The Claddagh

This article was first published in 'The Connacht Tribune' on Saturday September 5th, 1964.

Dr. Micheal Mac Liammoir has lamented the passing of the Claddagh, the old Claddagh of thatched cottages. He regrets its disappearance as he regrets the decay into a heap of rubble of Lady Gregory's house at Coole near Gort. Speaking at the Yeat's International Summer School in Sligo last week Dr. Mac Liammoir said: Lady Gregory would not be glad about a lot of things that are now being done in Ireland. It is criminal to allow Lady Gregory's house at Coole, County Galway, to fall into ruin from a commerical point of view. Those people who got rid of the house, and the Claddagh in Galway and would not put up a plaque on the house in which Yeats was born are in the next breath crying out for tourists, and what have they to show tourists?"

Dr. Mac Liammoir is probably lamenting the disappearance of the Claddagh of the picture post cards. That was a quaint place. Women in red petticoats sat in the sun outside neat, white-washed cottages of golden thatch, and ducks ambled in a row on the green that fronted the houses. He must have come to know the real Claddagh during the time, now nearly forty years ago, when he and his equally famous colleague of the theatre, Hilton Edwards, launched Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe. The real Claddagh was very different, but the picture of it may have been wiped out of Dr. Mac Liammoir's mind by the post card. The real thing was a jumble of bedraggled cottages, many of them with sagging or broken roofs, crowded together in a crazy network of alleys, some cobblestoned, some clay-surfaced, but all pitted and holding water whenever rain fell. It was an unsanitary place, the passing of which is not to be regretted.

This country shows scant respect for some ties of historical, archaeological and cultural significance, but to claim for the old Claddagh that it should have been preserved as something of tourist value is asking too much. When demolition was about to take place it was suggested that some of the houses should be preserved as museum pieces. Even if the Claddagh had been all that it was represented to be by the postcards no part of the worth while quality would have been preserved by a few of the cottages.

If blame is to be attached to anyone, associated with the change that took place in the Claddagh about thirty years ago it should be directed against the Local Government Department that provided the plans for the new houses and that, instead of providing something attractive, gave Galway a dull, drab housing area. Because it was a distinct community outside the walls of NormanGalway and because of the distinct way of its old life the Claddagh is still written of in tourist booklets, but it must be a disappointment to those who visit it. And so much could have been done had the housing section of the Department a sense of aesthetic values, in those days.