Blarney Castle, co. Cork., built on a commanding site on a limestone outcrop over the Blarney and Comane rivers originally dates from before 1200 but was destroyed and is traditionally thought to have been subsequently rebuilt, with an exceptionally large keep and an angle tower, in 1446, by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muskerry, leader of the dominant Gaelic family in the area. The castle is famous for the 'Blarney' stone built into its battlements, which, formed out of half of the celebrated stone of Scone and received in gratitude for the support of Robert the Bruce's troops at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, is believed to give the art of flattery to those that kiss it. Forfeited by Donogh MacCarthy, 4th Earl of Clancarty, who fought for James II in the Williamite war, Blarney Castle was acquired by Sir James St. John Jefferyes, Governor of Cork, in 1688, whose son James, in the 18th Century, built a four storey Georgian-Gothic house onto the old keep, with a central bow and a turret and cupola, pointed windows and curvilinear pinnacled battlements. A watercolour by Hubert Cornish (c. 1770-1832) in the collection of the Knight of Glin, shows the Castle with its 18th Century additions, unusually from the south, as it was before the fire (see Painting Ireland, Topographical Views from Glin Castle, ed. William Laffan, Tralee, 2006, pp. 44-5, no. 20). In the early 19th century the 18th century house was burnt (Mary Hillyard in her guidebook Blarney Castle and the Rock close, published c. 1960, mentions this occuring in the 1820s) after which it was not rebuilt, and later in 1874 a new house was built on a different site nearby in the Demesne, near the lake, in the Scottish baronial style, to the design of John Lanyon. The present picture would appear to show the castle as it stood soon after the fire.
We are grateful to Dr. Peter Harbison, of the Royal Irish Academy, and Peter Murray, Director of the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, for their assistance with this catalogue entry.