Grace O’Malley (a. 1530 - 1603) is one of the most famous pirates of all time. From the age of eleven, she forged a career in seafaring and piracy and was considered a fierce leader at sea and a shrewd politician on land. She successfully defended the independence of her territories at a time when much of Ireland fell under the English rule and is still considered today ‘the pirate queen of Ireland.’
Grace O'Malley facts
- Grace’s name in Irish is Gráinne Ní Mháille which has led to many different spellings and pronunciations of her name in English, from Granny ni Maille to Grainy O'Maly.
- Legend has it that when Grace was young, she wanted to travel on an expedition with her father. She was told she couldn't go as her long hair would catch in the ship's ropes. To embarrass her father, she cut off most of her hair which earned her the nickname "Gráinne Mhaol" which means Bald Grace.
- Folklore suggests that Grace was pregnant with her son Tiobóid while at sea. Within an hour of giving birth, Algerian pirates ambushed and boarded her ship. Wrapping the child in a blanket, she appeared on deck and rallied her crew, leading to the capture of the pirate vessel.
- In 1546, Grace married the heir to the O'Flaherty clan, Donal O'Flaherty. During this time, she became active in Irish politics and was taught by Donal the arts of pirating. When her husband was murdered by a rival clan, she took back Donal’s castle after defeating the people who killed him.
- To this day, Grace O'Malley is seen as a symbol of Ireland and an inspiration for many modern songs, theatre productions and books. Through these, her legend lives on.