Grace O' Malley

Ireland's Pirate Queen


Grace O'Malley was a stubborn and fearless pirate queen born in Connaght in the 1500's. Her fame for her ruthless and vengeful spirit continues to mystify people worldwide. She came from a wealthy family of politicians and business owners. Her father was named the 'Lord Of The Ancient' and was ruler over territories in Connaght. The family built a powerful dynasty – ruled by deadly force and an authoritative voice. The wealthy dynasty taxed fishermen and boats that entered the waters and they were paid to protect the wealthy from any foreign intruders sailing the high seas.

Grace received the name 'Grace with the cropped hair' after chopping off all her hair when her father disputed that she could not set on a long voyage to France because her hair was too long and would be a hazard on the deck of the ship. She arrived on the boat the day the ship was set for sail with her locks short – no longer been a hazard. A glimpse into the person she was even from the very young age of sixteen.

Grace married Donal O Flaithbheartaigh – a man from a wealthy political background making them the perfect political match. She had three children with Donal, but did not feel she should be a stay at home mother and wife. She set sail on the west coast of Ireland, raiding all ships and vessels that dared come near her shores. When her husband died, she moved to Clare Island where it is said she fell in love with a ship wrecked sailor. Her romance was short lived as her partner was killed by the McMahon family, which sent Grace into a revengeful rage as she plotted a vicious attack on the McMahons. Grace attacked the McMahons and mercilessly slaughtered anyone involved in her lovers death.

She was courageous in battle and it is narrated that during a battle at Kinturk Castle, Grace scolded her own son because she believed he was scared and hiding. According to the Legend, she accused him of trying to hide in her arse, the place he came out from.

She remarried a politician to gain political ground but continued her sea voyages. Within a year, she was pregnant and divorced. A day after giving birth to her baby, it is believed she fought off unsuspecting attackers on board a ship at sea. Her aggression in battle gave her the name the Pirate Queen. She became a political force as well as a dynasty heir.

At the time, England were trying to gain control of Ireland's land. An English ship was sent to the west coast of Ireland to end her escapade. Knowing that she couldn't take them on herself, they were able to siege her castle. The English were surprised and disgusted at the size of her ships and her dominant character.

Her son was held captive and brought to England. Grace traveled to England and requested an audience with the queen. Upon arrival to meet with the queen, Grace declared that she would not bow to her unless she recognized her as queen of Ireland and she refused to give up a knife she had hidden. The queen did not recognize her as queen of Ireland and Grace did not bow for her. The queen agreed to release her son and give her control of her land. In return, Grace was not to support the Irish rebellion and only attack English enemies. The queen was believed to have taken pity on the woman who she thought wanted to fight with the whole world. Her son was released but the queen never honoured her promise to release the land back in her control. According to the Legend, this angered Grace and she retreated into isolation.

The time before her death remains a secret. Grace isolated herself from the public eye and is believed to have died in Rockfleet castle in 1603. Most documentation relating to Grace comes from English documentation and sources.