The haphazard layout of the houses in the Claddagh, and the fact that this layout kept changing, was often commented on by writers. Houses would fall into disrepair and become derelict as families died out or emigrated. New houses were often constructed at various angles to one another, as people seemed to worry little about ordered streets or land.
Fr. Leo R. Ward refers on this in his work: "Their houses are close together in the hospitable Irish way, side by side, corner to corner, end to end, giving a kind of crazy jigsaw effect, and are like the rooms of a big ship drawn up here and moored to the rock that is called County Galway".
H.V. Morton in his book, In Search of Ireland, published in 1960, notes this fact also: "Nothing is more picturesque in the British Isles than this astonishing fishing village of neat, whitewashed, thatched cottages planted at haphazard angles with no regular roads running to them. If you took three hundred little toy cottages and jumbled them up on a nursery floor you would have something like the Claddagh. It is a triumph of unconscious beauty".
This aspect is also mentioned by Mary Banim: "At first sight, the village appears to consist of but few houses, or rather thatched cabins, but on entering any of the numerous openings or laneways, the place is found to be much more extensive, the cabins being built in irregular squares and circles surrounding pretty little greens where the young children play, and where the women spread out their husbands' fishing-nets for mending or drying on round cairns or circles of stone, one of which is on every green. The houses are very small, and many show sad tokens of great poverty; yet, wherever the means will at all allow of the smallest comfort, they are neat and clean. Owing to the numerous open spaces, the air is pure and free, and the whole place commands as lovely a prospect as the heart could desire".
When you think of it, the Claddagh must have been a thatcher's dream, and the idea of thatched houses was very dear to the Claddagh people also. When McNallys construction company were taking down the old cottages to replace them with the houses that are there now, they often had to take cover from local traditionalists firing stones at them.
There is nobody throwing stones at the thatcher in our photograph. All of the above material is taken from Peadar O'Dowd's wonderful book "Down by the Claddagh". This has been recently re-issued and is available here.