Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Grace O'Malley: The Pirate Queen

Black Oak

Grace was born in 1530 to the sea captain chief of the O'Malley clan, Owen "Black Oak" O'Malley and Margaret O'Malley, a high-born woman from another part of the clan.

Owen was a skilled and daring seaman who could master the open sea and navigate the treacherous reefs and shallow channels that lay off the western coast of Ireland. 

Owen O'Malley was a successful and proud man who tenaciously clung to Gaelic traditions. He hated the enactment of English rule. Trade was a major source of his family income and English rule stifled it.  Now only English ships could transport goods to ports that were under English rule. Irish ships were prevented from doing so. Denying him use of these ports for personal gains, only served to exacerbate Owen's feelings toward the English.

A haughty Owen O'Malley circumvented English restrictions by sailing his ships out of Clew Bay to trade with France, Spain, Scotland and Portugal. These were dangerous voyages because the sea and channels were filled with lurking pirates and many sea captains would not traverse them.

Not just a trader, many times O'Malley would waylay and plunder unfortunate vessels that strayed too close to his home port, and would impose fees on ships fishing in and near the O'Malley territorial waters. He would also transport Scottish mercenaries to warring Irish clans. This all was in keeping with age-old O'Malley family practices and Owen had no intention of letting English rule change them. The political and legal ploys implemented by England had indeed aroused his ire and there was no turning back.