Grace O’Malley – The Pirate Queen

Grace O’Malley – The Pirate Queen

There are still places in the world where time seems to have been somehow put on hold. Places that have been isolated by their geography, their history or simply because they were not well enough known. Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands, is such a place. Lying with its two cousins, Inishmaan and Inis Meáin strewn across the mouth of Galway Bay, Inis Mór has captured the hearts and imaginations of poets, artists and writers for generations. With a population of perhaps 1,000 hardy souls the island is renowned for characters like Grace O’Malley, the woman known as The Pirate Queen of Inis Mór. Grace O’Malley lived in the 16th century and at the height of her career, she controlled the entire west coast of Ireland, trading goods and political intrigue with Spain, Portugal and Scotland, she fought rival clans seeking to control the harbours of the West Coast as well as English forces sent to subdue her. At one stage she held 11 castles and a fleet that included captured Turkish corsairs and numerous hostages held for ransom.


Where is Inis Mór?


Inis Mór lies approx 25 miles or so off the Connemara on the west coast of Ireland. It is a wild windswept little island whose rugged and isolated nature has attracted writers, poets and artists to it secluded shores for many years. The first language is Irish, but virtually all of the islanders now speak English as well. The main industry for many years was fishing, although Inis Mór was also known for fattening up cattle for the market or for agricultural shows. The island has a fascinating history as well as some of the greatest examples of ancient forts and fortresses in the world. It also has an almost haunted air to it, perhaps by its isolated and rugged nature, or perhaps, as some suggest, that the ancient legends of Ireland are true, and that ghosts and such like things still wander abroad in many of Ireland’s hidden places.

The Cliffs at Inis Mór

I have known the longing, known that I was lost

I knew it as a child, before the open door

I knew it as a stranger, upon the foreign shore

That feeling left me only, when the name came Inis Mór

It brought with it a yearning, a calling from my soul

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The Seanachie of Inis Mór

A place I’d feared, I’d been so long alone

It carried with it sorrow, The opening of some door

When I heard the name I knew

An angel stood on Inis Mór

Poem of Inis Mór

An extract from: The Seanachie of Inis Mór
“… “It wasn’t her own doing,” he was still talking, “she had her heart broke with Con Rua; she was in bits when she left here. The next thing we knew she’d taken you off to Australia. People do the strangest things in grief…” but then suddenly I couldn’t hear him anymore, because the voices had begun again, the same ethereal voices as before, whispering up out of nowhere, pulling at the edges of my heart and soul…”
I feared not life
I fear not death
I fear the place between
The place there is no passion
The place we lose our dreams
I know there is a purpose
I know that life holds more
I know an Angel watches
From the cliffs of Inis Mór