CLADDAGH, a village

CLADDAGH, a village, and suburb of the town of GALWAY, in that part of the parish of RAHOON which is within the county of the town of GALWAY, and in the province of CONNAUGHT: the population is returned with the parish. This place is situated on the coast of the bay of Galway, and from that circumstance its name, which in the Irish language signifies "the sea shore," is said to be derived. It is a large and populous village, consisting almost entirely of thatched cottages and inhabited chiefly by fishermen engaged in the extensive fishery carried on in the bay. Though within the jurisdiction of the town of Galway, and separated from it only by the mouth of the river, it forms a kind of colony, remarkable for the primitive peculiarity of its inhabitants, who differ not only in habits and character, but also in dialect from those of Galway.

The whole estate is the property of Mr. Whalley, whose ancestor was a colonel in Cromwell's army. The inhabitants pay no direct taxes, nor do they suffer strangers, whom they call "transplanters," to live among them. They seldom marry out of their own village, and generally at a very early age; the parents contriving to give as a dower either a boat or a share in a boat, which is sufficient to secure a maintenance for the families. They depend entirely on the fishery; on returning from sea, the fish is consigned entirely to the women, who dispose of it to hawkers and to those who have standings in the marketplace of Galway. About 140 sail boats, each from 12 to 14 tons' burden, and about 50 row boats are engaged in the fishery, which affords employment to nearly 2200 persons, but is carried on without much enterprise, and might under better regulations be very much increased.

The fishermen elect from among themselves, annually on St. John's day, officers whom they call a mayor and sheriffs, when they march in procession through the town of Galway, preceded by men carrying bundles of reeds fastened to the ends of poles, to which at night they set fire from numerous bonfires kindled in various parts of the town. To these officers they pay implicit obedience, and in all things submit to their authority; the only official distinction used by the mayor is the white sail of his boat and a flag at the mast head. The time of fishing is indicated by the approach of sea fowl and other unfailing signs; the fleet then assemble, and stand out to sea by signal from the mayor, who also regulates the time for setting the nets, which at first is done simultaneously, after which each boat is allowed to fish at pleasure.

The fishermen claim and exercise an exclusive right to fish in the bay, according to their own laws, any infringement of which is punished by the destruction of the nets, or even the boats, of the offending party. For the protection of those who attempted to fish against the regulations of the Claddagh fishermen, a gun-brig was stationed in the bay some few years since, during which time the object was obtained; but on its removal, the fishermen again enforced their authority, and now exercise an uncontrolled power of preventing others from fishing in the bay in opposition to their peculiar regulations. The bay abounds with fish of every kind; but the Claddagh boats are principally engaged in the herring fishery; shell fish of every kind is abundant, and few places are better supplied with oysters. The boats, since the increase of their tonnage, navigate to Limerick, Westport, Sligo, and other places.

A very convenient pier has been constructed for the boats belonging to this place, and the Commissioners of Public Works have advanced £300 on loan towards continuing the quay wall. With the exception of two Protestant families that settled among them during the last century, the inhabitants are all Roman Catholics; and their chapel is attached to a Dominican friary nearly in the centre of the village. This friary occupies the site of the ancient convent of St. Mary of the Hill, founded by the O'Hallorans for Premonstratensian nuns, on whose retirement it was granted, in 1488, by Pope Innocent VIII. to the Dominican friary of Athenry. It was richly endowed by various inhabitants, but was dispossessed of its revenues at the dissolution; and in 1642, Lord Forbes, on his landing here, took possession of the house, and converted it into a battery for the reduction of the town of Galway; but failing in that object, he defaced the church and committed other outrages.

In 1652 the whole of the buildings were levelled with the ground by the corporation, to prevent their conversion by Cromwell's soldiers into a station for assaulting the town. The present friary was built upon the site, and the chapel was completed in 1800: the latter is a neat edifice, 100 feet in length and 28 feet in breadth; the high altar is richly decorated, and a spacious gallery with a good organ has been erected. The residence of the friars, adjacent to the chapel, commands some beautiful and extensive views, including a pleasing prospect over the bay, terminated by the opposite shores of Oranmore, Renville, and Ardfry, and the Clare mountains, with the new lighthouse and part of the town quay and shipping.

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