The Irish Legend of the Claddagh Ring
An Irish Legend for your Delectation; Happy St. Patrick's Day!
The Irish legend of the Claddagh Ring (pronounced kla-da) has its roots in the tiny town of Claddagh,somewhat near Galway, in Ireland. The sea is close; the folk are fishermen by long tradition. And when they pledge their troth, they do so with a Claddagh ring. The ring is two hands circling a heart of stone, topped by a crown, representing head, heart and hands, given in loving faith and loyalty forever.
The motto of the Claddagh ring is: "Let love and friendship reign."
This Claddagh ring is a popular design the world over. Many people who have never set foot in Claddagh, or Galway, or Ireland for that matter, use it as a wedding band. On a somber note: when the 9/11 disaster occurred at the World Trade Center, in New York, people looking for their loved ones who were lost in the turmoil and wreckage of its aftermath, contacted rescue agencies and identified the missing person by the Claddagh ring they were wearing. The only problem was, there were over 200 Claddagh rings reclaimed from Ground Zero.
There is more than one legend of the Claddagh ring and its origins. This is the one I like best:
The story begins with Margaret Joyce (yes, a distant relation of the famous James Joyce) in the late 1500's. Margaret, of Galway, later became known as "Margaret of the Bridges" because she philanthropically built several bridges using her own money.
Margaret was so very beautiful in her youth, that she caught the eye of a wealthy Spanish merchant, who fell instantly in love with her, while she was washing the family laundry along the riverbanks of Claddagh. After a whirlwind romance, Margaret and her Spanish lover became man and wife, and he whisked her away to Spain on his merchant ship.
Margaret was not married long before she became a widow. Her husband, Domingo de Rona, was not a young man, and who knows? it could be that the sudden strain of much marital relations was more than his poor heart could take.
Margaret was a wealthy young widow, and homesick for Ireland, so she moved back to her native land, where she almost instantly attracted the eye of the Mayor of Galway, Oliver Og ffrench. They married, and soon after the Mayor travelled a great deal, leaving Margaret with time on her hands.
Being young and rich and beautiful, and being left alone by her husband, does not usually accord with public works. In Margaret's case, it did., however. She began building bridges using her own fortune...
Margaret built many stone bridges across the Connemara region, going from site to site, overseeing the work personally and in detail. It happened one day, that Margaret was sitting on the parapet of an unfinished bridge, eating her lunch, when an eagle dropped in her lap the very first golden Claddagh ring. It was a reward from heaven above for her unselfish pursuits in her husband's absence and her charity and good works.