Tá Gráinne Mhaol ag teacht thar sáile,
Óglaigh armtha léi mar gharda.
Gráinne Mhaol is coming over the sea,
Armed warriors as her guard.
— Óró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile, by Padraig Pearse (1914)
The castle on Clare Island had a perfect view. When she stood on its ramparts and looked eastwards, she could see the mainland ahead of her, Achill Island to her left, the holy island of Caher to her right, and the restless seas running between them. Her clan, the O’Malleys, controlled these waters; their motto was “powerful by land and sea”.
Her name was Gráinne Ní Mháille. The English would call her Grace O’Malley. She had grown up on Clare Island, and as a child she’d asked her father to bring her on a journey to Spain with him. He told her that her long…
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