Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen of Connaught
With a family sigil that is literally inscribed with the words ‘valiant by Sea and Land’. As a result, it’s thought that Grace O’Malley was predestined to be one of the most impressive and influential Sea Captains in Ireland.
She was born to inherit Ireland’s largest trading and shipping businesses during the 16th century. A time that was a critical chapter in our country’s history. And this is why her name or her Irish alias, Gráinne Mhaol, has legendary status in all of the country’s provinces.
She was renowned for carrying out attacks and raids on various towns along the eastern and western coastline. Lucky for us, Howth is where she carried out one of her more bizarre assaults.
The story goes, she was on a voyage home from London where she met with Queen Elizabeth I. Due to the long voyage, Grace O’Malley subsequently landed in Howth to replenish her ship’s reserves. In spite of being a formidable figure, she was denied entry at the gates to Howth Castle. Known for being traditionally and patriotically Irish. The pirate Queen of Connaught therefore felt that this mocked the Gaelic custom and tradition of unremitting hospitality.
For that reason, Grace O’Malley retaliated and abducted the Lord of Howth’s grandson, the heir to Howth Castle. Her fleet of ships set sail and returned to Clew Bay as planned. She stated that the boy would be returned on the promise that no one ever be refused entry to Howth Castle. And above all that an extra place was set at the Lord’s Table should an unexpected visitor want to dine.
Grace eventually gave the heir back. And to this day, that place at the table in Howth Castle is laid out as a tribute to the events that happened on that momentous day, almost 450 years ago.