Origins Of The Claddagh
Irish tradition holds that the Claddagh ring orginated with an Irish youth, Richard Joyce, who was kidnapped by Mediterranean pirates while en route to the West Indies.
Sold into slavery, he eventually came to be owned by a skilled Moorish goldsmith. During his lengthy servitude, Joyce learned the skills necessary to be a master metalsmith himself. In 1689, Joyce's freedom was secured by no less than King William the Third. Joyce rejected his former master's offer of marriage to his daughter, as well as the hefty dowry she would have brought with her. Joyce returned to Galway, where his true love had been faithfully awaiting his return, never giving up hope. Upon their reunion, Joyce presented his beloved with what was to become an everlasting symbol of fidelity and love, the Claddagh. The two clasped hands were a motif of friendship reaching back to the days of the Roman Empire. The heart symbolized romantic love and affection, while the crown honored the King who had made their reunion possible and stands for loyalty.
How much truth there is in the tale, the Claddah has still come to symbolize these qualities, and has become a common romantic symbol, especially of those of Irish descent. Depending on the attitude of the giver and wearer, and the orientation of the ring when worn, a Claddagh can symbolize many different relationships. In its most common form, the Claddah is worn on the right ring finger, with the point of the heart towards the wearer, it suggests romantic involvement. When reversed, with the heart pointing away, the wearer is unattached. When worn on the left ring finger in the style of a traditional wedding ring, the Claddagh is a symbol of marriage or engagement. The Claddagh ring has existed since the 18th century, but it wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that the term Claddagh came into usage.
What The Claddagh Means To Me
With an Irish Da, who came from a large Irish family, I have a habit of slipping into a fairly convincing Irish accent. Something which I'm sure can be disconcerting to some on a young Black British woman (Mother was Jamaican, so I'm pretty good at that accent too). Obviously I love both sides of my family but it's fair to say I always knew the Irish relatives better. As children me and my siblings spent much more time in their care and more than one of my Irish aunt's has good cause to claim they had a big hand in raising us.
Ireland was the first country I travelled to from England and some of my fondest memories are of spending time there with relatives in in my youth. Probably the reason I still consider it one of my favourite places on earth, even now that I've visited so many other fine places, and still think regularly of returning even though I've now settled in the US. People can tell you what a beautiful country Ireland is but the truth is it really is a beauty, which needs to be seen to be understood.
My Claddagh sketch is but a small tribute to my Irish family, and the happy childhood memories they aided me in creating. To the aunt's, uncles and cousins who made me smile over the years. It's a way of keeping even those who are no longer among us, a part of my waking memory because they were always so important to me.
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