Connemara Marble

The Story behind the Claddagh

So much of our jewelry is inspired by The Claddagh so let’s visit the city of Galway and the historic Claddagh area. 

Now, Galway is one of the most vibrant and popular cities to visit in Ireland, famed for its music , festivals and entertainment the city has been a haven for visitors since tourism itself began.

Long ago travellers arrived by train ( and many still do today ) so let’s start our journey at the old railway station and trace the path taken by countless visitors over the years.

As we emerge from the railway station we find ourselves in a fine open space that is known as Eyre Square. Originally a market green it is first recorded in history in 1631. In 1965, the square was officially renamed “John F. Kennedy Memorial Park” in honour of U.S. President John F. Kennedy who visited Galway in 1963 ; despite the renaming, the square is still widely known as Eyre Square.

It’s always busy and there are many features including a statue of the famous writer Padraic O Conaire, the Browne Doorway that is from the actual building that stood here in 1627 and an amazing steel fountain depicting the Galway Hooker ( now, don’t get a fright – the Galway Hooker is something COMPLETELY different .. more about that later on ! There are a vast array of lovely shops – Fallers jewellers, The Treasure Chest, Mc Cambridge’s and Claddagh jewellers to name but a few – you can be sure to find something here. The river Corrib flows through Galway and is famed for its fast flowing waters and salmon fishing. Nearby stands the impressive Galway Cathedral. Let’s step inside for a moment to light a candle and to marvel at the floor that is almost entirely made from Connemara marble. ( there are some added accents of red Cork marble and white Donegal marble ) It’s really impressive to see the colouration and complex designs in such huge pieces of marble !!

Now, let’s re trace our steps along the west bank of the Corrib to where it reaches the sea – this is the highlight as we visit the ancient neighbourhood of The Claddagh. For centuries it was an Irish-speaking enclave outside the city walls. Claddagh residents were mainly fisher folk and were governed by an elected ‘King’. The King of the Claddagh settled or arbitrated disputes among the locals and had the privilege of a white sail on his fishing boat. The last true king, Martin Oliver, died in 1972. The title is still used but in a purely honorary and ceremonial context. The current King is Michael Lynskey. The area is also famous for its association with the Claddagh Ring.

Let me remind you about the story of the Claddagh ring … The story has it that in 1676 a fisherman named Richard Joyce from the Claddagh was captured at sea by pirates and sold into slavery in Algeria.

He became the property of a rich Moorish goldsmith, and during his time in captivity learnt the trade . In time Richard Joyce became a fully proficient master goldsmith and with thoughts of the girl he had left behind close to his heart, he fashioned the first Claddagh Ring. The heart symbolising love, the pair of hands representing friendship and the crown for loyalty and fidelity.

In 1689 after an agreement with King William III to release all his subjects held in slavery, Richard Joyce found himself once more a free man and returned to Galway. There he found that his sweetheart had waited for his return, and presenting her with the Claddagh Ring they were married.

As we look across the water from the Claddagh I can see that I have one more story for you – it’s about the Galway Hooker. Can you see the sailing boat with the red sails .. that’s a Galway Hooker. Not to be confused with ladies of ill repute I always try to pronounce the word more like ” Who -Ker ” !! These sturdy wooden boats have been used for fishing and cargo for many hundreds of years.( in fact it was possible that Richard Joyce was sailing in one of these craft when he was captured by pirates ) Their wooden hulls are coated with tar in order to withstand the fierce Atlantic weather and have a classic style and grace about them. The traditional craft of building them was almost lost but in recent years it has been revived and there are several Hooker races during the summer months all along the west coast . This is a real treat so see one under sail setting out on its journey .

We have covered a lot of ground today, I’m sure your ” virtual” feet must be aching, so let’s head back up William street , and buy a souvenir of our visit to Galway before we head home.

Thanks for coming with me today, I enjoyed bringing you on a walk around Galway.

Please enter your contact details here and your question and I will answer it as soon as possible, many thanks. Stephen