Grainne Ní Mháille / Grace O’Malley.
Irish Chieftain, Mariner, Rebel, Warrior, Pirate Queen… A true story.
In the past few days painting in Westport, county Mayo. I was commissioned by Westport Arts Festival to paint a mural in the town centre.
I wanted to create a piece about a Grainne Ní Mháille / Grace O’Malley.. I had been reading a book about her life by Anne Chambers and was amazed that the life story hadn’t already become a blockbuster movie.
Gráinne Mhaol is a legendary Irish pirate that lived in Ireland in the 16th century. She sailed from island to island along the west coast with her fleet of ships. She raided as she went, building up a great hoard of wealth and earning her title as the Pirate Queen.
She was also one of the last Irish leaders to defend against English rule in Ireland. Gráinne was born into the Ó Máille family (O’Malley) in 1530. They were a noble, seafaring family that lived in Co. Mayo and her father was chieftain of his clan. She is known by different names e.g. Grace O’Malley, Granuaile. Her real name is Gráinne Ní Mháille but she is better known by her nickname, Gráinne Mhaol.
As the legend goes, Gráinne wanted to go on a trading voyage with her father to Spain. She was told she could not go because her beautiful long hair would catch in the ropes. This made her very angry, so she decided to cut off all her hair! Her father had no more excuses, so he had to let her on board. This is how she got her nickname ‘Gráinne Mhaol’; in Irish, maol means ‘bald’!