As a child with my parents we visited Ireland in 1969 some 47 years ago. We did a tour of Ireland and I remember us going to Blarney Castle. The site then was very different than today, it was a lot less manicured, more wild park, jardin à l’Anglaise as they say. I remember us arriving a the Castle and climbing up the stairs of the ruins to see the famous stone. I did not kiss it then, I was afraid of the height and of hanging over the ledge, but it was fun. I also do not remember Blarney being geared towards mass tourism as it is today, though in a gentle way, no crass commercialism. I don’t think my parents knew anything much about the place we visited.
We came from Cork to Blarney a short distance, we got off at the visitor centre which is in the village of Blarney, a very nice place with the Blarney river running through it by the old mill. The Old Mill a stone edifice, has been turned into a shop on two floors where you can buy quality Irish clothing, beautifully done with taste. I bought myself a very nice sweater and shirt, Will got himself a nice tweed jacket. The whole area is beautifully landscaped with trees and flowers and everything is green and inviting.
The site of Blarney Castle is part of a huge private Estate over 1000 acres belonging to the same family for several generations. It has been kept in the family through marriage over many decades.
The current owner of the Estate is Sir Charles St John Colthurst, Baronet. He inherited the Estate from his father in 2003.
The Blarney estate in County Cork is an ancient seat of the MacCarthys of Muskerry. It is world famous for its castle, an unusually large tower-house from 1220 which incorporates the famous Blarney Stone, high up beneath the battlements. The 4th Earl of Clancarty had supported Catholic King James II, with the result that his forfeited estate was granted to the Hollow Swords Company at the end of the Williamite wars in 1690.
In 1704 the mayor of Cork, Sir James St John Jefferyes, purchased the estate and built a new house attached to the original castle. This was greatly enlarged by his descendants and developed into large Georgian Gothic building with a central bow, rows of lancet windows and pinnacled battlements. In 1820 this house was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt, though its remains can still be seen today.
In 1846 Louisa Jane, the Jefferyes heiress, married a neighbour, Sir George Colthurst of Ardrum near Inniscarra. He was a man of property, with another large estate at Ballyvourney near the border with County Kerry, along with Lucan House in Co. Dublin. He also inherited Blarney on his father-in-law’s death.
Blarney river on the Estate.
The ruins of Blarney Castle dating back to 1446 with the ruins of the first house burnt in 1820.
The new house 1876 of the Lord of the Estate built in a Scottish Baronial style. It is not open to the public in the Fall but we were invited for tea and a tour of the house by the owner.
It was raining softly during our visit with a little breeze, gardeners were busy with the lawns and trees. The visit of the house was interesting, the owners ancestors were soldiers and worked for various Sovereigns in Europe, one being the King of Sweden at the time of the wars with Peter the Great of Russia. The house is furnished with lovely period antiques of great quality. The tea was great, beautiful scones and jam. The house does have a lived in feeling in the manner of great English houses.
It is interesting to note that Sir Charles title is British and given by the Crown centuries ago, so many of us wondered how it all worked now that he lives 9 months of the year in the Republic of Ireland. In Ireland the title is not recognized and I believe his family is what is called West-Britons or Anglo-Irish.
The word “Blarney” has a royal pedigree and its roots in Blarney. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, she was trying to come to solidify her authority over the Irish. While not adverse to using the sword if necessary, Elizabeth also employed diplomacy, and frequently met her Irish subjects face to face. Obviously not the peasants, but the lords.
Even she, however, might have had second thoughts about the wisdom of doing so when she met Cormac MacCarthy, and with him her match in non-committal diplomacy. As the current lord of Blarney Castle, Cormac tried everything legal (or at least not illegal) to keep his independence.
Thus Queen Elizabeth’s demands were regularly met not by deeds, or even commitments. Instead, the Irish lord offered by extensive elaborations on why something could not be done, or may be done in an unspecified future, at least not immediately, and generally not without some modification (which would always be to his advantage). In short – Cormac tried to talk and bluff his way out of it, hoping that Elizabeth would simply forget.
But she did not. And Cormac became a Royal pain. Until one day Elizabeth cracked and screamed, “This is all Blarney, what he says he never means.”
Our next stop Killarney.