As you travel to Ireland , you’re going to spot a claddagh, pronounced ‘klah-dah.’ In fact, as one of the most highly recognized traditional Irish symbols and with its popularity, you have most likely seen it on several hands already. Do you know the highly revered love story? Ah, Laddie and Lassie, take ‘thee a minute to hear it.
Richard Joyce, a young lad in love, is credited with creating the first Claddagh. Claddagh is a little fishing village, a suburb of Galway. Each day, the boy-Richard would head out into the seas to fish with his father and brothers. The fear among all fisherman was pirates. For Richard, this became reality when one day he was kidnapped from his father’s ship. All three were sold into slavery. As legend has it, Richard became the slave of a Moorish goldsmith.
Each day, working with the goldsmith, Richard would take tiny flecks of gold and hide them in his pockets. In his heart, he believed he would one day be returned to freedom and, most importantly, to his true love. After many years of collecting gold flecks, Richard finally had enough gold to fashion a ring for his true love. He chose the claddagh.
Upon his return, Richard found his true love had waited for him. He immediately presented her with the claddagh and professed his devotion. They were married and lived happily every after. (We’re assuming the last piece, which seems a likely end to every good love story, no?)
The claddagh is a ring of two hands holding a heart, or shown with thumbs forming a heart. The hands signified friendship, which, truly, is at the center of love. The crown, shown over the heart, represented loyalty, for all the time Richard was enslaved, his true love had loyally waited for his return. The heart, of course, love itself.
In modern interpretation, how the claddagh is worn changes it’s meaning. A claddagh with the heart pointing towards the person, on the right hand, means the wearer’s heart is committed to someone. If the heart points outward, they are open to be wooed. Worn on the left hand, with the heart pointing inward, it means to let love reign forever. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland , the claddagh makes an excellent gift, and even more powerful story, to bring back for your loved ones.
The claddagh story is one every traveler to Ireland should know. Keep it in your hearts, or buy a cool ring and wear it on your hand. Just make sure, like all good Irish legends, you share it well and often, preferably over an Irish drink .