Grace O'Malley

Grace O' Malley (Irish(c. 1530 -c.1603) is an important figure in Irish legend but was in fact a larger than life figure from 16th century Irish History.

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Clare Island, associated with Grace O' Malley

Early life

Grace was born into early 16th century Ireland, when Henry VIII was on the throne of England. Under the policies of the English government at the time, the semi-independent Irish princes and lords were left mostly to their own devices. Grace was the daughter of Owen Dubhdarra O' Malley, chieftain of the O'Malley clan. The O' Malleys controlled most of what is now the barony of Murrisk in South-West County Mayo and recognised as their nominal overlords the gaelicised anglo-norman Burke or de Burgo family who controlled much of what is now that county. Unusually among the Irish nobility of the time, the O' Malleys were a great seafaring family and charged all those who fished off their coasts. Their leader bore the ancient Irish title of The O' Malley. According to Irish legend, as a young girl Grace wished to go on a trading expedition to Spain with her father, and on being told she could not, cut off all her hair to embarrass her father into taking her.

Marriage to O' Flaherty

Grace was married in 1546 at a young age to Donal An-Chogaidh (Donal of the Batttles)O' Flaherty, tanaist or heir to the O' Flaherty title. Grace bore three children during this marriage. Later the warlike Donal was killed in battle, and Grace recaptured a castle from the Joyces that had been his (now Hen's Castle in Lough Corrib. Grace afterwards returned to Mayo and took up residence at the family castle or tower-house in Clare Island.

Second marriage

Grace later married a second time to Richard Burke, owner of Rockfleet Castle near Newport. According to tradition they married under Brehon law 'for one year certain', and it is said that when the year was up Grace divorced Richard and kept the castle. It remained for centuries in the O' Malley family and is today open to the public. They had one son, Tibbot Burke nicknamed Tiob󩤠na Long (Tibbot of the Ships).

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The meeting of Grace O'Malley and Queen Elizabeth I

Attack from Galway

Grace engaged in piracy and her castle at Rockfleet was attacked by an expedition from Galway who wanted to get rid of her. Grace, however, put them to flight and they barely escaped. Later Grace was captured but released some time later.

Later life

In the later 16th century English power steadily increased in Ireland and Grace's power was steadily encroached upon. Finally, when two of her sons and her brother were taken captive by a local English ruler, Granuaile sailed to England to petition Elizabeth I of England for their release. The petition was granted, and Granuaile returned to her former ways, though nominally directing her raids against "enemies of England". She died in Rockfleet around 1603.

External links

  • [1] (
  • Granuaile O'Malley Web Resources [2] (
  • [[3] (]
  •[4] (
  • Granuaile story and poem (

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