Claddagh is one of the oldest fishing villages in Ireland, which is located near the Galway city. While the historians were tracing to find the origin of the Claddagh ring, they found the beautiful history about the people of Claddagh and their culture.
What is Claddagh?
Claddagh came from an Irish word called “Cladach,” which means “shore,” and this name was apt because it is located where the River Corrib meets the Galway Bay.
The people who belonged to this community are said to be very distinctive from the rest of Ireland. For instance, the British ruled Ireland, but Claddagh always had its king and unique set of customs and norms that they followed.
This small village became famous worldwide due to its peculiar characteristics and majorly because of its best creation “the Claddagh ring.” The ring is as unique as their people in that it holds three powerful emotions of a human’s life, and those are represented by the three symbols altogether “two hands holding one crowned heart.”
Let us know the historical story of people who lived in Claddagh 80 years ago.
History of Claddagh
The people of Claddagh seemed to have developed a wall around them to keep themselves away from their neighbours and other cultures. One such norm they followed was that they get married within their village to protect or preserve the originality of their customs.
Every man who didn’t belong to their community was known as a “stranger” to them. This was even mentioned by the British writer John Leech in 1859, who said in Claddagh, “there is a rule not to intermarry any strangers.”
As mentioned earlier, the main occupation of the village was fishing, and this was the only financial industry of Claddagh. All the men in this village used to go fishing in their traditional boats called the Galway hooker. And the women were active in selling all the fish in the market near the Spanish arch. Even the livestock was collected from the boundaries only.
Every single person in this village never failed to follow the rules and always stayed within their limits. All this cooperation within the community was possible only because of their rulers.
Claddagh had a separate king to rule the village, and unlike British rulers who passed on the kingdom to their next generation, the people of Claddagh elected their ruler every time. And that ruler was responsible for ensuring the rules and regulations of Claddagh were kept in place.
On the whole, Claddagh was a perfect village in its way. Later in the 20th century, this village was attacked by TB, i.e. tuberculosis.
People of Claddagh couldn’t survive the TB, and large numbers of people died. Eventually, the fishing trawlers saw the end of their fishing trade, and many people left Claddagh to find a better and modern life.
Finally, in the year 1930, their traditional cottages were demolished due to less sanitation and were replaced by the council houses. The originality of their village was destroyed, but their culture is still being preserved.
Some Peculiar Culture of Claddagh
Just like their separate ruler and marriage traditions, Claddagh had more culture than amazed the historians, and some of those are as follows:
- People of Claddagh lived in traditional thatched cottages till the year 1927. These cottages were weak and had less sanitation when compared to modern houses. This made the government demolish these cottages into council houses for the people of Claddagh.
- Men went fishing in their traditional boats called the Galway hookers, which were widely seen in Galway.
- Even the clothing of these people was distinctive amongst all the other people of Ireland. All their clothing was in bright colours in which women wore blue cloaks on their red petticoats and a bright coloured dress on top to finish the look.
- The clothes they wore were homemade, and these women did not give up on their traditional attire even after the demolishing of Claddagh. This made them look weird among other people as the look was outdated, but these women never let down the pride of their culture.
In this list comes their best creation of the Claddagh ring, which was equally unique like these people.
Story of Claddagh Ring
Claddagh rings, necklaces, and earrings are the most desired pieces of jewelry out of all claddagh jewelry. This ring is made of specific symbols that denote few strong feelings of human life like love, loyalty, and friendship.
In this ring, you will see a band (that looks like two hands), a heart in the middle, and a crown that is placed above the heart. Each symbol in this ring symbolizes few emotions, such as:
Heart: This is the centrepiece of the ring that represents the love of a person.
Crown: Generally, this symbolizes royalty traditionally, but in Claddagh, it represents loyalty.
Two hands: These two hands that are trying to unite or hold the heart symbolize friendship.
This ring was said to be invented in the 17th century by Richard Joyce, who was originally a silversmith.
Joyce was taken captive by the Algerian Corsairs. He ended up being offered as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. He, in the later period, became friends with Joyce.
Joyce learned all the techniques to smith the gold from his master and started to design his jewellery. After a great protest for abolishing slavery, Joyce was released back to Galway after 14 years. He straight went to meet his soul-mate and presented her the ring he made during the time of slavery. This particular design ring is what we call the “Claddagh ring.”
Now the Claddagh ring is being worn by women across the world, and even people use it as their engagement ring by placing any precious stone in the middle of the heart; this is because of the three emotional values that it symbolizes.