The Baffling Blarney Stone

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Every year, a tiny village in Ireland is visited by tens of thousands of eager tourists, desperate to plant their lips, onto a lump of sandstone perched high above a sheer drop, because legend has it, that those who succeed in this strange desire will be endowed with the ‘gift of the gab’.

This is an Irish term, denoting that, from the moment of lips meeting stone, the kisser will be able to hold their own in any conversation they have in the future, even if they were tongue-tied previously.  A wonderful part of Irish folklore, drawing tourists from all over the world, to experience it, but the ‘Blarney Stone’ may in fact, not really be Irish, or actually all there to begin with.

Baffling some historians for a very long time, the story supposedly begins, nearly 4,000 years ago, in Israel. The prophet Jacob, it is said, used a rock as a pillow at Beth-el,  believing that God had spoken to him, of this very rock having magical powers, Jacob informing his people of the vision he had experienced.

During the fifteen hundred years that followed, the rock , referred to as ‘Jacob’s Pillow’ by the believers, was taken with them, by his descendants, wherever they went, miraculously providing water, when surrounded by desert, so legend tells it, thus regarded as especially sacred,  yet the year 600AD saw the prized stone disappear from the Holy Land, apparently lost.

The Irish maintain that their country is where the grave, of the prophet Jeremiah, who was a major figure in Jewish religion, is to be found. As an old man, he is said to have brought an Egyptian Princess, named Simon Brug (Baruch), as well as a Scribe, and a sacred stone, wrapped in a banner, into Ireland in 583AD, via Egypt and Spain, though whether this was the blarney stone is disputed

An inscription, on an ancient tomb at Schiabhla-Cailliche, near Oldcastle, County, Meath, appears to confirm the year, in which Jeremiah is said to have arrived. Ireland is the only country on earth claiming the Harp of David for its coat of arms, a strange coincidence, some think. Buried in the poetry and folklore of Ireland, these things seemingly happened around the time Jerusalem was being destroyed. 

Baruch, it is said in legend, married the Zarahite King, Eochaidh II, or Heremon, first High King of Ireland. The stone that had been wrapped in the banner was thereafter always used, for the coronation of monarchs, legend telling that false claimants would be known, because the stone would ‘roar’, only when the rightful king stood on it, and not before

The stone could, however, also have arrived with Pharoah’s daughter Scota, around 500AD, when she, after marrying Gaythelus, a Greek prince. Settled, with her husband, among Erse tribes in Antrim, handing the stone, possibly, to Fergus, son of Eric, chief of the Dal Riatan tribe, who had already conquered part of Argyll, in what would later become Scotland, named after Scota.  St. Patrick himself having, legend tells it, blessed the stone,  declaring that, wherever the stone should be, Eric’s line would rule for ever. Fergus transported the stone to Scotland, securing his tribe’s rule over it, as he saw it, after the saint’s decree

Incredibly sacred, as an object, the stone continued to be used, on holy island Iona, and at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, for coronations, monarchs hearing royal lineage proclaimed, right back to the time of Noah. The Pictish and Scottish kingdoms were united in 843AD, having been fighting for centuries, under the rule of Kevin MacAlpin, and sScotland was born.

By this time referred to by all as ‘Stone of Destiny’, the sacred rock was kept in the Abbey of Scone, for four centuries, before removal by  English king Edward I, nicknamed ‘Hammer of the Scots’, by right of conquest in 1296, taking it to Westminster Abbey in London, where it still sits beneath the coronation throne.

After the battle of Bannockburn , in 1314, it is still claimed, to this day, that Robert the Bruce surrendered half, of the original ‘Stone of Scone’, to the McCarthy clan, of Munster, in Ireland. for sending men to fight by his side. Had the Bruce foreseen Edward’s plan, and substituted the original stone with an ordinary sandstone block?This question remains unanswered. 

‘Jacob’s Pillow’ was, so some would claim, heavily embellished with carvings from the earliest times, originally, religious zealots in Ireland having actually hidden the true stone away, and substituting it for an ordinary sand stone anyway, long before it was ever sent to Scottish shores, but we are never likely to know.

It has been claimed that King Edward had iron rings fitted to the stone, at each end, for ease of transport, but how can the grooves,located on either side, where poles used to carry it, over long periods, have come about, if this was anything other than the original stone?

McCarthy and his clan returned to Ireland,  later taking ‘An blama’, the village of Blarney, as thier seat of power, building a castle there in 1446, in the high parapet wall of which, was embedded the gift from Robert the Bruce, later to become known as the Blarney Stone, a name that took hold during the time of Elizabeth I, supposedly because of something she said.

Dermot McCarthy, ruler of the clan, was required by Elizabeth to give up his fortress as a mark of loyalty.  Over several years, he successfully evaded final surrender, the court official responsible becoming a joke, amongst other royal  courtiers.  The queen, on hearing yet another McCarthy excuse , apparently said ‘Odds bodkins!  More blarney talk’, and the name came into being

Thus  ‘blarney’ came to mean, having the ability to influence and coax with fair words and soft speech without giving offense.  There is, perhaps, only one half of the ‘Stone of Scone’ on show, in Edinburgh castle today, and when it was still joined to the Irish half, it may have once been touched by Jesus Christ himself, but nobody will ever know for certain.

People, from all over the world, have planted their lips on this stone,  one falling to his death, while trying to do so, because it is in a dangerous location, and you must lean backwards, into an deep abyss, someone holding your legs, if wanting to, so quite a hardthing to achieve, and you need to be very careful.

This tangible piece of history, so some like to tell you, is as Irish as Shamrock, and blaming them for wanting to believe it seems churlish, history relates a different heritage, depending on who is telling it, and what their beliefs. All the same, the Blarney Stone, an integral part of Irish heritage, might in truth be anything but.

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