blarney Castle by writing to the queen and praising her with his flowery prose, but never actually ceding Blarney Castle to her. This went on and on. Finally, in frustration, the Queen exclaimed, “Blarney this and Blarney that. He's all Blarney!”   Of course, her actual words are not known.  Suffice it to say, it had something to do with MacCarthy being full of blarney.  Now a days, we call it being full of something else.  Except blarney is more artful.

Let's Get Stoned

It is interesting to note that many people who have taken rocks away from Blarney Castle & the mystical gardens of Rock Close, and brought them home from their vacation, have claimed that they have been plagued with very bad luck, and many mailed the rocks back to the proprietors of Blarney Castle to be placed in their original position. It is said that all “borrowed” stones have been returned.

So plan a trip to the Emerald Isle and don't forget your Chapstick. It gets mighty windy upon the battlements of Blarney Castle, where no doubt you'll want to be lowered, backwards, over the side to plant a wet one on the Stone of Eloquence, and be forever endowed with the gift of blarney. Did I tell you that you look mighty fine today? As sweet as a dewdrop on a spring morn.

Blarney Castle House Lake
Blarney Castle House Lake

These Quotes are all Blarney

“The truth is that the Irish are so clear-headed and critical that they still regard rhetoric as a distinct art, as the ancients did. Thus a man makes a speech as a man plays a violin, not necessarily without feeling, but chiefly because he knows how to do it. Another instance of the same thing is that quality which is always called the Irish charm. The Irish are agreeable, not because they are particularly emotional, but because they are very highly civilised. Blarney is a ritual; as much of a ritual as kissing the Blarney Stone.” - GK Chesterton 1909

“Baloney is flattery laid on with a trowel. Blarney is flattery laid on with the lips; that is why you have to kiss a stone to get it” - Monsignor Fulton Sheen

“The difference between ‘blarney’ and ‘baloney’ is this: Baloney is when you tell a 50-year old woman that she looks 18. Blarney is when you ask a woman how old she is, because you want to know at what age women are most beautiful.” - Unknown

President Clinton claimed at a fundraiser for John Kerry to have kissed the Blarney Stone, although Jay Leno reckoned he’d initially denied it claiming "the stone kissed him.”

"'Tis there's the stone that whoever kisses
He never misses to grow eloquent;
'Tis he may clamber to a lady's chamber,
Or become a member of Parliament.
"A noble spouter he'll sure turn out, or
An out and outer to be let alone;
Don't try to hinder him, or to bewilder him,
For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone."

- "The Groves of Blarney,"

‘Thus strong the Blarney influence is shown, E’en upon those most distant from the stone:- The power, alike attractive, through the whole, Is found pervading – thus is but the pole. Astounding thought!- have we the centre here, Round which revolves the human hemisphere?- 1842, John Hogan

Kissing the Blarney Stone


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