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 mostly known by the ring design seen in jewelry; a lot of people recognize it simply as a ring. Though 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 their dwellings were taken over by the council 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 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 day of the election. They were to break the fishing net and boats of any non-local fishers discovered in the bay. This was on 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 of the lack of a Claddagh ring on their hands. The king had full 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; all of these things made the inhabitants in the hamlet seem extremely small in number. Even in times of turmoil, the people never faltered and were always committed to upholding their customs.

There were 468 wooden huts and 500 families that 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 or not. 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 full affection to the Irish people. In the logo, the heart is crowned, 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 and not as a meaningful ornament.

The legend says that 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 came back 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 meaning of the ring 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
Celtic Cross

Today, it's not uncommon to visit Ireland and carry home a piece of Claddagh jewelry as a special memento. Those who come to Ireland and visit this town are sure to take a Claddagh ring with them back home.

In the end, the symbol and design of Claddagh can vary in traditions yet still are 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 simply wear the ring and symbol as an imagery of the values of love, loyalty, and friendship. In any case, the way 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 Jewelry & Co.

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

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