di Talitha Linehan
Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)
A quick quiz question: what do Sir Winston Churchill and Michael Jackson have in common? Answer: they have both kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in County Cork, Ireland. Churchill did so in 1911, while Jackson was there more recently. In both cases they would have leaned out from a medieval tower, while somebody else held onto their legs! The Blarney Stone is the subject of charming Irish legends. It is said to have been the “Jacob’s Pillow” mentioned in the Bible and to have been brought to Ireland by Jeremiah the Prophet. According to another tale, McCarthy, the castle’s owner, was given the magical stone by a witch whom he had saved from drowning.
The McCarthys still owned the castle in the sixteenth century when the English conquered Ireland. Queen Elizabeth I sent the Earl of Leicester to negotiate the taking of the castle, but McCarthy continued to delay by inviting the Earl to banquets. The angry Queen dismissed the Earl’s reports on his lack of progress as “All Blarney.” If you kiss the Blarney Stone it is said that you will be given the power of eloquence. It certainly worked for Churchill, whose rousing radio speeches inspired the people of Britain during the Second World War, but in Jackson’s case perhaps the jury is still out. Speak Up also went to Blarney Castle where its owner, Sir Charles Colthurst, talked about this unique tourist attraction:
Tourism-wise, then, it sort of took off at the end of the 19th century where, for threepence, you could come out on the Muskerry Tram from Cork and you could go around the castle. And, then, it took on its new lease of life as a tourist attraction, really, in the late ‘60s and... when there were 35,000 people and, now, last year we got over 400,000, which is extraordinary for a 15th century fortress tower house!
Indeed the Blarney Stone is an international phenomenon:
Well, I think it goes back to... “Blarney” is in the Oxford Dictionary, where it’s the art of flattery without deceiving. So I think it’s in there anyway and then it drifted into the English language and, I mean, “It’s all blarney” is a rather pleasant way of saying, you know, “he doesn’t really mean what he says,” which goes back historically. I don’t know: wherever you go in the world, certainly 10 years ago, the only place they’d have heard of in Ireland was Blarney and “Kissing the Blarney Stone.” And, you know, you go down Fifth Avenue in New York and every second pub is “The Blarney Stone.” I was in New Zealand myself and the only place that the New Zealanders had heard of was Blarney. So it’s just worldwide. It’s an icon now of Irish tourism and, worldwide, it’s in the book of a thousand places you must see before you die.