In the province of Connacht, across the street from a pub featuring traditional music and dance was our hotel for our time in Galway. The location was walking distance from the oldest and most historic parts of town. The first night there, we took advantage of this by indulging in an evening stroll around the city.
The ocean breeze was salty as we walked around the edges of the famous Galway Bay. Under his breath, Seamus muttered the less profound version of the melody, Galway Bay, by the Clancy Brothers. After a lengthy trot, just as the lyrics of the original tune depicts, we watched the moon rise over Claddagh before returning to our hotel.
The next day did not provide as nice walking weather. Instead, we chose to tour the city in daylight by way of a hooded jaunting car. The ride was pleasant and the driver, friendly. He threw out the odd fact or snippet of history as we passed the highlights of the Galway.
When the horse pulled us by a gloomy, stone structure the driver slowed to recount the tale of Mayor Lynch. Legend has it that in the late 15th century, the mayor of the city had his son go to Spain. The son was instructed to collect an amount of wine.
Young and unexperienced, the son lost a large sum of the money meant to purchase the wine. Perhaps with the gift of the gab, the son managed to take the wine without full payment with the promise he would return with the remaining cash. To ensure that this promise was fulfilled, the Spanish merchant employed his nephew to accompany the Mayor’s son back to Galway.
The Mayor’s son did not intend to pay the full amount and reveal that he had lost the initial money. For all to go smoothly, he murdered the merchant’s nephew and lied to his father. However, his success was spoiled by a sailor who, on his death bed, revealed what the son had done. Mayor Lynch as the magistrate of the city and a strict devotee to justice ordered his own son to death. The stone structure we passed was the window from where the son was hanged, despite the public’s protest. The site is preserved as a memorial of the incident and underneath the window a small message in inscribed.
This ancient memorial of the stern and unbending justice of the chief magistrate of this city, James Lynch Fitzsphen, elected Mayor AD 1493. Who condemned and executed his own guilty son Walter on this spot has been restored to this its ancient site AD 1854 with the approval of the town commissioners by their chairman V reverend Peter Daly. P.P and Vicar of St. Nicholas.
He also made note of when we passed Nora Barnacle’s former house. It reminded us of our time in Trieste, where we saw the apartment she shared with her husband, James Joyce.
Passing through Claddagh, near the city center, the driver filled us in on the story of the Claddagh ring. According to him, the ring dates back to the 1700s. Due to the rings popularity as a friendship or wedding band there is some dispute in the original maker of the rings.
That said, all versions of the story agree that the ring was indeed born in Claddagh. The Claddagh ring is typically a gold or silver band in which two hands clasp a heart with a crown on it. The hands represent friendship and the heart and crown represent love and loyalty, respectively.
In the heart of Claddagh, Seamus bought us each a lovely Claddagh ring.