The Claddagh Ring Story
Irish Claddagh Rings have become a
piece of jewelry wholly synonymous with both the land and the loyalty of the
Irish people. The Claddagh Ring story starts at the rings namesake, a small village in Ireland near
the city of Galway. The city is of course spelled Claddagh and pronounced Klada.
The motto of this Irish ring is “Let love and friendship reign.
The origin of the Irish symbol is
steeped in the folklore and fancy of the Irish people. Two of these
stories are in the very least, imaginative, and at the most, ingenious material
for a romance or fantasy fiction novel. Whichever Claddagh ring story you
believe, either story will inspire your imagination and
provide you with a glimpse of the depth and passion of the Irish people.
The first Claddagh ring story begins
with a beautiful woman. Margaret Joyce lived in Galway in the sixteenth
century. One day while doing the family laundry on the bank of a nearby river,
she met a wealthy Spanish merchant, who fell in love with her the moment he saw
her . They soon married and moved away to Spain. Margaret Joyce was now
Margaret de Rona, the wife of Domingo de Rona. He left Margaret a widow soon
after their marriage. Apparently he was much older than she and succumbed to
the strain of travel and a new marriage. Margaret was now very wealthy and very
homesick. She soon returned home to Ireland and in 1596 remarried to Oliver Og
French, the mayor of Galway.
Her husband, however, was evidently not
the domestic type, leaving on a long voyage soon after their marriage.
Margaret, being of an altruistic nature and perhaps searching for meaning and
significance in her life, found a way to contribute to her community and glean
satisfaction from tangible results. She began to build bridges all over the
province of Connaught with her own money. Her husband’s constituents most
certainly appreciated this gesture and it most likely provided Margaret with a
great deal of satisfaction to help her fellow man and leave a legacy of sorts.
The fantastical part of the Claddagh
ring story begins here as one day Margaret is on the work site of one of her
bridges overseeing the project. She is sitting down when a large eagle drops in
her lap a prototype of a Claddagh Ring. Legend has it that this ring was a gift
from God for her love and selflessness toward others. This Claddagh ring, said
to be adorned with a brilliant stone, was preserved by Margaret’s descendants in
the year 1661.
The Second Claddagh Ring Story
The second Claddagh ring story is that
of Richard Joyce, a native of Galway Ireland and master goldsmith. This story
is characterized by love, loyalty and the creativity inspired by both.
In 1675 Richard Joyce was sailing to the
West Indies when his ship was raided by Algerian pirates. In addition to
various and asundry valuables taken from the ship, some passengers were also
taken and enslaved. Richard Joyce was purchased by an affluent Turkish
goldsmith and became quite a craftsman himself during his almost fifteen years
in captivity. In 1689 William III negotiated the release of all British
subjects detained (enslaved) in Algiers. Richard’s captor attempted to entice
him to stay by offering him his daughter in marriage and half of his property.
Richard was most likely intensely homesick and the offer was declined. He
returned to Galway, married and became one of Ireland’s most famous goldsmiths.
The oldest known Claddagh ring in existence bears the initials and jewelers mark
of Richard Joyce. Whichever Claddagh ring story you believe, there is no
denying the allure of this cherished Irish ring.