ArticleThe Gift Of Gab
A country that knows how to appreciate good stories, can't possibly fail to produce great word-crafters - and Ireland is the best proof of that. Through the ages, Dublin alone can boast more than 50 writers, some of them - such as James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett - are world-renowned. The latter three, along with Seamus Heaney, are also among the winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Not too bad for a half-a-million city - and neither is Irish love affair with words limited to several major literary genres (novels, stories, poems and plays) and witty, salty rhymes. It turns out that, at least, some Irish can coin words and use them as duel weapons - as did one Cormac Ladhrach MacCarthy when informed that Queen Elizabeth I showed undue interest in his hereditary castle of Blarney.
MacCarthy must have been fond of his castle because he clearly didn't feel like parting with it. That said, he was careful not to insult the Queen's special envoy, the Earl of Leicester, either. So, he talked - and talked some more; and wrote letters “filled with excuses and diversions”. The Earl forwarded the letters to the Queen and asked for instructions. She offered none because, resolute and smart as she was, she couldn't match MacCarthy's eloquence and intricate logic. Extremely frustrated, Elizabeth I gave up on her attempts to take over the castle, not wanting to resort to brute force when confronted with elegance and inventiveness. She vented her frustration by exclaiming: "That's nothing but a load of Blarney - or so the legend goes - and a new English word was brought into the world, inspired by a man who just used a little help from a family friend.
To be precise, pagan goddess Cliodhna was not exactly a friend but rather a patroness of Ladhrach's ancestor, Laidir. It was she who advised Laidir to kiss the first stone he would see in the fields, on his way to the court where he was about to defend his case. He did - and his eloquent speech completely carried the day. Subsequently, the stone was transferred to the castle and incorporated into its walls. Initially, kissing the stone must have been but a family tradition but then it spread. A certain Winston Churchill is said to travel to Blarney to test the stone's qualities in 1911 or 1912 - who knows if that trip resulted in his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech more than quarter-a-century later…