Claddagh today is represented by a ring, and many people know only its symbolic representation for a ring. However, very few know the Claddagh community, which used to reside in Galway, the oldest fishing village in Ireland.
The name Claddagh was derived from the word “Cladach,” which means “the shore.” The village was located at the meeting point of the Corrib River and Galway Bay.
As per the records, the Claddagh community used to live in the town and follow their traditions strongly until, in 1930, their homes were replaced by council houses and modern homes. However, the place is still infused with Claddagh’s vibe and memories of their traditions.
The Claddagh community always lived near Galway City, but the people were never influenced, and they continued to follow their traditions. There was a huge difference in living norms between this village in comparison to the Anglo-Norman city which was situated just across the river.
Since it was a fishing village, all the men worked there as fishermen and the women used to look after the house as a homemaker. Only these people had the rights to fish in Galway Bay, and hence they used to make decent money by selling the fish in the market of Galway. By the 19th century, the number of fishermen increased, and there were approximately 800 of them with 80 boats.
Every year, these people used to choose their King to lead the boats while fishing. The selection took place on St. John’s Day, June 23. The King also ordered them to destroy the net and boat of any stranger if found fishing in the Bay. These people considered everyone a stranger who didn’t live in the village.
For these people, it was easy to spot an outsider as they wouldn’t be having a Claddagh on their hand. The King always had the power to lead his fishermen out to the sea.
The Claddagh Community and its Collapse
It is said that after decades of living as a community, the population of Claddagh was shrunk because of the viral disease “tuberculosis.” Also, the population of the village was naturally decreasing; all these reasons left the people there very few in numbers. However, despite the circumstances, the community never stepped back, and they always continued to follow their traditions.
There were 468 thatched cottages and 500 families. Later, the younger generation began to relocate to the city in search of work instead of continuing fishing. Also, the deadly spread of TB (tuberculosis) in 1927 made many people die. Hence, the order was given to relocate the families regardless of their wish. Their homes were later destroyed and replaced by modern homes.
The Claddagh Symbol and the Ring
The Claddagh symbol emerges with two hands holding a heart together. In Irish culture, this is one of their beautiful symbols which represents complete love. In the symbol, the heart is also adorned by a crown, enhancing its beauty even more. It is said that this symbol symbolizes love, loyalty, and friendship which the people of the Claddagh community used to wear as their symbol. This was also a way they used to determine an outsider.
In the ring form, it can display whether a person is single or committed to a partner. However, the value of the ring has fallen in recent years as some people started wearing it without knowing the meaning and only as a beauty accessory.
According to the beliefs, the origin of the ring began when the goldsmith Richard Joyce gifted the ring to her beloved. However, some people also say that in the 16th century, the ring probably was left by the Spanish Armada.
As per a legend, the pirates apprehended the Claddagh and sold it to a goldsmith. However, a friendship developed between those two in later years, and they together worked on the gold. Since the slave and the owner became good friends, the owner taught him the art of working on gold. Later, the owner released Joyce to return home. Joyce hence returned home, and at that time, he designed the Claddagh ring to give it to his loved one.
The Claddagh ring’s symbol, which represents two hands holding the heart adorned with a crown, symbolizes love with the “heart,” friendship with the “hands” and loyalty with the “crown.”
The position of the ring or the way of wearing it also represents if the person is in a relationship or not. For example, if the ring is worn in a way that the pointed side of the heart is pointed toward the body of the wearer, it means the person is taken or in a relationship. When the pointed side of the heart is pointed outward or not toward the body, it means the person is single and ready to be in a relationship.
Today, the Claddagh jewelry has become a great souvenir to bring home to your beloved and gift them. People who visit Ireland and have a glimpse of this village don’t forget to carry the Claddagh ring along. Check out Celtic Dna Jewelry Shop for Claddagh and Celtic Jewelry.
The Claddagh is now so famous for its ring that people visit here to get immersed in the history of the Claddagh community and take the ring along with them. The ring is considered to be the heritage of the small village of Galway, Ireland, where you can find the ring still in its traditional design, two clasped hands holding a crowned heart representing love, friendship, and loyalty.
So this was the fascinating and true story of Galway and the Claddagh community. We hope that you find it interesting and wish to cherish the pleasure of owning a Claddagh ring, necklace or set of earrings.