Category Archives: Popular Culture

Molly Bloom

“I wanted to give him a memento he gave me that clumsy Claddagh ring for luck that I gave Gardner going to south Africa where those Boers killed him with their war and fever but they were well beaten all the same as if it brought its bad luck with it like an opal or pearl still it must have been pure 18 carrot gold because it was very heavy but what could you get in a place like that”

Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy, Ulysses by James Joyce.

Galway Bay

If you ever go across the sea to Ireland
Then maybe at the closing of your day
You will sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh
And see the sun go down on Galway Bay

Just to hear again the ripple of the trout stream
The women in the meadows making hay
And to sit beside a turf fire in the cabin
And watch the barefoot gosoons at their play.

For the breezes blowing over the seas from Ireland
Are perfumed by the heather as it blows
And the women in the uplands diggin’ praties
Speak a language that the strangers do not know

For the strangers came and tried to teach us their way
They scorn’d us just for being what we are
But they might as well go chasing after moonbeams
Or light a penny candle from a star.

And if there is going to be a life hereafter
And somehow I am sure there’s going to be
I well ask my God to let me make my heaven
In that dear land across the Irish sea.

Bing Crosby, 1947
(written by Dr. Arthur Colahan)

The Old Claddagh Ring

The Old Claddagh Ring, it was my grandmother’s
She wore it a lifetime, and gave it to me
All through the long years, she wore it so proudly
It was made where the Claddagh rolls down to the sea
What tales it could tell, of trials and of hardship
And of grand happy days, when the whole world did sing
So away with your sorrow, it will bring luck tomorrow
Sure everyone loves it, the Old Claddagh Ring

With the crown and the crest, to remind us of honour
And clasping the heart that God’s blessing would bring
A circle of gold, always kept homes contented
With true love entwined in the Old Claddagh Ring
As she knelt at her prayers and thought of the dear ones
Her soft gentle smile, it would charm a king
On her worn hand, as she told me her story
You could see the bright glint of the Old Claddagh Ring

It was her gift to me, and it made me so happy
With this on my finger, my heart beats would ring
No king on his throne could be half so happy
As I am when wearing my Old Claddagh Ring
When the angels above call me up to heaven
In the heart of the Claddagh, their voices will sing
“Away with your sorrows, you’ll be with us tomorrow,
Be sure and bring with you, the Old Claddagh Ring”.

The Meaning of the Claddagh Ring

Joyes Family CrestHistory of the Claddagh Ring

An original symbol of the Galway town of Claddagh, Ireland, (pronounced “klahda”) was first fashioned into the traditional ring back in the 17th Century during the reign of Mary II.
Legend has it that an Irish young man, Richard Joyce, bound for the West Indian slave plantations – no doubt the Irish Caribbean island of Montserrat – was kidnapped himself in rough seas by a band of Mediterranean pirates and sold to a Moorish goldsmith who over the many long years of his exile helped him perfect the skills of a master craftsman.

When in 1689 King William III negotiated the return of the slaves, Joyce returned to Galway – despite, it said, the Moor’s offer of the daughter’s hand in marriage and a princely dowry of half of all his wealth.

Back in Ireland a young women had never stopped faithful waiting for her true love to return. Upon which time when he presented her with the now famous Royal Claddagh gold ring – a symbol of their enduring love. Two hands to represent their friendship, the crown to signify their loyalty and lasting fidelity, and the sign of the heart to symbolise their eternal love for each other.

They soon married, never to be separated again.

“Several individuals of this name have long felt grateful to the memory of William III. from the following circumstance, on the accession of that monarch to the throne of England. One of the first acts of his reign was to send an ambassador to Algiers to demand the immediate release of all the British subjects detained there in slavery, the dey and council, intimidated, reluctantly complied with this demand. Among those released, was a young man of the name of Joyes, a native of Galway, who, fourteen years before, was captured on his passage to the West Indies, by an Algerine Corsair; on his arrival at Algiers, he was purchased by a wealthy Turk who followed the profession of a goldsmith, and who observing his slave, Joyes, to be tractable and ingenious, instructed him in his trade in which he speedily became an adept. The Moor, as soon as he heard of his release, offered him, in case he should remain, his only daughter in marriage, and with her, half his property, but all these, with other tempting and advantageous proposals, Joyes resolutely declined; on his return to Galway he married, and followed the business of a goldsmith with considerable success” James Hardiman, The History of the Town and County of the Town of Galway.

The Meaning of the Claddagh Ring

The Royal Claddagh ring is worn by people all over the world as a symbol of love, loyalty, friendship and fidelity. The hands are there for friendship, the heart is there for love. For loyalty throughout the year, the crown is raised above.

Wearing the Claddagh Ring

  1. Worn on the right hand, with crown and heart facing out, the ring tells that the wearer’s heart is yet to be won.
  2. While under love’s spell it is worn with heart and crown facing inwards.
  3. Wearing the ring on the left hand, with the crown and heart facing inwards, signifies that your love has been requited.

The Claddagh Tradition

The traditional wedding ring of the Irish since the 17th Century, the Claddagh ring is worn by people all over the world as a universal symbol of love, loyalty, friendship and fidelity.

Traditionally handed down from mother to daughter the Royal Claddagh ring has also become a symbol of our ties with the past and generations gone by. As Irish people we remember the many many of our people who had to leave Ireland with nothing but their lives during the Great Famine of the 19th Century – many leaving from here in Cork harbour to make the long voyage across the Atlantic to America. The gold Royal Claddagh ring was to become for many the only enduring link with their home country and practically their only savings and family inheritance.

Further reflecting the troubled history of Ireland itself, a hundred years ago the Fenian ring, with two hands and two hearts, was distinguishing by its lack of a crown to represent the struggle for Republican Ireland – however the traditional Royal Claddagh ring has always remaining the Irish standard proudly wearing the crown as a symbol of loyalty, a remembrance of our ancient Irish Kingdoms, and of our own British heritage.

Notable wearers of the Claddagh ring have included Queen Alexandria and King Edward VII of Britain and Queen Victoria of Britain and Ireland as it was then – a woman for whom the streets of Dublin where lined with cheering people. And in the little principality of Monaco, the Claddagh tradition lives on in the Royal family of Monaco and the memory of the beautiful Irish princess – Princess Grace of Monaco.

“The Governor of New York, George Pataki, was accompanied by his mother, Peggy Lynch, among others, at last week’s annual fundraising dinner for the Flax Trust, which promotes economic development in the North, at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. Pataki, addressing the guests, said that when Brian Cowen was in New York recently, visiting Ground Zero, he had told him that he was asked by the parents of a missing city firefighter to inquire of the chief of the NYPD if a claddagh ring had been found in the wreckage. “Minister,” the chief told Cowen, “we have found 200 Claddagh rings.”

The ring, by which they had hoped to identify the body of their son, depicts two hands clutching a crowned heart symbolising love, friendship and fidelity. It was designed by Richard Joyce in Galway three centuries ago. It is as popular on the other side of the Atlantic as it is here. The discovery so early of so many in the ruins underlined “the loss suffered here and in Ireland”, said Pataki.” Irish Times, Weekend Sat, Oct 13, 01.

Today in the twenty-first Century, however, perhaps the most famous wearer of the Claddagh ring is the famous Buffy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. A present to her on her 17th birthday from her vampire lover, Angel, the ring was to symbolise their enduring love for each other – in spite of the obvious difficulties and even one day call Angel back from Hell.

“My people – before I was changed – they exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty … and the heart … Well, you know … Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody. Like this.” Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Episode “The Surprise”.

Tale of the Ring

The Tale of the Ring

The Tale of the Ring

The story is a remarkable glimpse into the history of Ireland and its links with Moorish North Africa and Spain. Patricia McAdoo has taken the story of the Claddagh and written a beautiful children’s book with illustrations by James Newell, The Tale of the Ring.

“I grew up in the Claddagh, a fishing village across the bridge from the walls of Galway town. My father was a fisherman and right below our cottage was a slipway where, on clear mornings, the boats set sail, to return heaving and jumping with slippery mackerel and cod. The smell of fish always lingered on the air. Grandfather lived with us and he was so tall that he had to bend very low to come through the doorway. He spent his days sitting outside, watching the world go by and carving pieces of old bogwood. Every year, before the winter set in, he borrowed an ass and cart and went west to the bogs above Barna. When he came back, the cart was loaded with stretches of wood, which he carved into figures during the long evenings. Everyone in the Claddagh knew my grandfather. When I was eleven years old, he carved a boat for me, a white sailed cutter, with cloth sails of calico. Me and my brother Mikey took it down to the small inlet beside the slipway where the boats came in. We put it in the water and ran along the bank. ‘See it, Mikey,’ I shouted. ‘See how it tacks into the wind like Father’s boat.’ We raced the boat until it was too dark to see its sail. Every Saturday, Grandfather took me across the bridge into Fisher’s Lane market where the fish were sold. Here, he laid out his carvings on an old blue shawl my mother had given him. We stayed there until it grew dark and the market closed for another week. Then we went to the harbour to look at whatever ships were docked. On one particular evening, there were a lot of trading ships from other countries. We listened to the sailors as we walked down the quayside. They spoke in languages we did not understand. ‘What was it like to be away at sea?’ I asked. Grandfather, a merchant sailor for many years, was full of stories of his adventures. ‘It was hard, lad, but the great thing about it was we got to see the world.’ I held his hand as I skipped along beside him. ‘And what’s the best place you’ve ever been?’ He didn’t have to think too long. ‘That would have to be Tangiers.’ ‘On the north coast of Africa.’ I knew all the place names by heart from listening to tales of his adventures. ‘And what was it like?’ ‘Oh lad, it was beautiful. So hot we’d jump from the ship right into the sea to keep cool. Not a lot of the men could swim, but by the time we left the harbour, I could jump from the cross-sails.’ I had to run to keep up with his long strides. ‘Where else?’ ‘Let’s see now. Tarifa in Spain, across from Gibraltar.’ ‘And did you ever bring anything back from those places?’ ‘No, but I always tried to carve something to help me remember where I had been. In Egypt, it was a camel I saw one day near the harbour, and in Spain I remember carving a bullfighter. He was carried through the streets of the town because he had defeated the bull.’ ‘Where did all the carvings go?’ Grandfather shook his head. ‘I lost them … over the years.’

We made our way home, talking about the places he had been. It was October. We sat around the fire, me and my brother Mikey, my mother, my baby sister Saoirse on my father’s knee, and Grandfather on his bed. Father spoke as he cleaned out his pipe. ‘The catch was poor again today. Let’s hope it picks up soon.’ ‘What will you do?’ my mother asked. There were a lot of mouths to feed in the house. ‘We’ll have to go further out to the fishing grounds west of the islands. That’s bound to bring us a bit of luck.’ The next day was stormy and the boats stayed moored. I went down to the small beach near our house. My friend Annie was already there, watching the waves break on the shore. We played catch the waves for a while, dancing in and out at the very edge of the sea. ‘Do you want to come to the Aran Islands tomorrow?’ I asked. ‘Father is planning a fishing trip if the weather gets better.’ Annie’s face lit up. Her father was the shoe mender and they did not have a boat. In the morning the sea was calm and I knew we would go. Grandfather decided to come along so we set off early in my father’s boat. Mikey wanted to come too. ‘No,’ said my mother. ‘Not this time.’ We sailed west until we saw Inis Mór, the big island, loom into view. My father tied the boat at the pier and Annie laid out a picnic on a rock. We had the tea my mother had put in a tin can, and some oatcakes with bread and cheese. Then my father set off again, promising to be back before sunset. The three of us started the walk across to Dún Aengus, the ancient fort on the other side of the island. It was a steep climb and Grandfather grew tired. ‘Leave me here and go off with you, but don’t go near that cliff now. I’m warning ye.’ ‘We won’t,’ I shouted back. We scrambled up the rest of the hill and saw the ancient fort of stone. There was a great view of the other islands. We stood for a while and then made our way down. I stopped at the entrance to the fort and looked at Annie. ‘Let’s see if we can spot a gull’s nest.’ ‘We’d better be careful near the cliff,’ she said. ‘I know, I know. Come on.’ We headed towards the cliff edge. I peered down. The water was far below and there were no nests that I could see.

‘Let’s go back,’ said Annie. We were about to retrace our steps when, out of nowhere, a seagull flew in from the sea, swooping very low, right across our heads. I tripped and stumbled forward on the slippery grass. The swirling sea came towards me as I fell over the cliff. I landed hard on a flat piece of rock a few feet below the edge. My foot throbbed with white-hot pain and I closed my eyes, too scared to look. Annie was calling to me but I could barely hear her above the screaming of gulls and the crashing waves below. ‘Richard, quick, quick. Look up! Give me your hand.’ But I didn’t want to open my eyes. I knelt, holding on to a small piece of rock that stuck out from the cliff face. ‘I can’t.’ My voice was only a whisper. ‘Come on, Richard. Come on. It’s not so far. See, my hand is just above you. I can pull you back up. Look!’ So I opened my eyes and there was Annie with her hand almost touching the top of my head. I reached up slowly, my fingers icy and shaking. ‘That’s it. That’s it. Come on.’ We heard Grandfather shouting our names and at that moment I felt Annie’s hand grab the tips of my fingers and then my wrist. ‘Now, hold tight. I’m going to pull you up. Hold on.’ I thought my arm would break. The pain shot through me. I was too scared to look up but I listened to Annie’s voice. ‘I have you. We’re almost there. Hold on. You’re nearly up.’

I wanted to scream but my voice was gone. My legs were shaking. The wind hurt my ears. I searched for footholds in the cliff face with my knees and feet, scrabbling to get up. Annie held onto my wrist and, after what seemed like a long time, I gripped the top of the cliff and was able to pull myself up to the flat grass where Annie lay. Her arms were bleeding where she had scraped them on the rocks. I heard Grandfather calling us again. A few minutes later he came stumbling across the grass. He was out of breath. ‘Are ye all right?’ he asked. ‘I got worried.’ I stood up but I was a little dizzy so I sat back again beside Annie. Grandfather took out his handkerchief and mopped her arms. ‘What happened?’ ‘I fell,’ I managed to whisper. ‘Annie saved me.’ Grandfather shook his head as if he could not believe our luck. ‘Well, lad you have yourself a brave friend here in Annie.’ ‘I know,’ I said. ‘Thanks Annie.’ She smiled. Her lips were blue and trembling. ‘We’d better get back. Your father will be landing soon.’ We could hear him whistling before we saw the boat. He had had a good catch. We walked slowly towards the pier. By the time the boat pulled in, my arms and legs were beginning to feel better and I was no longer limping. Grandfather said nothing about the fall and neither did Annie. She pulled her jumper over the scratches on her arms. We would never again go on a trip if my father knew what I had done. But it was all I could think about on the way home and all that night. Grandfather was right – Annie had been very brave.

We went back to playing on the beach every day and feeding the swans at the slipway. The winter set in and the weather worsened. The fishing catch got smaller and smaller. One day, as I came home from the beach, Grandfather called to me from his usual place. ‘Come here lad, it’s time I taught you a bit about carving.’ I sat on a low stool beside him and took the small knife and piece of bogwood he handed me. Then I watched his hands and copied what he did as best I could. I grew tired of holding the knife but all the same I stayed by his chair, my eyes fixed on his hands. The first thing he taught me to carve was a Galway hooker, which is a boat with two sails. It took me three afternoons and, when it was finished, Grandfather patted my head. ‘Now go and show your mother,’ he said.” pdf extract


Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, “The Surprise”

“My people – before I was changed – they exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty … and the heart … Well, you know … Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody. Like this.” Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Episode “The Surprise”.

Convents, Claddagh rings, and even The Book of Kells: Representing the Irish in Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

“At least in the early seasons of Buffy, Angel is the only vampire in the world who possesses a soul. He became a vampire in 1753; in 1898, Romanian gypsies, to punish him for killing a girl beloved in their tribe, put a curse on him that restored his soul so he would feel eternal guilt and self-hatred for his murderous deeds. At roughly the time of the Easter Rising, he leaves for America, where his intense self-loathing prompts him to live on the streets, subsisting on a diet of rats: he can no longer bear to kill humans, but as a vampire, he still requires blood. A friendly demon – yes, there are good demons and bad ones – attempts to improve Angel’s lot by giving him a purpose in life. He takes Angel to meet Buffy, a high school cheerleader who is on the brink of discovering that she has been appointed Vampire slayer. Unbeknownst to Angel and Buffy, a single moment of happiness will result in the loss of his soul. Buffy thus eventually proves to be his salvation as well as his destruction. [5]”

“Whereas Angel is usually associated with religious symbols such as the cross he carves into his victims, the tattoo from The Book of Kells, and the silver cross he gives Buffy on their first meeting, he is also associated with a specifically Irish symbol: the Claddagh ring. On the night of her seventeenth birthday, as the two of them say their farewells on the docks, he presents Buffy with a ring, explaining, “My people – before I was changed – they exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty … and the heart. … Well, you know … Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody. Like this” (Season 2, Episode 13, “Surprise”). The traditional wedding ring of the Irish since the seventeenth century, the Claddagh ring originated in the Irish-speaking Claddagh region in Galway. With massive Irish emigration following the famine, the Claddagh ring became an enduring link with the home country and practically their only savings and family inheritance. It is worn as a universal symbol of love, loyalty, friendship, and fidelity. The Royal Claddagh website lists notable wearers of the Claddagh ring, including Queen Alexandria and King Edward VII of Britain, Queen Victoria, Princess Grace of Monaco, adding that “today in the twenty-first Century, however, perhaps the most famous wearer of the Claddagh ring is the famous Buffy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame” (Royal Claddagh, n.d.). The enduring nature of the claddagh ring, and, by analogy, the love it symbolizes, is emphasized throughout the series. For example, prior to the loss of Angel’s soul, Buffy dreams that he disintegrates, as vampires do when they are staked, and all that remains of him is the claddagh ring. After he loses his soul, and she succeeds in killing him, she places the ring on the floor of his mansion, unwittingly summoning him from hell. Angel’s love is equally enduring. As Buffy’s friend Willow aptly observes, even the soulless Angel – ostensibly incapable of love – remains wholly devoted to Buffy, albeit now he is devoted to killing her. Eternal love that outlasts even the lovers is traditionally associated with this uniquely Irish symbol – and with the Irish themselves – perhaps because of the tragically high cost of emigration, which all too often forced lovers apart forever. The most famous example of love, Irish style, may be “Danny Boy,” with its lines: “when I am dead as dead I well may be, you’ll kneel and say an avé there for me.” [15]”

Potts, Donna L. “Convents, Claddagh Rings, and even The Book of Kells: Representing the Irish in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education 3.2 (2003).


The Brothers McMullen

Poster: The Brothers McMullen

Poster: The Brothers McMullen

The Brothers McMullen”, 1995, is an American movie by Irish American actor and writer Ed Burns. Described a romantic comedy set in Long Island, New York, following the lives and loves of three Irish Catholic brothers: “Three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.”i In the movie, Barry, the character played by director Ed Burns, gives his girlfriend Audrey a Claddagh ring. It is this Claddagh ring that she had returned to him that convinces him in the end of his love for her and overcomes his fear of commitment.

AUDREY: Can you give me another reason?

BARRY: Yeah, because I’m going to be busy. You know I mean, I’m not going to have time for this. For us.

AUDREY: You know what? You can have this back, I don’t want it.

AUDREY pulls the Claddagh ring off and shoves it into his chest.

BARRY: Hey, Audrey, you knew from day one that I wasn’t interested in letting this become, you know, too serious.

AUDREY: I don’t care what we though was going to happen. I fell in love with you, and I think you fell in love with me too. Didn’t you?

BARRY: Come on. You know, let’s not get into this, all right?

AUDREY: Just answer the question, it won’t kill you.

BARRY: What do you want me to say? All right … okay, yeah I do love you.

AUDREY: Then why are you doing this?

BARRY: Because, you know what? I don’t want to be in love. All right, and I don’t want a wife and I don’t want a family either.

AUDREY: Whoever said anything about marriage and a family?

BARRY: I’m sorry, Audrey, it just can’t be.”ii

In her book Irish Immigrants in New York City, 1945-1995”, Linda Dowling Almeida sees the movie “The Brothers McMullen” as faithful representation of ordinary Irish-American life, free from strong stereotypes and clichés – tellingly including the Claddagh ring as simply another oridinary part of Irish identity.

In 1995 a small vacuum in the Irish American film culture was filled with the introduction of a movie called the The Brothers McMullen (1995). Written by Ed Burns, an Irish American who also starred in, directed, and produced the file, it is a contemporary account of three Irish American brothers from Long Island. The young men are in their early to late twenties, facing adulthood and romantic commitment after their father dies and their mother returns to Ireland to marry her long-lost love. The film is refreshing because it deals with the Irish American experience in the suburbs. The McMullen brothers are the kids who left Queens for Long Island with their parents in the 1970s. They are the product of the disapora. The film, which won top prize at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, offers a contemporary alternative to stories about the Westies, IRA conspiracies, and explosions that recent films have exploited.

While it does not avoid stereotypes altogether, particularly the guilty-wracked, Catholic conscience of one brother and madonna-whore gender conceptions, The Brothers McMullen offers subtle and familiar, if superficial, symbols of an American Irish Catholic upbringing in the sixties, seventies, and eighties.

Burns admitted to overdoing the stereotype, but claimed to be having “fun” with it. One of the real strengths of the movie from this perspective was that the brothers considered themselves obviously Irish Catholic, but the script did not suggest any overt cultural traditions such as Irish dancing, language, or feis. The only real “Irish” cultural symbol employed was the gift of a claddagh ring by the Ed Burns character to his girlfriend. (The claddagh symbol of a heart between two hands, topped with a crown, glories love and friendship. The ring is a traditional Irish wedding band.)

The McMullens were just ordinary Irish Americans dealing with relationships, growing up, and leaving home. While the Irish American characters were not running guns for the Irish Republican Army (IRA), they also were not police officers and they were not priests. But they were recognizable as Irish Americans to any New Yorker who grew up in an ethnic community in the seventies and eighties. More room exists for treatment of the “ordinary” suburban Irish American experience on film.”iii

i Internet Movie DataBase,

ii Angela Nicholas, “99 Film Scenes for Actors”, Avon, 1999, ISBN 0380798042.

iii Linda Dowling Almeida, “Irish Immigrants in New York City, 1945-1995”, Indiana University Press, 2001, ISBN 0253338433.

Down by the River


Book Cover: Down by the River

Book Cover: Down by the River

No one will get near him again, no one will drag from him that troth which he has been keeping for the right woman and which even in his cretiny he had once believed Angie to be, had settled on the ring he would buy, the Claddagh ring, with two hands plaited on a golden mount, the symbol of two plaited natures. O lost enchantments.”

Edna O’Brien, “Down by the River“, Plume, 1998.

Jim Morrison’s (The Doors) Secret Claddagh Wedding


Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison

“’Love Hides’ sounds like it may be some romantically inspired improvisation on Morrison’s part, but in fact it was a poem he’d written for Patricia Kennealy Morrison. By the time Absolutely Live was released, the two were deeply involved and had been joined together in a Celtic handfasting ceremony. Their June 1970 marriage was not legally binding, but it was understood to be an exchange of solemn and lasting vows by practitioners of Celtic witchcraft (not to be confused with Satanism). Kennealy and Morrison exchanged traditional Irish wedding rings called claddaghs, which depicted hands holding a crowned heart. Hers was silver, his was gold.”

The Doors: When the Music’s over (Stories Behind Every Song Series); Chuck Crisafulli, Dave Dimartino; p.115