True Claddagh Ring History
or Just another Myth?

This page features an article I have permission to share that claims to tell the real Claddagh ring history.

This article is taken from an interview with 91-year-old Fergus Fintan McCorracle, great-great grandson of Fintan McCorracle - who crafts the Claddagh ring in the story.

Mr. McCorracle was interviewed in Galway City, Ireland about Claddagh ring history. He tells the tale of how and why his great-great grandfather crafted the first Claddagh ring with the unique design recognized all over the world today.

Some people find this version of Claddagh ring history a refreshing departure from the mythical, romantic stories usually told about the Claddagh.

Others believe this version of Claddagh ring history is a fabrication and a shameful attempt to sully the reputation of the treasured Irish symbol of love, friendship, and loyalty.

It has taken quite some time to decide whether or not to publish this article about Claddagh ring history on Fantasy-Ireland and I would appreciate any feedback you care to give about my decision.

After reading "True (?) Claddagh ring history", please let me know if you think this article about Claddagh ring history should stay or if it should be removed.

Thank you in advance for your input.

Now, without further ado, here is the complete text of an article about the "True" (?) Claddagh Ring History.



The True Folkloric Tale of the Claddagh Ring

A tale taken directly from the ancient oral tradition of Ireland as recorded in the many ancient sources.

Please! Be strong! You may have been provided inaccurate information in order to sell a ring or by those who have been likewise misled by cute tales which have been perpetuated over the years.

Rest assured that the tale below comes direct and unadulterated from the folkloric sources of Ireland. It is the most ancient version! It is correct.

It is sometimes hard but we must at times harken to the truth!

The story begins long ago back before the 1641 in the busy seaport of Galway City, Ireland.

A place of sailing ships from and bound for exotic ports. A place of the men of the sea and of pubs. A time when life at sea tested every shred of a man's being and for which the town provided preparation and then in gratitude offered its worldly rewards....

As in all mercantile seaports of the time Galway City was filled with the seafaring classes.

Men going away and returning from their rough lives on the high seas. Along with the men the city was home to the many country girls. Those who were born to the life of the farm with no chance to inherit - girls who if they could not be married off were faced with certain relocation to Galway City where they were forced to make their way as best they could in service to the city, its ships and.....its sailors.

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It often chanced that a young lady making her way in the city far away from the protection of home and hearth would lose her course in life and find herself without vocation and means of support adrift from pub to pub down by the docks, by the Spanish Arch in the low part of the town. Suddenly, amidst the bustle of the departure of seamen and the triumphant homecoming rants of the many men of the sea the young girl would be escorted arm in arm with Jack Tar throughout the portals leading to the oldest profession. Her vocation becoming that of the flash girl - the woman of the evening. But Galway, the great port, looked after all of its citizens both great and small and it did not forget the women who kept the sailors in their prime.

The ancient texts of the charter laws of Galway City once recorded that it was the solemn obligation for the first customer of one of these fallen children - the one who had escorted her through the portal of disrepute to present the girl upon her first act of employment with certain payment in the form of a solid pure gold Claddagh Ring.. It was decreed that no man should ever employ a girl for the first time without first obtaining at great cost, this special ring!

Ring shops lined the High Street of the town along the district of Galway (now no longer there) called the Claddagh - a village of jewelers either from Spain or trained in the special Spanish arts of metallurgy. The ring was of great importance to the girl.

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As it goes with age and time we cannot the clocks reverse. After a handful of good years beauty sometimes leaves with the years. With time the girls too, found their beautiful skins wrinkled their skin, with the spots of age, and their hair gray - beautiful no more. What would they do? How would the city deal with those deprived by age of their employment - and in such great numbers? That is why they turned to the ring. It was decreed that should a girl no longer find Jack Tar able to provide for her livelihood by his constant custom and employ; that bankers and jewelers in the city would be obligated to purchase the Claddagh rings of gold from the girls. The rate paid being set as the "flash price" in the ancient account books. It was to be paid promptly and was set at a rate commensurate with the reputation of the girl for service to the seamen so that she would be maintained till death in the style to which she was accustomed.

Should the girl climb out from her moral abyss and find the way and the true path back from the portals of Harlotry to the lite of Christ and the Christian path it became her solemn duty to track down the sailor wherever in the country or across the high seas he had gone and send him back his ring wrapped in a fig leaf or set into a large fig (the symbol to all of fertility and new life), or wrapped in parchment sealed with a wax seal into which a fig stamp had been set. The clerk of court recorded in the city annals strict records concerning these men and their whereabouts were recorded.

Likewise the ring was also returned when, as so often was the case in the days of the ignorance of disease and of medicine, the girls fell prey, in their risky business, to the hand of death. In this case the symbol of the dying flower was utilized. A stamp of the wilted rose or a bouquet of dead flowers accompanied the ring. Many a strong sailor was found weeping on the ships deck on receipt of such bad news - the equivalent of the black spot - which perhaps, foretold his own demise via the disease of the shared moments. Which brings me to the application of the Claddagh design.

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One day a ships chandler and jeweler one Fintan McCorracle received at his place of employment an ominous packet. The small packet was sealed weakly stamped with the sign of the wilted rose as if stamped by an infirm grasp unsteady and partially blurred. Retiring to a back room shaking desperately Fintan, with the careful hands of a jeweler setting a troublesome stone, and with great determination of will overcoming certain fear, opened the packet. His worst suspicions were correct. The girl he had engaged only two evenings before to play with him in her chambers had returned the ring. On a bed of dried flowers. Her fever had been more than that of lust her burning heat would now live on with him. Fearing his own impending death and before the illness could have its way Fintan rushed to his jewelers bench and did not retire for the evening until he had accomplished his mission. A mission that would change the world of Galway forever.

If only, Fintan thought, if only men of the sea and of the port could be warned from the rocks which spelled their impending doom as they interviewed the sirens of the ale house and alley way. The could be saved from the rampages of the diseases which from the lips of the girls had felled so many a bold seafaring man. So Fintan worked carefully over the golden ring. He melted it down and cast it once again into a new form. One with a heart and a crown and two hands.

~The heart symbolized the inner tenderness of the flesh so open to disease as to pleasure.

~The hands symbolizing the intimacy between customer and girl linked in pleasure through the heart.

~And the crown as a protection for the heart. The shield for its tenderness and eventually the protection of the client by law and government. The crown having always stood for the power of the state.

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Fintan worked into the night and waking in the first hours of the morning already feeling the fever of the portal of darkness he hastened to the home of his son who that day was about to make his first sea voyage and would certainly head to the Spanish arch to make his first transaction with a fallen girl from the country. Fintan found his son selecting his best clothes - preparing for the evening. He took the boy aside and brought out the newly made ring.

He explained to him that this should be the ring of his first woman of the evening that to be sure that she was pure and from the country. Fergus the son was to present the girl with the ring and to instruct her concerning the rules for its use.

Should the girl be free from disease and thus safe for the pleasures of the evening (symbolized by the hands) and, if the time of the Moon was right for her, she was to turn the symbol of the tender and open body outwards. The warm and beating heart outward for a warm evening and its inspiration.

Should, however, the girl be infected or should her time not be right, the heart should be protected. Protected by the crown! Turning the crown to face outward there would be a symbolic barrier protecting the tender body and warning Jack Tar not to enter here.

This all Fergus did as he was told and his proud father whilst weakening from his own fever waved him good-bye for his night on the town.

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The next day Fergus headed to sea and Fintan rested at home resolved to bravely meet his fate knowing that he may have protected others.

No sooner had he taken to his bed when a commotion erupted outside his doorway which noise caused him to get up and investigate.

With great surprise he saw at his door all of the Ladies of the evening of the city of Galway!

All dressed in their alluring gowns of the night even though it was the middle of the day.

Each brought with them a packet of apothecary cures a very costly assortment of remedies.

With them was the Mayor of Galway and the city council.

The women presented Fintan with their cures which he consumed forthwith. They had come to thank him for the wonderful new design for the Claddagh ring. Now men would be warned from the rocks of disease and woman for which it was not the right time would be spared from their advances.

The council presented Fintan with a proclamation in his honor and gave him a copy of their new legislation. From that time on, it read, all Claddagh rings were to bear Fintan's design and upon severe penalty all girls were to wear it according to Fintan's rules. They asked Fintan for his permission to use the design and he willingly gave it. They then asked how they might honor him.

Long a man of the sea with chandlery being the business of outfitting ships Fintan had only one request - that if possible he should be buried beneath the newly erected Spanish arch - the symbol of the city and port. He was always a quiet man and requested that the stone - in the center on the sea side in front of the arch - be left unmarked. The mayor and council agreed and issued a proclamation to that effect.

After consuming their cures and potions and with hugs and kisses from the girls Fintan was left in peace. Something must have worked for after suffering a long illness with fever and pain Fintan eventually recovered. The girls of the city were delighted and paid him many visits waving the customary fee. It is said of the beautiful girls of Galway to this day that their brown hair is unmatched - you see Fintan had beautiful dark brown hair and when he grew older many brown haired children played in his large garden.

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At the old age of 89 Fintan passed away to another shore, another place. His wishes were carried out and he was laid to rest as he had requested standing up looking out to sea on the seaside of the Spanish Arch. No inscription was placed on his stone.

Sometimes during the night a woman of the evening returning home will be seen pausing by the Spanish Arch and on the seaward side she will inscribe with chalk, upon the central stone the design of the Claddagh which has protected so many over the years.

So now as you put on the ring please know the truth of the story from the Folkloric tradition. Women! Always take care how you wear that famous ring and keep those safe those it brings to you.

And when you go to Galway town and with your Claddagh ring upon your finger;

Do not forget to inscribe in chalk upon the stone the heart and the crown - for Fintan.

Remember men what it means - when you give a girl this ring. Do not attempt to go past that crown.


Thus endith that which was once written into the ancient annals of Galway City. Reflect upon these words and maintain the tradition free from abuse and commercialization. Pass on this tale to all who inquire of the Claddagh.

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And pass it on I have...though I wonder if it represents true Claddagh ring history or not. Click here to tell me what YOU think. Is this story true Claddagh ring history?

Like most people, I find the story of how Richard Joyce created the ring the most credible tale in Claddagh ring history. After all, the earliest examples of Claddagh rings still bear Richard Joyce's initials.

But there are also many more tales about Claddagh ring history. After all, the Irish are known for their brilliant storytelling. The other stories may be part of the real Claddagh ring history, or may just be myths.

Read more Claddagh Ring History and Lore to decide for yourself...
From ancient gods and goddesses to Richard Joyce, Ireland has many stories to tell when it comes to this beloved symbol. We're here to help you try to sort them out and let you decide which one you believe reveals the real Claddagh ring history.

Irish Claddagh Rings on the Hands of Royalty
Of the many rich traditions shared by the Irish people, Irish Claddagh rings have left one of the most enduring legacies throughout the world.

Claddagh Resources for Scholars, Surfers, and Shoppers alike...
Whether you're studying Claddagh ring history or looking for the perfect ring for your Irish bride, let Fantasy-Ireland share our favorite resources with you....

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