It’s a Lot of Blarney!

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Kissing the Blarney Stone

It was Sunday, September 28, 2013 and our group of regular church-goers was instead, this Sunday, on their way to catch a little of a Leprechaun’s gift of gab at the Blarney Castle by kissing the legendary Stone of Eloquence, found at the top of the Tower. Kiss it and you’ll never again be lost for words, so goes the legend.

The Blarney Castle was started in the tenth century as a wooden structure. Around 1210 A.D. it was replaced by a stone structure, later demolished for foundations. In 1446 the third castle, still standing today, was built by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster.

For over 200 years, famous people from all over the world, from every occupation, have climbed the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift.  At one time visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements (defensive architecture). Today, with safety in mind, visitors lean backwards from the parapet walk, holding on to an iron railing and kiss the Stone, still set in the wall below the battlements.

The legend of why we kiss the stone goes back to the McCarthy’s of Muskerry and the McCarthy who was King of Munster, who was said to have supplied four thousand men from Munster to assist the forces of Robert the Bruce of Scotland at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 against the English. Legend has it that Bruce gave half of the Stone of Scone, the famous coronation stone, to McCarthy in gratitude. This, now known as the Blarney Stone, was incorporated in the battlements.

My favorite story about the stone is the opposite of eloquence and more in line with our saying today, “That’s just a lot of Blarney”.  It is said that Queen Elizabeth I commanded the Earl of Leicester to take possession of the Blarney Castle. Whenever he attempted to carry out the command, McCarthy always delayed the attempt and the Earl always delayed the reports to the Queen by making up excuses, maybe telling lies, in fact. The Castle, still not taken, so irritated the Queen that she remarked that the Earl’s reports were all ‘Blarney’.

We were nine of the typical millions of tourists, over a few hundred years, to visit the Blarney, a world landmark.  As they say, “When in Rome.”  We couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that.  Our very own Springfield Castle was only a little more than an hour away. While seven of us attempted to become eloquent speakers, two others ventured off to have more time in the gardens built in the eighteenth century during the reign of Queen Anne. Sir James St. John Jefferies built a Georgian gothic house up against the castle, the custom all over Ireland. At the same time, the Jefferies’s family laid out a landscape garden known as the Rock Close with massive boulders and rocks arranged around what seemed to have been druid remains from pre-historic times. Many of the yew trees and evergreen oaks that we saw are extremely ancient.

After climbing to the top of the tower and kissing the Stone while being hung over a drop that seemed twice as high as a football field is long and being held in place by my ankles by a teenager who probably has a secret dream of doing away with all adults, I was ready to stroll in the Rock Close and relax! (I was really held at the waist, but don’t you think that “held by my ankles” makes this story a bit more dramatic?)

The Dolmen was truly magical, as was the Wishing Steps.  If you closed your eyes and walked to the top and back to the bottom while you concentrated only on your wish, it would come true. I did it, eyes closed, without falling, concentrating on my wish and it still hasn’t come true.  The myth did not say how long it would take to come true, but I am impatient.  I want it yesterday!

We drove on to Cork City after our Blarney experience.  Cork City was big, hustle, bustle and non-descript to us on that drizzly day.  We had had a wonderful time visiting the Blarney Castle and especially the gardens, so we didn’t have a lot of time in the City.  I had printed directions for a parking garage and had prepaid before we left the US.  Parking anywhere in Ireland is a pain in the behind and expensive.  Those particular Google directions were so misleading!  We went ‘round and ‘round trying to find the place.  I was ready to pull into any garage and forget about the $26, but there were none to be seen. After asking for directions, more than once, we finally found it.

We took the opportunity to walk down the wide snaking St. Patrick’s Street and found a nice place for our late afternoon meal.  The place was hopping with sports-minded, Guinness-drinking fans.  According to Ireland (the magazine), St. Patrick Street dates back to 1783, but instead of a street, it was a canal of the River Lee.  In 1783 it was arched over and for the last 230 years has been Cork’s main commercial center. If it had not been a Sunday and late in the day, we may still be there shopping with the River Lee running deep beneath our footsteps.  There were several places I would have liked to have shopped.

The traffic was horrendous.  If you’ve been reading my blogs, then you’ll remember that we all got into the sport of Hurling while we were in County Clare. (Read below if you want to learn more about Hurling.  It is fascinating!)  Now we were in County Cork, the home of the rivals in the big match. And it was this day and this time that the team was heading home.  We had the insight to wait until after rush hour to leave the city, but the merchants and shoppers traffic was replaced with sport’s lover’s traffic.  We had been around the city enough, earlier, trying to find the parking deck, that we had a better understanding of the layout by this time.

We made our way out of town and on to the road home.  It was dark by now and traffic moving toward Cork City was bumper to bumper.  We noticed advertisements for a horse show in a village between Cork City and Springfield Castle for that particular Sunday.  We saw horse trailers galore in that steady stream of headlight-blinding traffic.  It didn’t let up.  We kept thinking that the farther we got away from the city, the better the traffic would be.  We thought that when we passed the village where the horse show was being held, the traffic would lighten up.  It didn’t.

As the traffic thinned a little, we began seeing cars flashing their lights at us, giving us signals to slow down. Low and behold, on one of the few wide highways in this region of Ireland we ran smack into a huge herd of cattle.  I thought that one of them was going to walk right up and over the car.  They were big cows that stood much taller than the car!  I’ve seen the romantic scenes in movies or in advertisements about Ireland when the starry-eyed lovers are stopped in the middle of a country lane by a flock of sheep.  But really!!!  Cows!!!!  And in the dark of night!!!  Really!!!!

Cows in the Road!

Cows in the Road!


Hurling, ancient Gaelic and of Irish origin, is played in other countries but Ireland is the only country that has national teams, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).  The game has prehistoric origins and has been played for over 3,000 years.  It is thought to be the world’s fastest field team game. It is a mix of hockey, lacrosse and baseball with a little football-like scoring thrown in for good measure.  One point is scored if you hurl the ball between the crossbars and three points are scored if you hurl it into the net.  Go to this YouTube site to see it in action:

The 2013 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship was the 126th playing of the championship since it was established in 1887. The championship began on May 5 and ended on September 28 when Clare won against Cork.




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Penelope Moseley