The Claddagh

The Claddagh ring. Fair warning, a ‘top ten’ list is coming next–and it is all about the Claddagh. The ring, that is.

In a previous post, I mentioned that the only pair of shoes I ever had to literally ‘t(h’)row in the wash’ were these, after a 12-mile walk. I had climbed over a cow pasture gate, just after which there was a low-lying electric fence I had to limbo under. A typical day in the Midlands.

Shoes  image

(Oct. 2014)

Anyways, this post is about the Claddagh ring barely discernible in the photos above.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

As many of my aunts had pointed out before my departure to Ireland, it should be on my right hand ring finger as I’m not married, but in the photos of me above it is culturally incorrect, placed on my left hand . See, I was writing with my right hand one day and the ring was bothering it, so I switched it. This lasted for about two years (again, prior to the time I left for Ireland). Shortly after this photo was taken, I adopted the correct way of wearing it.

Moving on: If you are fortunate enough to have a Claddagh ring–because someone has to buy it for you, heaven forbid you break tradition and get one for yourself–it has many potential advantages. The way you wear your Claddagh ring usually reveals more about you than your current Facebook relationship status does. As was pointed out to me, one can change hands and/or the direction the ring is pointing, to suit the locale and humo(u)r you find yerself in, or to finagle out of social situations that Emily Post never dreamed of. That is, if and when necessary, you remember to change your ring about. Which I rarely did in time. Obviously it doesn’t usually apply if you typically wear it on your left hand because that means you are: a) married, or b) engaged.


1. a cultural institution that Shall Remain Nameless: you’re the only one in said place on a weekday, early, enjoying the silence and then yer man who works there appears and starts up a conversation: asking what you’re studying, who your family is, what counties they’re in and within ten minutes he mentions he bought a house in the countryside, precisely how much he bought it for and the amount of land it’s on . . . Also, did I see the countryside and go mountaineering (hiking) with my cousin there (of course I did, it’s the midlands!) and then he invites you for coffee across the way and adds that he’s not hitting on you. Sure it’s only 10AM, so really he would ask anybody who walked in, ’cause it’s Irish to do that. In reply I (hopefully) politely decline as my Irish-inherited reserve kicks into overdrive (who tells you the price of their house?)  –– plus, doesn’t he have to work right now? He can’t just leave for the craic . . . so I explained that my cousin would be done with her errands around noon in the city centre any moment now but maybe I was too polite because he persists in saying that I should stop by when I’m back in the area and he gives you his contact info and finally somehow thirty minutes later you’re wondering if that whole shillelagh of a conversation just happened and laugh to yourself as you go down the main street, much to the mild confusion of preoccupied passers-by.

This is only half the story, as it’s the part I found hilariously confusing because I had at the time never experienced the above Irish approach of . . . whatever that was . . . but you get the point. All in all it was actually a really nice conversation. It was just a strange kind of culture shock because it was a lot of what I’d consider to be personal details that you wouldn’t say to someone you just met, and yer man looked about twenty years older than me (granted I pass for a first year anyways) so . . . My reaction definitely validates this writer’s fear of asking new acquaintances to go for a coffee anyways!

2. accidentally in the middle of a stag party: avoiding the more boisterous ones in a stag party who are already on the lash at 4PM sitting outside at a pub while you are just drinking your tea with a friend and then are suddenly joined at your table by some of the stags who continue to sing rousing choruses of trad songs and compliment you and your friend on your mutual sarcasm and banter

While the sarcasm/banter mention was flattering, it was more the off-key singing and burst blood vessels that put me off. They were fun to watch though. ‘On the lash’ means drinking with the intention of getting drunk, so it’s not really an *exceptional* afternoon there for those ones!

3. the bus to the Dublin airport

It’s not the airport I mind, it’s the bus. It was BUS ÉIREANN. At 6:30AM. Please take GO BUS if ever you have the choice. I learned eventually. 

4. in the local when the Angelus bell rings through its never-ending controversy

i.e., The local pub in a town . . . i.e. the ONLY pub in the town. If you’re lucky, there might be two! You know you’re not in Galway, Dublin, Tralee or Ennis if you find yourself in the local. The town you’re in probably has three different spellings of its name or three different place names altogether. And the angelus bell? I had no idea what to do when I hear it. My Irish roommates paused and looked up at the sound of Angelus bells in Galway. Even though they pointed out that they aren’t Catholic, apparently ‘it’s tradition and everyone does it’ to pause while the bell rings out.

5. the countryside in general

You never know.

6. the train to Dublin

Tracksuits. It’s not the tracksuit itself, we have them in the U.S. and I get it, they’re comfortable, sort of water-repellent and definitely practical. It’s the amount of them. Every day. Everywhere.

7. the city centre nightclubs

Or any clubs for that matter. You never want to go in amidst day-glo orange tans willingly, but sometimes you do so that you can bond with your roommates even though you MUCH PREFER GOING TO PUBS, as per with your classmates and being like yer aul’ wan with a pint, the banter and possibly a trad session. 

8. being an arts intern at a hospital

It’s not e-x-a-c-t-l-y like Grey’s Anatomy.

9. farmer’s market

Who doesn’t love the Church Street farmer’s market in Galway on the weekend? It has chorizo. And really good prices on actually-fresh vegetables.

10. Penney’s

Just because everyone likes a chance to say ‘Penney’s’ in reply to: ‘Where’d ye get that?!’ It’s like a miniature Wal-Mart.

I’m not saying all of the above situations applied to me, but some of them did.

For the ‘official’ use of a Claddagh ring, check out this gimmicky but nostalgic explanation of a video from Galway itself. I’m not slagging it too much because my own one is from this shop. So I guess it’s authentic!

Until next time.



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