The Blarney Stone - Myth or Legend? The Blarney stone has woven around itself a unique tradition of myth, legend and romance. It is said that the secret of the holy stone was given to Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster by the local witch whom he saved from drowning in the lake behind the castle. It is also said that the stone was brought back from the Crusades and that it was made into two halves. One is the Stone of Scone also known as the Stone of Destiny, the other half was given to Cormac MacCarthy by Robert Bruce of Scotland in gratitude for the Irish army of four thousand men which was sent to help him at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Whatever its origins, through the centuries the stone has succeeded in strengthening the mystical romance and legend that reaches to the four corners of the world as is evident by the thousands of people who visit Blarney Castle every year just to kiss this mysterious stone in hope of receiving the gift of eloquence or perhaps to capture a little of the mystique that is the Blarney Stone.
A Touch of Blarney (A true story) By Frederick (Ben) Rodgers
Many readers will dismiss this story as mere coincidence, but those of you with a touch of Irish may well believe it, as do I.
In order to tell my story I must first relate an event that occurred one year earlier. My name is Frederick Rodgers, I'm a young Able Seaman, twenty two years old and single. I have served happily for three years in the Submarine Service. In the summer of 1962 in Plymouth, England I'm serving aboard the Royal Navy submarine HM/SM Taciturn. On weekend leave I suffer a severe head injury as a front seat passenger in a shipmate’s car. Three weeks in hospital and thirty stitches later I 'm sent home on sick leave. Whilst on leave my brother-in-law suggested I claim damages and takes me to a solicitor. I recounted what little I remembered about the accident and gave the lawyer a newspaper clipping, the only real information I had. When sick leave expired I was posted to HMS Dolphin, the submarine base in Portsmouth, I remained there until declared fit for sea duty almost one year later.
A Touch of Blarney
In May 1963 released for sea duty, I reported for my next assignment. I had long since forgotten the solicitor or any hope of receiving compensation. The submarine base maintained a complete spare crew, when submarines found themselves short staffed replacements were readily available. It was to spare crew I now find myself posted. I’m given several forms to fill in and deliver to appropriate departments. It was important the pay office knew my whereabouts if I expected to be paid. It was equally important the post office had my new address if I hoped to receive mail. However, my first priority was to move into my new accommodation, I was unconcerned about the forms, plenty of time the following day to deliver them. That night I quickly fell asleep, suddenly a blinding light is shinning in my face. Behind it, a voice shouting “are you Rodgers?” you’ve got ten minutes to get your ass aboard the submarine Totem, she’s about to sail. I landed onboard just as they were removing the gangway. unshaven, unwashed and now underway. The boat was heading out to operate in the Irish Sea with a visit to the City of Cork on the weekend. Thursday at sea being payday everyone was paid, everyone except me that is! I was almost broke with maybe five shillings to my name. The chance of borrowing from a shipmate was nil, not a permanent member of the crew loaning me money was high risk. I could disappear as quickly as I had arrived. Saturday morning, alongside in Cork City I was free to go ashore. Opposite the gangway stood a pub, it didn’t open until noon, however a discrete tap on a side door my shipmates and I are quickly ushered inside. The interior was dim blinds still down. We ordered pints of Guinness and headed to a table near the fireside. As our eyes became accustomed to the gloom we see a Garda (Irish Policeman) standing at the bar. “Tis it British sailors breaking the law I’m seeing here?” he says. We froze on the spot. After a pause he continued. “Ah well! sure tis breaking the law to let salty young seafarers like yourselves go thirsty.” A few pints later and my funds reduced by half, I returned onboard for lunch. Levity in a seaman’s mess usually increases after the daily noontime issue of rum. This was the case aboard Totem, after tots some lads suggested we head out of town to Blarney Castle to kiss the famous stone. Having imbibed a tot and two pints of Guinness, kissing the Blarney Stone seemed to be an admirable idea. The bus fare depleted another sixpence from my dwindling funds. Arriving at the castle we were directed to climb a circular stairway to the top of the tower. Here we found the Blarney Stone and an enterprising photographer, who for one shilling would take our photograph kissing it. We readily agreed, we surely needed a record of our lips touching this famous stone. After paying the photographer I couldn’t afford return bus fare and had to walk the five or so miles back to town. By the time I returned aboard Totem, I was depressed, my feet were sore and my pockets were empty A dance was hosted for Totem’s crew that night and promised lots of girls in attendance. I knew I wouldn’t be doing any dancing even if my feet recovered in time. When I entered the mess I saw the mail had arrived, I showed no interest there would be none for me. Like my pay doc’s, my change of address was sitting in my locker back at the base. Therefore I was stunned when a shipmate asked if I’d got my letter? What letter? Must be a mistake, it couldn‘t be for me. Nevertheless, on the table was a large official looking white envelope, my name clearly printed on it. I quickly tore it open to find it contained several typed pages, but what immediately caught my attention was the attached cheque. It was from my lawyer, a settlement for my injuries in the sum of one thousand pounds. Never in my life had I held such a huge sum of money in my hands. The first question that came to mind was how this letter found me? How was it possible? The fleet mail office didn’t have my new address. ******* Now my second question? A few hours earlier I’d kissed the Blarney Stone with only small change in my pocket. Now was rich beyond my wildest dreams. Coincidence??? Or Luck of the Irish?? You decide!
I served a total of 25 years in the British and Canadian Navies. I’m retired now and living with my wife, Linda, in Ebenezer, Prince Edward Island. Canada. I have just completed and published a 400 page memoir titled “Lily & Me” it is available in book stores or online at www.amazon.com ISBN 1-55430-019-3 or visit my web page for more info http://www.irishroversbooks.coml
Oh, and yes I did make it to the dance that night!