Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Grace O'Malley: The Pirate Queen

Chieftain and Buccaneer

It did not take long for Grace to show her natural leadership abilities once she had taken command of her husband's fleet of ships. More than two hundred men decided to follow their chosen and trusted leader, many of whom were from different clans. Life at sea was extremely rugged and primitive. The wind and salt spray chapped and weathered a person's face into a tanned and leathery mask. There was no privacy on-board and personal hygiene was poor. The food was very simple and cold, consisting mainly of hardtack, salt pork and a bit of ale. One always wore the same clothing. It was the last place where one would expect to find a woman. But Grace O'Malley loved every second of it. 


Grace resumed trade with several European countries, fished the open sea and conducted raids on Irish towns that accepted English rule. She and her swift ships roamed the shallow bays and channels of the western shores, looking to intercept ships that traded with the towns. Her ships were not only fast and highly maneuverable, but her crews were spirited and loyal men who supported and admired her mettle and cunning.

Grace and her men would quickly swoop down on unsuspecting merchant vessels. She would then demand payments for providing them with unsolicited pilots and safe passage through the dangerous reefs and currents. If anyone refused, she would boldly threaten to take whatever she wanted. Many captains complied with her demands. Those who did not, ended up having their ships plundered by Grace and her men.