The Claddagh is the one of the oldest fishing villages in Ireland. It's situated in between the Spanish Arch and Salthill. It was originally the main settlement area for Galway natives before the fort was built across the river.
The Claddagh is also known as the home of the world famous claddagh ring. The man who is believed to have created the first Claddagh ring was from here. The tradition has been passed down in the local community for generations.
Today many of the traditional thatch-roofed cottages that lined the streets in Claddagh village have been replaced with more modern homes. However, you can still see a nice example if you visit Katie's Cottage on your way into town from the college. If you walk from the prom through the Claddagh on your way into the city centre you will feel like you’re a world apart with small Irish-speaking town’s traditions and customs. You will also come across one of the largest swan populations in Europe and recently a black swan all the way from Australia has found his new home in Galway.
History of the Claddagh
The Galway City wall kept the Claddagh people completely isolated from the Anglo-Norman settlers who stayed in the city. The Claddagh remained an entirely separate entity from the privileged upper-class in the city.
An elected King of the Claddagh village, was chosen from the men of the village on St. John’s Day, the 23rd of June. This King would lead them out to sea and under his command. Anybody that wasn’t living in the Claddagh who was found fishing in Galway Bay would have their nets and boat destroyed. It was easy to tell if someone was not from the Claddagh, as they wouldn’t be wearing one of the Claddagh rings on their hand.
In 1927 there was a deadly outbreak of tuberculosis that led to the downfall of the village. The thatched cottages were deemed as a health hazard. The thatch cottages were brought to the ground and the families relocated. The last of the structures were demolished in 1934.
The Story of the Claddagh Ring
The Claddagh ring’s symbol consists of a heart with a crown balancing on top that is held aloft by a pair of hands. The heart symbolises love, the crown loyalty to the King and the hands symbolise friendship. The position of the ring displays whether a person is single or taken – a handy piece of information for those of you who are looking for love! If the pointed side of the heart is pointing towards the body, then the person is taken!
The legend of the design is associated with the goldsmith Richard Joyce from the 17th century. Joyce was a Claddagh native who was captured by Moroccan pirates and taken away from his true love.
After some time, the servant became friends with his master and was taught all about how to smith gold. After a significant time away, Joyce’s master let him return back to his loved one in the Claddagh, and crafted the Claddagh ring in her honour.
Today, the Claddagh ring is a great souvenir to bring home with you from your trip to Ireland and give to that extra-special somebody! There's a shop on Quay Street called Claddagh and Celtic Jewelry Company that offers inexpensive rings with lifetime guarantees.
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