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5 Wisdoms Inspired by Grace O’Malley

On a historical book research mission of Ireland’s awesome sixteenth-century chieftain Grace O’Malley, I present five fun things to get inspired by the great pirate queen herself. On a more serious note, to know more about Grace O’Malley, I highly recommend the book, ‘Grace O’Malley, the biography of Ireland’s Pirate Queen 1530-1603,’ by Anne Chambers. 

Set Your Sights on What You Want and Go for It

Grace’s aims were practically unheard of for a woman of her time – it seemed she was afraid of nothing. It is said that a day after giving birth on board one of her ships to her son Tibbot, the crew begged her to come and help them fight invading Albanians. Legend has it she arrived on deck with the baby in one hand and a musket in the other. Not only was she as tough as old boots, she also set her sights on what she wanted and went for it. She was, a medieval manifestor. She might not have read The Secret, but she probably could have written it. 

Be Brave and Tackle a Problem head-on

Grace took a huge risk by going to London to seek an audience with Queen Elizabeth I. She wanted her son who was held by the crown to be set free and sought better terms back home in the west of Ireland. When she arrived in London she was laughed at and had to wait a long time before she was allowed an audience before the queen. Much to the astonishment of many of her subjects, the queen was quite taken with the Irish rebel, and they chatted for a long time, and came to agreements, and Grace’s son was set free.  

Note Stereotypes and Totally Disregard Them

As a girl, Grace was hungry to join her father at sea on his ships. Her parents laughed at her, and her dad told her that her long hair would get caught in the ropes. Grace loved her long hair, but duly went and cut it all off, dressed up as a boy, and stole onto the ship. Grace is also widely known as Gráinne Mhaol, often anglicised as Granuaile, which means, bald Grace, because of this. Even though Grace had a half-brother, who would have traditionally been superior to her as a male even though he was not born by the same mother, Grace became chieftain of the O’Malley clan.

Ireland was ruled in the sixteenth century by the chieftains, who were effectively ‘kings’ of their own regions. It was common to plunder one another, and wealth and status was indicated by how many cattle you had. Grace was notorious for her cattle raids and also taxing any ships traversing the Irish west coast along her stomping ground. She was actually banned from entering Galway because of this. She was known in England as ‘the nurse of all rebellions.’ 

Be a Good Leader – Inspire Others and They will Support You

When Grace returned to the O’Malley’s following the death of her first husband, she was followed by a number of the O’Flaherty clansmen who didn’t want to be without her. Being a leader doesn’t always mean being ‘in charge’ of people, it can also mean being a way-shower. Someone who inspires others. Someone who people like to emulate. 

Spend Time in Nature

Grace was well known for her love of the ocean, which in her first marriage at age 16 she had to postpone for a while. After her husband died, she went right back to seafaring in Mayo, where she was happiest. She spent her time between castles but pictured below in the Instagram reel is Clare Island, off Co. Mayo on which Grace is said to be buried. Being in nature, whether it’s the ocean, the garden, the park or a forest makes us feel good and helps lift our spirits. 


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