Newsletter 008, February 11, 2022
About the image above: In Newsletter 001 I mentioned being a member of a narrative portfolio group, and that we attended several conferences to talk about our methodology. One of those conferences was held at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, in 2001. Blarney Castle is just 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away from Cork, and I had heard about kissing the Blarney Stone since I was a kid. An opportunity presented itself, so I ran with it.
A person who kisses the stone (which has been worn quite smooth after centuries of bussing), will supposedly be given the gift of Blarney (eloquence). During Queen Elizabeth the First’s reign, she wanted all of the Irish chiefs to give their lands to her. In return, she would allow them to rule their lands, but she would own them. The Irish chiefs didn’t like that idea, of course. Most of them complied, but Blarney’s chief, Cormac McCarthy, didn’t. He kept stalling with flowery promises that forestalled the inevitable for a very long time. Eventually, Elizabeth got fed up, and said McCarthy was giving her a lot of Blarney (but no substance). So a legend was birthed: Kiss the stone that McCarthy owned and you’ll get the gift of gab.
We had a few hours between a morning session and our own presentation, so three of us hopped in our rented car and headed for the castle (or tried to). We got turned around inside the city several times before we made it to the N20 (a primary road, what we would call a highway), then to the R617 (a smaller two-lane road), which led us to Blarney. I think we passed the castle twice. It took us about an hour to get there, but we finally did.
After climbing up a very narrow circular stone staircase to get to the top of the castle, an attendant helped each of us lie down on our backs (one at a time, of course) next to an opening in the parapet, and bend our back and shoulders off of the edge. Once you’re in that position, you’re facing the stone upside down. To kiss it, you lean your head forward. It’s a long drop to the ground, but there are bars just a foot or so beneath you, and only your head and shoulders are over the edge, so it’s impossible to fall. The Kissing Attendant is holding on to you the whole time as well, not that it’s absolutely necessary, but I guess it makes most people feel safer. It’s customary to tip the attendant as well. I think I gave him an Irish punt (worth about $1.00 at the time, worth about $1.45 now, although Ireland was using the euro by 2002).
Did it make any difference? Of course not. Eloquence and the gift of gab, I contend, are far easier to accomplish on the page than in person. Both are difficult for me since I am an inherently shy person, but my writing can (and does) receive multiple rewrites before anyone else sees it. In public you don’t always get to practice what to say in advance.
During the pandemic (which is still ongoing as of this writing), Blarney Castle was closed to visitors for a while, but has apparently reopened. If you’re interested in going, check with a travel agent to make sure the June 2020 article below is still accurate.
Have you ever kissed the Blarney Stone? Did it help? See a picture of me doing it below.
[“Blarney, Blarney, I will hear no more of this Blarney!” Queen Elizabeth I]
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