Kissing Ireland’s Blarney Stone, a tradition that’s been around for several centuries, is said to give a person the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness. The iconic stone is set in a wall of Blarney Castle, constructed in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, king of Munster, on the site of a demolished 13th century castle. Various legends surround the Blarney Stone’s origins. One story holds it was acquired during the Crusades and brought to Ireland, while another tale claims it was made from the same material used at Stonehenge. An additional account links it to the Stone of Scone (also called the Stone of Destiny), which was used for hundreds of years in the coronation of Scottish and English monarchs, while yet another legend contends it was a gift from Robert the Bruce, king of Scots, to Cormac McCarthy, king of Munster, for sending men to help Bruce defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. However, in 2014, geologists from the University of Glasgow shed some light on the Blarney Stone’s heritage when they concluded that the famous rock isn’t from Scotland but instead is made of 330-million-year-old limestone local to the south of Ireland.
The word “blarney,” meaning skillful flattery or nonsense, supposedly came into use following an incident involving the head of the McCarthy family and Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. The queen sent the earl of Leicester to seize Blarney Castle but the talkative McCarthy managed to keep stalling him. The queen grew exasperated by the earl’s reports about the lack of progress in the matter and uttered something to the effect that the reports were all “Blarney.”
Today, people travel from around the globe to give the Blarney Stone a peck (which must be done by leaning backward while holding onto two railings). Winston Churchill is among the notable figures who’ve kissed the stone, doing so in 1912 when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. Who’s to say that smooch didn’t bestow a little eloquence on Churchill, who went on to become British prime minister in 1940 and earn a reputation as a masterful orator?