By Janice E. Edwards
The last big trip I took when I was single was to Ireland. I went with an Emerald Tours group - a package deal. Being more Irish than English in my heritage, I had always wanted to go there.
At work, we had a good year of lease sales and lots of overtime, and I paid for my trips on overtime money when I traveled, so it was a good year for traveling.
I saw a lot of things, slept and ate in castles, sang in smoky Irish pubs and drank Shandi’s, Guinness (only one – yuck) and Mead (made from honey - yum). We went on jaunting cart rides and ate bland Irish food. The last day of the tour that they offered porridge, I tried it only to find out I liked it. Wouldn’t that be the case?
But I guess the most “Irish” thing I did was kiss the Blarney Stone. It was one of life’s experiences we should all do – at least once.
What is the Blarney Stone? It’s a legendary block of Carboniferous limestone (blue stone) built into the tower of the battlements of Blarney Castle in 1446.
The Castle is located about 5 miles from Cork, Ireland. Legend has it that anyone who has the courage to kiss the stone will be given the gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery).
There are many explanations why this particular rock gives the kisser the gift of pleasant storytelling, of persuasion. I don’t know which story, if any, is true. All I know is, I was always shy and really wanted to be able to get that gift of gab.
So, when the tour bus stopped in the parking lot of Blarney Castle, I jumped up and ran to get in line to climb the stairs to the top. We had a three-hour stop there, which included lunch.
Once you enter Blarney Castle, you must tread 128 winding stone stairs worn smooth by thousands of footsteps over the centuries until you get to the top of the defense tower. There are always people in front of you and people behind you ready to kiss the stone.
I did not know what to expect until I rounded the last corner on top. Oh, man – I was NOT expecting what I saw. I just then heard from the “feet holders” what we had to do to kiss the stone. The closer I got to the stone, the more intimidated I got.
What people have to do to kiss the Blarney Stone is lay down on their back on the parapet 85 feet above the ground, grab two iron bars on the opposite side of the “pour hole” where boiling oil was poured to defend the castle, and pull themselves across the hole to the bottom stone on the parapet while someone holds your feet.
That’s the stone you have to kiss. Of course, the Irishmen holding your feet were telling stories the whole time. It’s a pretty scary undertaking, even though they have installed crossbars across the bottom so you can’t fall through. (You don’t see those, however, until you commit to the actual kissing.)
I had just about talked myself out of kissing the stone until the 88-year-old nun ahead of me took her turn. Well, I HAD to do it now. I couldn’t come all this way and let a little old lady kiss the stone when an adventurous, much younger lady wouldn’t take a chance.
So, I positioned myself and got ready to grab the bars across the hole. I looked at my feet-holder Irishman and said, “Don’t let me fall. I’m too young to die and haven’t had any kids yet.”
We laughed, and he glibly replied: ”Stay under me long enough, and I can take care of that for you.” I wonder how many times he kissed the stone to come up with that reply?
I grabbed the poles, pulled myself down and kissed the Blarney Stone. (This was before COVID-19.)
“Oh,” my Irish feet holder commented: “Missy, did you know your fly was open?” I jumped up to correct that embarrassment as he laughed - only to find out the stone was at work again.
For those of you who live in Texas and would like to kiss the Blarney Stone, and Ireland is not in your future, you can visit a piece of the rock in Shamrock, Texas.
(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. )Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)