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 mis-lead 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 re-location
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.
It often chanced that a young lady making her way in the city far away from the protection of
home and hearth would loose 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
throught 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.
As it goes with age and time we can not 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
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 where ever in the country or across the high seas he had gone and send
him back his ring wrapped in a figleaf 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 kept, recorded in the city annals strict records concerning these men and their whereabouts
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.
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
desparately 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
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.
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 by for his night on the town.
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 suprise 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
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
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 un-marked. 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 fore 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.
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 sea side of the Spanish Arch. No inscription was placed on his
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
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 for get 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
To go to Another Grand page about the Claddagh Ring click here!!!!