TravelIreland’s Most Famous Pirate Queen: Grace O’Malley

Ireland’s Most Famous Pirate Queen: Grace O’Malley


I didn’t know once I went to Clare Island in County Mayo, Eire, that I’d fall in love. It might appear tough to fall in love on a 4,000-acre Irish island with solely 160 residents and at the least twice as many sheep, however fall in love I did. And with a lady. Not simply any girl, however Eire’s most well-known stateswoman, Grace O’Malley, who lived from 1530-1603 and was referred to as the Pirate Queen. In Irish she known as Granuaile and beloved by everybody who lives on the Emerald Isle.

I used to be touring the island with a neighborhood information, Martina Keane, who jokingly identified the island’s solely “grocery store,” the scale of a one-car storage. We hiked as much as an outdated watch tower with the wind so robust I might barely get up. The view neglected half the island and the one sentient beings round for miles had been stray sheep. Martina instructed me a few tomb relationship again to the Stone Age, however when she stated it was now only a pile of rocks, I handed on mountaineering as much as it. There’s just one principal street (unpaved) on the island, so slender that one automobile has to drag over whereas the opposite passes, and so bumpy it’s no surprise most individuals come right here to hike, all the time surrounded by views of the ocean.

We pulled up in entrance of a fortress which had as soon as belonged to Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen. Pirate Queen? Was this mythology? No, Martina defined, Grace O’Malley was an actual particular person. And whereas there isn’t a proof this was her fortress, it’s considered so, and the cove proper beside it’s the place Grace O’Malley would have docked her fleet.

Her fleet? Grace O’Malley, referred to as in Irish, Granuaile, was the daughter of a Gaelic chieftain and have become one of many best clan leaders and warriors Eire has ever recognized.

In an age of lawlessness and piracy, she was a fierce and delightful girl who might as simply seduce a person as eliminate him along with her sword. On the age of 12, she stowed away on her father’s ship, and when he found her, he allowed her to observe her instincts and turn out to be a seafarer. She ultimately commanded 200 males and a fleet of galleys, even giving the English Navy a run for his or her cash.

At 16, she was married off to a chieftain in a politically organized marriage. She bore him three youngsters however hated staying dwelling whereas he went off to sea. When he was killed in a battle, she succeeded him as chieftain and started build up the O’Malley empire by sea.

Her second husband was one other chieftain whom she married with a prenup: she would attempt him for a yr after which resolve if she wished to maintain him. Granuaile ended up kicking him out and likewise took his fortress. Whereas at sea, she gave beginning to his son, and was under deck nursing him when her ship was attacked by North African pirates who had been overtaking her males. Grace put down her child, stormed as much as the deck, fired a musket, and shortly conquered the enemy.

Martina drove me to the Abbey, the place it’s thought Grace O’Malley is buried.

Once more, Martina defined, there isn’t a precise proof, however Granuaile was dwelling on Clare Island in her later years, and the detailed, ornate plaque close to the crypt within the Abbey has the O’Malley motto Terra Marique Potens, Latin for “highly effective by land and sea.”

On the partitions of the Abbey are hand-painted figures on horseback which appear to have been painted earlier than Grace O’Malley’s time however indicated life on Clare Island.

The Abbey and chateau are the one Grainne-related sights on the island, although that’s on no account the top of the O’Malley story.

We drove as much as the 200-year-old Clare island Lighthouse, one of many nice lighthouses of Eire on the Nice Atlantic Means, now a small inn the place I used to be staying for the evening. I stood outdoors and watched the setting solar, fascinated with Grace O’Malley, imagining her along with her two swords, dispatching warriors twice her dimension.

The subsequent day, on the best way to dropping me again on the ferry, Martina gave me a tour of the higher half of the Island. There was a 7,500-year-old pine forest, extra sheep, horses and some colourful homes, a lot of that are B&B’s in the course of the busy vacationer season.

Whereas there’s little to do on the island besides stroll or hike, I used to be sorry I had solely booked one evening. I requested Martina if there was something extra to inform about Grace O’Malley and he or she stated there’s an O’Malley Reunion yearly, and in 2023, it is going to happen on Clare Island and Westport, County Mayo June 24-26.

When my ferry docked again in Clew Bay, I drove to the small city of Louisburgh and purchased Anne Chambers’ guide, Grace O’Malley: The Biography of Eire’s Pirate Queen 1530-1603.

In keeping with Chambers (the definitive authority of all-things-Grace O’Malley), Granuaile was 63 years outdated when she sailed her galley from her Clew Bay fortress to Greenwich Palace to barter along with her enemy, Queen Elizabeth. O’Malley refused to bow to the Queen and saved each her head and freedom. Says Chambers within the guide, “Granuaile was an achieved mariner, fearless chief, shrewd political tactician, unbiased businesswoman, ruthless plunderer, mercenary, insurgent, and a lady who refused to permit any barrier to impede her quest. She commanded loyalty as a result of she was braver than the lads.”

There’s an O’Malley joke that the one man within the O’Malley household was a lady.

Grace O’Malley is believed to have died at age 73, in 1603, buried within the unmarked tomb I noticed within the Abbey.

A couple of weeks after I returned dwelling, I used to be nonetheless obsessive about Grace O’Malley, so I contacted her sensible biographer, Anne Chambers. What was it that made Grace O’Malley such a unprecedented human being, I requested. Anne Chambers emailed again: “Grace O’Malley’ s life celebrates the facility of true femininity. Regardless of the ‘male’ orientation of her profession by land and by sea, she by no means felt compelled to should jettison her sexuality with the intention to compete and reach what was thought of a male-dominated surroundings. Quite the opposite, she used the qualities and property, distinctive to her intercourse, to beat the obstacles she encountered. What her story has to say about ladies competing in a male-only protect, about breaking boundaries imposed on ladies by society, about marriage, motherhood, love and household relationships in addition to the challenges posed by feminine ageing, are points that relate to ladies all over the place at this time,”

Anne Chambers additionally instructed me she’s written screenplay for a TV sequence primarily based on the true story of Grace O’Malley, presently in improvement with LA primarily based Oscar-nominated director, Kirsten Sheridan and associates.

I nonetheless couldn’t get Grace O’Malley out of my head, so I contacted the O’Malley Clan Affiliation which has been going robust for 80 years, selling this Gaelic clan’s wealthy heritage and historical past.

The Chieftain for 2023, Martin O’Malley (former Governor of Baltimore from 2007-2016) instructed me, “We name her the Pirate Queen too, whilst we acknowledge that she was labeled a ‘Pirate’ by the British for merely doing what they themselves did in their very own waters and harbors, which was to cost retailers a price for cover and the privilege to commerce in items at her docks. We intention to spotlight the significance of genetic heritage, entice the O’Malley diaspora to their ancestral dwelling, and draw additional consideration to the unbelievable human being who was Grace O’Malley. There will likely be some top-notch Irish musicians, video games for teenagers, and a seaside bonfire. In the event you’ve by no means made an O’Malley Gathering, this could positive be an excellent one to catch.”

I considered it. Possibly I’ll simply change my identify to O’Malley, tag together with the clan this June, and rejoice the fierce, female, fearless Granuaile.

(For extra info on Clare Island and all of Eire, go to Tourism Eire.)


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