Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Grace O'Malley: The Pirate Queen

The Visit to Howth Castle

Howth Castle
Howth Castle

It has been told that Grace and her loyal men were returning from a successful pillaging voyage. It was evening and they all were wet, tired and hungry. The exhausted sailors landed their ships near Dublin at a landing place called Howth. Grace went to seek hospitality for herself and her men from the lord of Howth Castle in accordance to Gaelic custom.

The castle gates were locked she was told that the lord, Christopher St. Lawrence, was dining and could not be disturbed. Grace stalked away, furious at having been refused entrance, so she kidnapped his son and heir and took him back to Connaught with her.

When the lord of Howth learned of his son's abduction, he immediately went to Grace and pleaded for his safe release. He promised to pay her any ransom, which Grace refused to acknowledge. Instead, she angrily demanded that the gates of Howth Castle remain open and to never be closed to any visitors seeking hospitality.

The lord was told that compliance to this demand was the only way she would see fit to return his son. When the distraught and humbled man agreed to honor her demand, he was given his son. 

To this day, more than four hundred years later, the gates of Howth Castle have remained open to all visitors. Every day, an extra setting has been placed on the table in Howth Castle's dining hall. This remains a tradition, followed in accordance with the demands of Grace O'Malley.