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The Legend of the Claddagh Ring
by Bridget Haggerty

According to 16th-century Irish folk lore, a fishing boat from the village of Claddagh was captured by Algerian pirates and the crew was sold into slavery. One of the crew was a young man by the name of Richard Joyce, who was to be married the same week he was captured. Instead, Richard found himself far away from his love and his homeland.

He was sold to a wealthy Moorish goldsmith who taught him the trade and, eventually, he became skilled enough to design a ring of special significance: the hands were for friendship, the crown was for loyalty, and the heart was for love.

Years went by, but Richard never forgot his sweetheart. Somehow, he managed to escape and make his way home to Ireland. When he arrived back in Claddagh, he discovered that his girl had never married. They were wed immediately, and the ring he gave her was the one he had designed and made while he was a slave.

Over the years, the design became extremely popular as a betrothal or wedding ring and took on even more significance. Worn on the right hand with the heart pointing out means that the heart is uncommitted. Worn on the same hand with the heart pointing in means that the heart is taken. Worn on the left hand with the heart pointing in means "Let Love and Friendship reign forever, never to be separated."

In the old days, Claddagh rings were worn widely by women on the west coast and off-shore islands of Galway. Often representing the sole major investment of a fishing family, they were handed down from mother to daughter. Now, many couples, even those not of Irish descent, are choosing the Claddagh symbol for their engagement and wedding rings. They are widely available, as are a wide range of other Claddagh accessories from earrings to cuff links. But one word of caution: it is said to be very bad luck for a person to purchase a Claddagh ring for themselves. It must be given or received as a gift.


The hands are for friendship
The heart is for love
And the crown is for loyalty
Held high above.


Photo Credit: Just one of many from the Claddagh Collection on Amazon
Illustration: Russ Haggerty (& not very good either)

 

Wed, Mar 22, 2017

The Galway Hooker

This unique vessel, with its distinctive curved lines and bright red sails, originated in the village of Claddagh. During the 19th century, hookers supported a significant fishing industry and also carried goods, livestock and fuel. Seán Rainey is remembered for building the last of the original boats, the Truelight, for Martin Oliver who was to become the last king of the Claddagh; as king, he was entitled to white sails on his boat. Since the mid seventies, many of the old sailing craft which were on the verge of extinction have been lovingly restored and new ones have been built. During the summer months they can be seen at festivals such a Cruinniú na mBád - the Gathering of the Boats - in Kinvara.


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