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Who was Grainne O’Malley? (Grace) (Grainne Ni Mhaille) (1530-1603 Co. Mayo) She was the pirate queen of the O’Malley clan in the west of Ireland. Commonly known as Grainne Mhaoll, a well-known historical figure in Irish folklore. She was said to have been a fierce leader, landowner, negotiator, a political activist, a pirate, & warrior. She was strong, cunning, brave and defied English laws. She was from the privileged class, so she was highly educated, she spoke Latin, Gaelic, French & English. She also spoke several languages because of her trade and travel experience. She was unfazed by the English, very independent & of legendary status. I’d like to point out that O’Malley wasn’t your typical pirate of today. Pirates today are terrorists, they rob, pirates set out to conduct raids and plan kidnappings. Pirates should not be glamorized. I have a friend from Mogadishu, Somalia named, Samira. I listen to her stories about piracy near the Arabian & Somali seas. I can’t believe what I hear, it sounds so horrifying. It seems to be straight out of a movie but it’s very real to her friends & relatives.

O’Malley for the most part was defending her clan, defending her land, defending her family & following in her father’s footsteps.
The English killed O’Malley’s husband, so she took revenge she defended her fortress. After her father’s death she took over his leadership of the sea, the family enterprise.

She married twice and had a few affairs. One of her lover’s was killed and she took vengeance against his attackers and murdered them.  O’Malley’s sons & brother were taken captive by the English. So, O’Malley met with Queen Elizabeth I to petition the release of her sons & brother. O’Malley didn’t bow before the queen; she didn’t recognize her as queen of Ireland and for that matter O’Malley herself was a queen. The meeting wasn’t very fruitful. Eventually O’Malley’s brother & sons were released. O’Malley died of natural causes at the age of 73 and soon after became a folk hero of legendary status.

Patrick Pearse (one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising) used O’Malley as a symbol of Irish independence in his lyrics to Oro se do bheatha abhaile. (welcome home). There is a bronze statue of O’Malley in the Westport house (tourist attraction owned by the Hughes family) in Mayo & a statue of her in Chicago at Old St. Pat’s Church.   

I’d like to share some facts about pirates today and how dangerous they are and how they are on the rise.  “Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence upon a ship or a coastal area, with the goal of stealing cargo.” Though most pirates target ships, some also launch attacks on coastal towns. Pirates attack ships worldwide, they are making a comeback on the high seas. The shores off Africa are attractive to pirates (the horn of Africa) because 90% of all exports/imports move across the seas. There are goods on these ships up to thousands, or millions of dollars. Pirates study the boats movements, calculate stops, and learn the blind spots. Pirates pose a threat to today’s shipping lines all over the world. Pirates kidnap people on board for ransom, they hijack the boats, and make armed robberies.

Sadly, or strangely we have romanticized pirates, we have glamorized their lifestyle with birthday party pirate themes. I saw a pirate themed baby shower and I barely have any of those to go to lately, so they are definitely out there. I see kids dress up every year as pirates for Halloween. I understand how we could admire their lifestyle though, it’s filled with excitement, adventure, riches. Pirates are fearless and enjoy that sense of freedom on the open seas and love uncharted territory. Maybe we should re-evaluate what we venerate or find worthy. If you want to see a pirate movie rent, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks. There is an Irish bar on Clarke street called, Grace O’Malley’s. I’ve never been there but I’m sure it’s worth checking out. Let the adventures of our lives begin!

Gaelic for the month
Pirate-bradach, Sea--farraige, Ocean—aigean, Ship-long (lung)
“My soul is longing for the secret of the sea” Longfellow
“Not all treasure is silver & gold” pirates of the Caribbean
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