Perhaps I am watching too much Downton Abbey, but I got a little carried away when I was in Westport and decided to visit the 18th Century Westport House. It is privately owned by a family, who are direct descendants of Grace O’ Malley, the famous 16th Century Pirate Queen of Connaught. Now she was interesting………………
The website www.graceomalley.com has the following information about her
“…….Born c. 1530 the daughter of a Gaelic chieftain, she excelled in traditional seafaring with some piracy and plundering on the side.
As a child, legend has it that she cut off all her hair to disguise herself as a boy to steal onto one of her father’s ships as he set sail. It is from this that her name Grainne Mhaol (or bald Grainne) comes.
As a wife, convention did not deter her from superseding her more reckless first husband in his role as chieftain, or from avenging his death. Neither did it deter her from divorcing her second husband, from taking a lover or from reuniting with her husband who would seem to have been content to walk in her shadow. When Gaelic law spurned her as a female chieftain, she endured the same danger and hardship as her followers.
In 1593, with a catalogue of rebellion, piracy and other ’disloyal’ activities as long as her arm registered against her at the English Court, bearing the tags ’nurse to all rebellions for forty years’ “a director of thieves and murderers at sea’ she boldly sailed her galley from her castle on Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland to Greenwich Palace to negotiate face-to-face with her perceived enemy Queen Elizabeth I. Granuaile persuaded the English queen to fly in the face of the advice of her own military men in Ireland and not only kept her head but ensured her family’s future security and her own freedom until her death in 1603. Above all else she emerges as a woman who broke the mould and thereby played a unique role in history…………..”
I quite like the sound of her, think I would have enjoyed a chat! There’s is plenty of history on offer in Westport House but be warned if you do visit, Carson will not be there to greet you at the door http://www.westporthouse.ie/