Claddagh Ring, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Claddagh Ring, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840119.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 35008.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/01/1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): Evening Class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Background: Lynch’s Son and the Spanish Suitors

About the seventeenth century, there was a man in Galway called Lynch – John Lynch – and he was a judge and the mayor of Galway at the time. As I said before, this was the greatest trading port in… the western world, Galway Bay, and they were going back and forth to Spain with ships. And a nobleman’s son from from Spain came to stay in Lynch’s castle, to spend his vacation with Lynch’s son. And Lynch’s son was engaged to a girl, and when she put her eye – or her two eyes – on the Spaniard (and thereby goes a tale), she fell for him. Now, whether Lynch’s son recognized that or not, nobody knows, but the next day they went out to play a game of hurling, and Lynch’s son killed the Spaniard accidentally with the hurley – you know, the hurley they have to play the Gaelic games, like, something like a hockey stick, but played on ground. And everybody said that he did it because the Spaniard was after the girl, and most of the people felt sorry for him — they said it was an accident.

But Lynch being the judge, he tried his own son and he sentenced his own son to death. And bad and all as the hangman was at the time, he refused to hang Lynch’s son. And Lynch said, “You hung other people’s sons, so we’ll have to do it”. So Lynch hung his own son from the third window of that castle, as you’ll see today, the Allied Irish Bank in the main street in Galway. Now, from then on he didn’t do much good. And a year after, a cousin of the Spaniard came to Galway. And the girl fell for him too. And when Lynch heard this, because [of] the tragedy before that, he was going to put a stop to it. And they heard it, and they took a little boat, a currach or a canoe, out from the Claddagh, to go out to the big ship in Galway Bay that would take them to Spain. And because they were never in a little boat before, the boat capsized, and… they were drowned. And when they were found, his arm was around her heart. And that is the crown of Spain on the top there.

Now if your heart is open, so you’re not confined to one person, you turn it like that; but when you’re engaged, or when you’re married, or when you’re rehearsing properly, you turn it like, you turn the heart in. So that is a good idea. Now, there’s a song about that called The Claddagh Ring.

The old Claddagh ring it belonged to my grandmother1
She wore it a lifetime and gave it to me
on her worn finger she wore it so proudly
‘Twas made where the Claddagh rolls down to the sea.
What tales it could tell of trials and hardships
And the grand happy days when the whole world would sing
Away with your sorrow, ’twill bring life2 tomorrow
Being everyone loves it, the old Claddagh ring.

‘Twas her gift to me, and it made me so proudly
With this on my finger my heart it would ring!3
No king on a throne could be more happy
Than I when I’m wearing the old Claddagh ring.
When the angels above call me into heaven
In the heart of the Claddagh their voices will ring
Away with your sorrows, you’ll be with us tomorrow
But be sure and bring with you the old Claddagh ring.


This version of ‘The Claddagh Ring’ has been chosen largely because of the wonderful story that precedes it. Unfortunately, the text of the song itself is a bit rough in spots. On other occasions, Joe’s lines scan a bit better, and make more sense:

1. the old Claddagh ring, it was my grandmother’s

2. luck

3. ‘Twas her gift to me, and as she told me her stories / The smile on her face, it would charm a king

In this transcription the verses are represented as eight-line stanzas, to reflect the fact that Joe sings them to an eight-line (AABA) air.

This song was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.