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The History of Claddagh and Galway City

The home of The Claddagh ring, Galway and the Fishing village of The Claddagh have changed much throughout the years but still retain the charm of times past.

The charm of Galway City streets on a moonlit night.

To take a stroll along the medieval streets of Galway down throught the Spanish Arch to the fishing village of Claddagh nestled by the banks of the River Corrib, is like taking a wonderful walk through times past. Much has changed over the past thirty years, but the echoes of the past still resonate throughout The City. Today Galway is a confident modern city busling with commerce and tourism. Full of character, with great restaurants and a lively nighlife, and the natural beauty of Connemara just a short drive outside The City, Galway is a lovely place to spend a couple of days. With its beguiling personality you will end up wishing you could stay longer.

Thatchecd cottages and traditional dress capture the character of Claddagh Village at the turn of the last century.

The settlement of Galway first developed as the Fishing village of The Claddagh at the mouth of the River Corrib where it empties into Galway Bay. The town thrived as a Gaelic settlement until the arrival of the Normans led by Richard De Burgo in the thirteenth century. The Gaelic traditions and language were preserved until modern times within the Claddagh fishing village. The Normans built city walls and began to develop the medieval city we know today. Remnants of the old city walls can still be seen today down by the Spanish Arch.

A view across The Corrib river to the village of The Claddagh.

The strategic position of the City on the west coast in shelter of Galway bay brought trade and prosperity to its citizens. Galway became a wealthy trading port with trading connections with France, Spain and Portugal, bringing all manner of exotic fare to the City. Galway is often know as, ‘The City of The Tribes’ in recognition of the 14 clans who ruled the city. Names like, D’Arcy, Blake, Joyce, Kirwan and Lynch are still synonymous with The City today. The City prospered for centuries until the arrival of Cromwell’s Army in 1651 precipitated a long period of decline.

Historical photograph of Claddagh fisherwomen wearing traditional Galway shawls.

There is much to see and do on a trip to Galway. You can stroll the streets enjoying the buskers and street performers, stopping off in Neachtans or The Quays for a pint and a bit of craic. On sunny days, you could take a bracing dip in The Atlantic from the beaches at Salthill or take a trip out to enjoy the beauty of Connemara or The Burren. The city streets come alive at night with traditional music sessions in many of the city pubs and a host of nightclubs to be found around Eyre square.

The emblem of the city is commemorated with the iconic traditional Claddagh ring. Learn more about Claddagh rings and where the traditional began.

The Royal County – Where Halloween Began

County Meath is known as the Royal County for good reason. The seat of`the High King of Ireland is located at the center of the County and at one time the kingdom was powerful enough to rival the other four provinces of Ireland as the fifth province of Mide. The county has a richness of archaeological treasures the envy of the rest of Ireland.  Along the banks of the River Boyne, worshiped as a goddess in Celtic times, can be found the Norman Castle at Trim, The Royal Hill of Tara, and the spectacular 5,000-year-old burial Mounds at Bru Na Boinne. To the north of the county are the sacred  hills of Loughcrew, Ward, and Uisneach.

Ancient Ramparts on The Hill of Ward

The Pagan Celtic Calendar

Many of the traditional pre-Christian days of the Celtic calendar were celebrated at sacred spots throughout the county. The winter solstice is marked in spectacular fashion at Newgrange when the sunken chamber of the burial mound is lit up by the rays of the rising winter sun.  Bealtaine, the first dawn of May, is celebrated at The Hill of Uisneadh, Meanwhile, the summer solstice was celebrated on The Hill of Tara. Lughnasa, marking the end of Summer was held at Teltown, on the banks of the River Boyne. The September equinox is celebrated at Loughrew, followed by Samhain at the Hill of Ward.

Torchlit Procession to Tlachtga

Celtic Druids and Sacred Bonfires

Samhain is the ancient Celtic Festival that we now call Halloween, is a Celtic festival whose traditions go back more than 3,000 years. The festival has its home at the top of the Hill of Tlachtga, now called The Hill of Ward, situated just outside the picturesque village of Athboy.

Samhain marks the end of the old Celtic year and the beginning of the new year. The Celts believed that this was a time of transition when the veil between our world and the next came down and the spirits of people who had died since the Oiche Samhna (Night of Samhain) moved on to the next life. One of the main spiritual centers of the ancient Celts was located on the top of the hill of Tlachtga, now called The Hill of Ward,  The druids felt that this world and the other world were closest at Tlachtga and it was here on the festival of Samhain that the sacred fire was kindled and Halloween began.

It was the custom of the druids to assemble on Tlachtga on the eve of Samhain where a bonfire was lit and offerings made. From this sacred fire, torches were carried to seven other sacred hills in County Meath, including Tara and Loughcrew and then on to light up the countryside.

The Seven Wonders of Fore

The island of Ireland is packed full of wonderful places to visit. Of course most visitors do not venture off the beaten track, visiting the most popular attractions like the The Guinness Brewery, The Cliffs of Moher or the Blarney Stone. However, it is on the road less traveled where you are most likely to discover the magic and beauty of our beautiful country.

A view of the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey at Fore on a sunny day.

One such place is the Abbey at Fore in County Westmeath. If you are fortunate to visit the Abbey at Fore on a sunny day, you will be rewarded with a wonderful and unexpected experience. Nestled in a verdant valley surrounded by wooded hills are a number of monastic buildings, some of which stretch back to the early days of Christianity in Ireland. Among the remains, visitors can see St Fechin’s church, built about 900. They will also find one of the 18 Fore crosses, which are spread out on roadways and in fields around the Abbey.

The hawthon tree by the holy well.

The name Fore comes from the Irish word Fobhair meaning ‘water-springs’. The valley was first settled by Saint Fechin in the seventy century. The monastery became a great center of learning where, it is said, up to 2,000 monks studied at one time. During Viking times, the monastery was attacked and burned many times. After the Norman conquest, a Benedictine Priory was founded in the 13th century by Hugh de Lacy the Norman Lord of Meath.

A view of fore towards St Fechin’s church from the ramparts of the Benedictine Abbey.

Fore is famous in history and folklore for its seven wonders. The Seven Wonders of Fore are; the monastery in the bog, the mill without a race, the water that flows uphill, the tree that won’t burn, the water that won’t boil, the anchorite in a stone and the lintel stone raised by St Fechin’s prayers.

Coins are hammered into the holy tree as votive offerings to bring good luck.

The Celtic monastic tradition of learning and craft lead to a flourishing legacy of Celtic Art in the middle ages. Our Celtic shield range of Celtic wedding rings capture the beauty of these forgotten craftsmen.

Summer Solstice Celtic Traditions

In the times before Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, Pagan beliefs and traditions held sway. Celtic pagan festivals were celebrated throughout the year according to the cycles of The Sun. The spring and fall equinoxes and of course the shortest and longest days of the year held particular significance.

Traditionally bonfires were lit in celebration atop the sacred hills of Ireland, the most important being on The Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

Beautiful sacred Hill of Tara from above looks out over the stunning Meath countryside.

Here at Claddagh Rings with our latest infographic we take a closer look at the Celtic traditions associated with the Summer Solstice, 21 June, the longest day of the year.

Celtic Summer Solstice Traditions by Claddagh Rings

A to Z of weddings

Our infographic below covers weddings from A-Z. There is so much involved in a wedding and this infographic has most of what you need to be mindful of when organising one. A wedding is a momentous occasion in a person’s life so it’s important that it runs smoothly. This infographic will help you be organised!

A to Z of weddings

Sweet Molly Malone

‘In Dublin’s Fair City, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone’ is the opening line of the song about an iconic character in the history of this city of characters. Molly Malone lived in Dublin city centre during the 1600’s.  According to the song she sold cockles and mussels from her wheelbarrow in Dublin’s city centre by day. By night she is said to have plied a second trade suggested by the nickname the Tart with the Cart. She died of a fever, thought to be cholera in 1699.

Although there is no evidence of the true identity of Molly Malone, the song in which she is remembered has become an anthem for Dublin and its sports teams.  She is also remembered by a life size statue depicting her pushing her cart down Grafton Street, her revealing neckline suggesting her other occupation. The statue of Molly Malone was unveiled during the celebration of Dublin’s Millennium in 1988.  Since then she has proved very popular as a tourist attraction.

Many of Dublin’s statues are being put into storage during the works on the new tram/Luas line to prevent any damage being done to them,  but due to the popularity of the Molly Malone statue, she will be wheeling her barrow from Grafton Street to a new location in Dublin.  She will return to her original place when the works are complete.

Molly on the move

Battle of Clontarf 1014

Clontarf today is a suburb on the north side of Dublin City with pleasant views over Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Mountains. However Clontarf is best known as the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Irish history.

This year marks the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. This battle is widely thought of as the time when the native Irish, lead by Brian Boru, finally defeated the Vikings. Historians however tell us that hostilities began, not between Brian and the Vikings but with Meal Mórdá, the then King of Leinster, who challenged Boru’s claim to be king of all Ireland. As Brian Boru was amassing his armies around Dublin to quell the revolt, Meal Mórdá enlisted the assistance of his Viking cousin Sitric and other allies from Scotland and the Isle of Man. On 23rd of April 1014 the two armies, each numbering about 7,000 men, met at Clontarf.

In the battle that followed Brian Boru lost not only the lives of half his men but also his own life and that of his brother Wolf the Quarrelsome. On the other side 6,000 men were killed and of the leaders of the revolt, only Sitric survived to rule Dublin for a further 28 years. Although Brian Boru’s forces triumphed in battle, the lack of a strong leader meant that the Irish became divided again and descended again into provincial fighting between local chieftains, but the Vikings were never as powerful again. 

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

St Patrick, the patron St of Ireland was born in the 4th century, He was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish raiders when he was about 16.  He was brought to Ireland where he lived a life as a shepherd for 6 years.  He escaped to Britain and became a priest.  He returned to Ireland as a missionary to spread the Christian teaching.  He used the shamrock, which is now the symbol of Ireland, to explain the Christian concept of the holy trinity – that God is at once, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It was alleged that he died on March 17th and the date was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century.

Marching Band on O’Cpnnell Street

The celebration of St Patrick’s day in USA began with Irish soldiers who served in the British army.  As more Irish  fled to the US during the famine, celebrating  St. Patrick’s day helped them connect with their Irish roots and with one another, it became a display of solidarity and political strength.  While not a legal holiday in most of the United States, it is widely recognised and celebrated throughout the country. The first parade in New York City was held in 1766.

Trinity College lit up in green.

While St Patrick’s day has been observed as a religious holiday to remember Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, it has evolved to become a celebration of Irish heritage.  St Patrick’s day is now a festival which aims to show the talents and achievements of Irish people on the national and world stages. Among other celebrations the four day festival includes concerts, outdoor theatre performances, an Irish craft beer and food market, there is also the greening the city where many iconic buildings Go Green, and of course the parade held on St Patrick’s Day.