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The Irish Legend of the Claddagh Ring

Updated on March 9, 2012

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.

Claddagh

A markercladdagh -
Claddagh, Dooniver, Co. Mayo, Ireland
get directions

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    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 4 years ago from Isle of Man

      Beautiful hub, I love it. Did you also know that depending on how the ring is worn signifies whether the girl is married or single and available? Thank you.

    • Paradise7 profile image
      Author

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, and I'm so glad to share this story with the possessors of Claddagh rings.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      This is a lovely hub and what a lovely story behind the origin of the Claddagh Ring. They are very beautiful rings and we have one in our family that belonged to my Granny Murphy! It's a very treasured keepsake. Like Kitty, I never knew the legend behind the ring, so this was a really fascinating insight into this lovely piece of jewelry.

      Really interesting hub + voted up!

    • Paradise7 profile image
      Author

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      They are lovely rings so therefore very suitable for your lovely finger! Happy St. Patrick's Day, and thank you for visiting!

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Wonderful story Paradise. I am part Irish and love hearing these...What a timely hub for St. Patrick's Day tomorrow.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

      I've always been drawn to Ireland and everything Irish. I'm only about 25% Irish, but I feel I've lived there before. Loved this story, Paradise. Super intriguing and honestly I've never heard the legend of the Claddagh Ring even though I own one! Thanks so much.

    • Paradise7 profile image
      Author

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, sofs.

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 5 years ago

      Wow! What a great story... I have never heard of these rings before.. the design seems to be perfect for a wedding band.. maybe I should consider this for our next anniversary... seems like a lovely gift to give your spouse... :) Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely day.

    • Paradise7 profile image
      Author

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, Pandula.

    • pandula77 profile image

      pandula77 5 years ago from Norway

      A wonderful insight to a great tradition and a piece of history. Thanks!

    • Paradise7 profile image
      Author

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, Laura, I think it's pretty cool, too. A lot of Irish legends are really great stories, and it seems in Ireland, there's a story behind EVERYTHING!

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 5 years ago from Aurora

      Cool. I never knew the origins other than it was Irish.

    • Paradise7 profile image
      Author

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      You're very welcome, Mark, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Paradise7 profile image
      Author

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, Mega. I love this story, and many things Irish or Celtic. I'm glad you enjoyed it, too.

    • mega1 profile image

      mega1 5 years ago

      You always pick such interesting topics! This is one I've wondered about before. Thanks for the great info.

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      markbennis 5 years ago

      Thank you for this fantastic read of historic facts, much I never knew before hand but do now, great hub!