Through The Looking Glass: The Claddagh Community and Their Traditions In Galway.

Through The Looking Glass: The Claddagh Community and Their Traditions In Galway.

Today, the Claddagh is mainly known for the ring design seen in jewellery; many people recognize it simply as a ring. Many are familiar with the Claddagh settlement in Galway, Ireland's oldest fishing hamlet, which has existed for more than 300 years.


“Cladach” is Irish for “shore,” and that's where the name Claddagh comes from. The hamlet sat on the edge of the Corrib River and Galway Bay. Records show that the Claddagh community was settled in the town and lived there with vigor until the council took over their dwellings and contemporary residences in 1930. While the establishment has not remained entirely consistent with the themes of Claddagh and its rituals, it is nevertheless a sentimental spot for its visitors.

As it was a community based on fishing, men worked in the fishing industry, while women were stay-at-home moms. It was easy for fishermen in Galway to get the capital they needed since their only real competition for fishing in Galway Bay was them. This means they could earn a good income by selling their catch to the Galway market. With 800 fishermen in the 19th century with 80 boats, the population of fishermen in the world was considerable.

To operate their boats while fishing, these individuals choose a King to lead their group each year. St. John's Day (June 23) was the election day. They were to break the fishing net and boats of non-local fishers discovered in the bay. This was at the King's command. These folks lived in the village and saw everyone else as a stranger.

An outsider was easily identifiable to these folks because they lacked a Claddagh ring on their hands. The king had complete control over where he took his fisherman.

2 women Sailors Knot

The community of Claddagh was said to have decreased due to a deadly illness known as “tuberculosis” that the people had lived with for years. In addition, the people were dying off on their own, making Hamlet's inhabitants seem extremely small. Even in turmoil, the people never faltered and were always committed to upholding their customs.

Four hundred sixty-eight wooden huts and 500 families were located in those houses. As a result, the youth started to leave their hometown in favor of the city rather than continue to fish for a living. In addition, the fatal epidemic of TB in 1927 killed several individuals. Thus, the order was issued to move the families, regardless of whether they wanted to. Modern houses were built over the ruins of their old ones.

Claddagh Symbol TODAY

The Claddagh emblem has a heart in the middle of two hands. This emblem symbolizes complete affection to the Irish people. The heart is crowned in the logo, making it even more beautiful. The members of the Claddagh community wore this emblem to represent their feelings of love, loyalty, and friendship. They also utilized it to tell who didn't belong.

It can identify if an individual is single or married. Nonetheless, it has dropped in value in recent years since many have adopted it as a mere fashion statement, not a meaningful ornament.

The legend says the ring's beginnings started when Richard Joyce, a jeweler, gave it to his lover. It is said that in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish Armada left the ring behind.

In a pirate tale, they caught the Claddagh and gave it to a jeweler to ransom back their hostages. Though the two never became friends again and only worked together on the gold, He learned how to work with gold thanks to his master, who was a close friend to him. Joyce was then permitted to return to her house. At this point, Joyce returned home and made the Claddagh ring for his beloved.

A Claddagh ring has a symbol that depicts two hands clutching a heart, symbolizing love, friendship, and loyalty.

Whether the ring is on the left or right hand or how it is worn all have a deeper meaning regarding whether or not the person wearing it is single. The ring's purpose is further implied by its orientation, for example, whether the pointed end of the heart faces inward towards the wearer. This signifies the wearer is in a relationship or single. A single person is ready to start a relationship if the hooked side of their heart is facing away from them.

Dara Knot

Today, visiting Ireland and carrying home a piece of Claddagh jewellery as a special memento is not uncommon. Those who visit Ireland and visit this town will undoubtedly take a Claddagh ring with them back home.

In the end, the symbol and design of Claddagh can vary in traditions yet still be rooted in the same values. You can ask anyone in Irish culture how to wear the ring to symbolize and showcase your love interest and intent, or you can wear the ring and symbol as an imagery of the values of love, loyalty, and friendship. In any case, how you wear and showcase these pieces embodies your beliefs.

Check out our store today to see which Celtic symbol and relic resonates with you at our shop Celtic Knot Jewellery.

If you have stories, questions, comments, and suggestions, please leave them below because we would love to hear from you!

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