Podcast #39: Gráinne Mhaol (Grace O’Malley)

Episode 39 introduces Gráinne Mhaol, also known as Grace O’Malley, the legendary Irish pirate queen. 

Translator Laura Radosh presents the rollicking tale of this tremendous woman, who has been lauded as “a most famous femynyne sea captain,” and “the dark lady of Doona.” Gráinne Mhaol was head of the O’Malley dynasty in 16th-century Ireland, owning up to 1000 cattle and horses, leading men on land and sea, and allegedly wreaking cruel vengeance for the murder of a lover. When her sons and half-brother were captured by the English, she is said to have met with Queen Elizabeth I and negotiated their release in Latin.


You can also find a transcript of this episode, by Annie Musgrove, here.

Show notes:

Clare Island Castle, the cosy home of Eoghan Dubdhara and Margaret O’Malley where Gráinne Mhaol was born.
Driving cattle to the open lands for summer grazing (booleying) in 19th-century Ireland
The former Cock’s Castle, now Hen’s Castle
Gráinne’s galleys may have looked something like this.
Map of Ireland around Gráinne’s time
Pirate punishment (no pirates were harmed in the making of this picture)
London Bridge before major fire damage in 1633
Scene from the Broadway musical Pirate Queen
“Contemporary” depiction of Gráinne and Elizabeth, made only 200 years later

If you fancy being told the story by a dude with an excellent mid-70s beard, this 4-minute RTÉ clip is television gold.

For those with more time on their hands, Anne Chambers’ Gráinne biography comes highly recommended. The historian also runs the “official website of the pirate queen”.

How about this combo for long dark evenings?

Speaking of books, we’ve made some lists for you! Order from bookshop.org in the US or the UK to contribute to independent bookstores, and a little bit to us too. Or if you spot something you like the look of, why not visit or contact your favourite local bricks-and-mortar bookshop to show them some love?

It wouldn’t be January 2021 if we didn’t recommend a couple of related sea shanties (sort of). There’s “Five Pint Mary” or a whole suite, Granuaile. “Grace O’Malley” hits the spot – or try some Irish pirate metal. Warning: three out of four of these videos feature cartoon depictions of a red-headed piratess.

The podcast is created, produced, edited, and presented by Susan Stone. Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon.

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month. 

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