No ‘bunch of blarney’ there

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2011

I’ve been asked, “Did you kiss the Blarney Stone,” since my return from Ireland. For many, one of the most fascinating historic spots in Ireland is the Blarney Castle where you find the Blarney Stone, or Stone of Eloquence, set in the wall below the battlements. Almost all of the party on our tour bus ascended the 87 steps to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone. I had pondered it ever since I signed up for the trip. I kept thinking of the germ thing my mother drilled in my head. Did I really want to kiss a rock that thousands upon thousands of people have kissed? And then, there is my fear of heights.

Despite all that, it seemed a shame to pass up something so historic during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, my legs were tired by the time we walked the beautiful grounds from where the bus driver let us out up to the castle. What bravado I had mustered about the climb up that tight, winding staircase left me. I wished my room-mate Linda good luck on her climb, wandered inside to shoot a picture of a drawing of the interior of the ancient building, browsed at the souvenir counter, and then plopped down on an outside bench to await Linda’s return.

After a short time, members of our group started appearing, grasping an envelope in their hands. Some had purchased pictures of themselves as they kissed the Blarney Stone. Although I passed up the chance, I still wanted to know all about the experience. I turned to my friend, Mary Lee, who told me the stone steps were of different sizes and spiraled to the right in a tight passageway. I recalled our bus driver/tour guide had said that the staircase was constructed that way to discourage aggressors trying to reach the top in the dark passage.

About half way up her climb, Mary Lee noticed a fireplace built in the middle of the wall. She said she thought that she would have hated to have been one who had to lug fuel up those stairs and build a fire.

When it was time to kiss the stone, she had to recline on her back, grasp a bar on each side of her, and hang her head over a ledge, while someone held her legs. I asked her if she was scared with her head dangling over that ledge. She laughed, “No, I didn’t have time to think about it. I was concentrating on holding onto the bars.”

Many legends exist as to the origin of the stone, one being that that it was a magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.

The expression, “A bunch of blarney,” is defined as “pleasant talk designed to deceive without offending” and probably originated from the Blarney Stone.

Now, according to legend, Mary Lee and everyone who has gone through all that effort to kiss the Blarney Stone possess the power of eloquent speech.