“The authenticity of the Blarney Stone, kissed by about 400,000 tourists a year, has been questioned by Mark Samuel, an archaeologist and architectural historian, and Kate Hamlyn in a new book.
According to legend, kissing the stone at Blarney Castle, near Cork, endows the kisser with the gift of gab or great eloquence and skill at flattery.
But the authors say the present stone only came into use in 1888 – for health and safety reasons.
Up until then, those wishing to place their lips on the stone had to be dangled from the castle by two people holding their ankles.
Today those wishing to ensure they will never be tongue tied lie on their back and, holding on to an iron railing, lean backwards from the parapet walk to smooch the stone.
Blarney Castle dismisses the theory that the current stone is not the one with the claimed magical powers.
Marketing manager John Fogarty said the Blarney Stone is a piece of the Stone of Scone or “Stone of Destiny”, on which the kings of Scotland were crowned. One legend says the Scone Stone is supposed to be the pillow stone said to have been used by the Biblical Jacob.
Mr Fogarty said that the part of the stone that came to Blarney was given to an Irish king, Cormac MacCarthy, by Scotland’s king Robert the Bruce.
It was a gift in gratitude for 4000 Irish soldiers said to have been sent to aid Scotland when Robert defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
The Scone Stone was subsequently captured by the English and taken to Westminster Abbey in London where it was fitted into a chair on which English sovereigns were crowned. It was returned to Edinburgh Castle in 1996.
“McCarthy heard of the powers of the stone from a woman who was saved from drowning in Blarney Lake behind the castle. She told him he would get the gift of eloquence by kissing it,” Mr Fogarty said.
The castle backs up its claim about the gift of blarney with a long list of famous eloquent kissers, ranging from former British prime minister Winston Churchill to Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. “
“Famous eloquent kissers”, eh…?