‘She had strongholds on her headlands
And brave galleys on the sea
And no warlike chief or Viking
Eâ€™er had bolder heart than she.’ 1
There are many surprising finds when one peers into the intriguing annals of piracy – none more so than the life of Grace Oâ€™Malley (GrĂˇinne NĂ Mhaille).
Born in 1530 to an Irish chieftain of the Oâ€™Malleyâ€™s of Murrisk, situated in a remote north-western corner of County Mayo, she forged a career in seafaring and piracy spanning over 40 years. Aside from this she was frequently active in regional politics and in native opposition in Connaught to encroaching English rule.
Her remarkable life and career have not only been celebrated in numerous poems down the centuries, but also preserved for posterity in a surprising place: the official records of State Papers of the English crown. She features in the correspondence by English officials and also in records relating to her petitions and audience with Queen Elizabeth I.
In tribute to this remarkable woman, the details of her story revealed in these records should be shared. Continue reading »
- 1.Â Taken from verse 4 of the song Granuaile published by J Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy, vol. II and reproduced in Ann Chambers, ‘Granuaille: The Life and Times of Grace Oâ€™Malley’ (Dublin, 1979), Appendix 1, pp.189-193. ^