Hearts Through History Romance Writers

The Legend of the Claddagh

by | September 8, 2010 | 8 comments

There are so many myths and legends springing from the misty, romantic island of Ireland I can’t even count them. Some of my favorites include Finn MacCool and the Fianna, Oisin and the Land of the Ever Young, and the Children of Lir.

But my absolute favorite Irish story is the legend of the Claddagh Ring, Ireland’s unique symbol of friendship, loyalty and love.

The Claddagh ring dates back centuries to the small Galway fishing village of Claddagh. The word “Claddagh” comes from the Irish term An Cladach, meaning a flat, stony shore.

Richard Joyce, a native of the village, was captured by Algerians and sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. When William III of England demanded the release of all British subjects, Joyce, too, was released. The Moorish goldsmith offered Joyce a major portion of his wealth and his daughter in marriage, if Joyce would stay on in Algiers. Joyce refused the tempting offer and returned to the village of Claddagh. It was there he turned his skills to the creation of an emblem of love, friendship and loyalty: two hands (friendship) cradling a heart (love) topped by a crown (loyalty).

Wear the ring on the right hand, the crown turned inwards, and let the world know your heart is free. On the right hand, the crown turned outwards, and it’s clear love is being considered. But when it’s worn on the left hand, the crown turned outward, two loves have become inseparable.

In my novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, Rory O’Brien presents Siobhán Desmond with a Claddagh ring at their wedding:

When it came time for the ring, Rory’s voice echoed in her head, deep and loving. “Siobhán take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

It was then that she looked down at her finger, where Michael’s simple had rested until just that morning. In its place, Rory was sliding on a delicate scrap of silver. A design of two hands joined together to support a single heart, topped by a crown, symbolizing friendship, love and loyalty.

“Let love and friendship reign,” Siobhán murmured, touching the ring reverently as she quoted its motto.

I cherish my own Claddagh ring, given me by my husband as a birthday gift several years ago, as much as Siobhán.


  1. Susan Macatee

    Beautiful story, Cynthia!

  2. Cynthia Owens

    Thanks, Susan, it's one of my favorites!

  3. Angelique Armae

    What a great story! I love all things Celtic, so the legend of the Claddagh intrigued me. Thanks for posting this, Cynthia! I love how you used the Claddagh in your book.

  4. Cynthia Owens

    Hi Angelique, glad you enjoyed the story. I love it when I can use my favorite legends in my stories!

  5. Paisley Kirkpatrick

    I've always loved the story behind the Claddagh ring. I gave my Mom a necklace with the design on the pendant and now I have it to wear.

  6. Cynthia Owens

    Hi Paisley, thanks for visiting. And what a lovely story of your mother's Claddagh necklace. Gifts from parents are so special!

  7. Robin Ray Coll w/a Robin Covington

    Cynthia: I also have a Claddagh given to me by my husband. His wedding ring is a Claddagh and it always gets a comment or question because you don't see that as often.

    Thanks for sharing.


  8. Cynthia Owens

    Hi Robin, glad you enjoyed the post. My husband also has a Claddagh ring (a Christmas gift a few years ago), and we both often get comments on the unusual design. Thanks for stopping by!



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