The Story of the Claddagh Ring

Outside the main walls of Galway there was once a small thatched fishing village. The village was situated on the shore or “Claddagh” of Galway Bay. The village community was administered by its “king”. His distinguishing mark was a white sail on his fishing hooker. The Claddagh community lived solely by fishing and they bartered their catches for their daily needs.


The Claddagh motif, two hands holding a heart, is believed to have originated from this fishing community. The hands signify friendship - the heart of love- and the crown loyalty. In the Claddagh, the ring bearing this motif was used as a friendship, betrothal and wedding ring. When used by a married person the ring is worn with the crown nearest the nail; on unmarried persons the crown points inwards, signifying an unoccupied heart. The origin of the ring has been lost with time, but most folklore tells of a Richard Joyce, taken into slavery by moorish pirates, who trained him as a goldsmith. On his release, by order of King William, he is said to have made the ring to show his gratitude. A Claddagh ring was worn by Queen Victoria when she visited Ireland and has become very popular outside the Claddagh Community.

The Celtic Shop, Main Street, Clifden, Co. Galway, Ireland. © Fainne Clifden Limited 2007. All rights reserved.