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Grace O'Malley (also called Granuaile) was a famous pirate, seafarer, trader and chieftain in Ireland in the 1500's. She was born in 1530 in County Mayo, Ireland. She was the daughter of sea captain Owen O'Malley; however, her father refused to take her on a sailing trip, legend has it Grace cut off all her hair and dressed in boy’s clothes to prove to her parents that she could handle the trip and live a seafarer's life. Seeing this, her father and brother laughed aloud and nicknamed her "Grainne Mhaol" meaning "Bald Grace" (which is believed to have led to her nickname "Granuaile.") Eventually, through her persistence, she was allowed to go to sea with her father and his fleet of ships. Once, upon returning from a trip to Spain, their ship was attacked by an English vessel. Grace had been instructed by her father to hide below deck if they ever were attacked, but she did not heed his advice. Instead she climbed up onto the sail rigging. Watching the battle from above, she noticed an English pirate sneaking up on her father, raising a dagger behind his back! The brave Granuaile leapt off of the rigging, through the air and onto the pirate's back.... screaming all the while! The distraction this caused was enough for the O'Malleys to regain control of the ship and defeat the English pirates.
Grace married two times in her life. Her first husband was Donal O'Flaherty who was the son of the chieftain of the O'Flaherty clan and next in line for the post as chieftain. Grace and Donal married when was about 16 years old. Over the course of their marriage, Grace learned more about seafaring from Donal and his clan and added to her knowledge of sailing and trading at sea. Grace was soon in charge of the O'Flaherty fleet of ships and ruled the waters surrounding their lands. Although it was unusual for a woman to lead men, Grace earned the respect of all who followed her through her shrewdness as well as her knowledge of sailing and bravery at sea. Her husband, Donal, had a reputation for being quite a "hot head" and his temper eventually cost him his life in battle against a rival clan. They were married for a total of nineteen years.
According to Irish law, widows were entitled to a portion of their husbands estates. But for some reason, the O'Flahertys did not follow this tradition. Grace was forced to rely on the O'Flaherty clan for support. She did not like this, so she set out on her own, taking with her a loyal group of followers and traded on the seas to earn her own way. She used what she learned from her father in her youth and from her husband and eventually was able to break away from the O'Flaherty Clan altogether. Grace moved back with the O'Malley clan bringing her followers with her -- Grace had become a Chieftain in her own right and the heir as Chieftain of the O'Malley clan.
In equally as political a move, Grace married her second husband, Richard Burke in an effort to strengthen her hold on the west coast area of Ireland. Since the death of Donal, she had built her empire to include five castles and several islands in Clew Bay, but needed Rockfleet castle in the northeast side of the bay to complete her stronghold on the area.
Legend has it that Grace travelled to the Castle Rockfleet, knocked on the door and proposed marriage to Richard for a period of one year. She explained that the union would enable both clans to withstand the impending invasion by the English (who were slowly taking over the Irish lands around them.) It is believed that after exactly one year, Grace said to Richard, "I release you," apparently offering him the option to end the marriage, but he must have really fallen for the lovely Granuaile, because they remained married until he died some seventeen years later. Castle Rockfleet is built in the style called a Tower House. Basically these are houses built in the design of a strong, defensive tower. Not things of beauty but practical and safe homes in a rough neighborhood.

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Additional Photos by Pat Lim (plimrn) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3999 W: 226 N: 6734] (21344)
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