Grace O'Malley

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVI

Sidney then marched into the west, and had an interview with the famous Grace O'Malley, or Granuaile, which he describes thus:

“There came to me also a most famous femynyne sea captain, called Granuge I'Mally, and offered her services unto me wheresoever I would command her, with three galleys and two hundred fighting men. She brought with her her husband, for she was as well by sea as by land more than master's-mate with him. He was of the nether Burkes, and called by nickname Richard in Iron. This was a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland. This woman did Philip Sidney see, and speak with; he can more at large inform you of her.”

Grana, or Grace O'Malley, was the daughter of a chieftain of the same patronymic. Her paternal clan were strong in galleys and ships. They owned a large territory on the sea-coast, besides the islands of Arran.

Her first husband was Donnell O'Flaherty. His belligerent propensities could scarcely have been less than hers, for he is termed Aith Chogaid, or “of the wars.”

Her second husband, Sir Richard Burke, or Richard an Iarainn, is described by the Four Masters as a “plundering, warlike, unjust, and rebellious man.” He obtained his soubriquet from the circumstance of constantly appearing in armour.

It would appear from this account that Sidney's statement of the Lady Grana being “more than master's-mate with him,” must be taken with some limitations, unless, indeed, he who ruled his foes abroad, failed to rule his wife at home, which is quite possible.

The subjoined illustration represents the remains of one of her castles. It is situated near the lake of Borrishoole, in the county Mayo. The ruins are very striking, and evince its having once been an erection of considerable strength.

Carrig-A-Hooly, Grace O'Malley's castle

Carrig-A-Hooly, Grace O'Malley's castle