Irish Heroes

Irish Heroes


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How Ireland got it name

In the ancient times it was, this being the time of the Tuatha de Danaans. And we'd all be knowin' that the kings and the chieftains had their foin, clan gatherings. At this particular time there were three kings, Eathur, Teathur and Ceathur. They were, each having a bonny, wee wife. Their names were Banba, Fodhla, and Eire.

It was a time of peace and prosperity in the land. One hundred Ninety-Seven years passed without a war. The clan gatherings were peaceful affairs. So tame, it was, that even very good friends didn't argue. Not much for the story tellin', for we are not rememberin' the gatherings from the long peace.

The father of the three kings, was host of this particular gathering. "I'm wantin' to have a grand time this year," he thought. "A contest would liven the Gathering up." Ye'd not be knowing about the old man, ye say? Well, that's another story for another time.

When all the chieftains and captains and their families arrived, he announced that a name was needed for the green island they resided upon.

"It would be verrry nice," he said, "if the island were named after one of the queens of the island."

The announcement was greeted with a murmur of agreement, for the people were verrry peaceful and cooperative. They began to consider which was the most elegant, the most gracious, the most benevolent of the three women and which should have the honor. Thus began the week, with each one wantin' their own favorite. The old man was pleased and he thought The Gathering was already seemin' better.

Each queen set out to prove she was the worthiest one. For the entire week of the Gathering, never once, did they lose their temper nor were they heard to say an unkind word. When they went out, their silks and hair were beautiful and they wore foin gold. The eyes of the common people were dazzled at the sight, and they wondered how one could be chosen over the other, for they each seemed to glow in their own worthiness.

But, you see, the old man was verrry wily and clever. The last evening before the announcement, he visited each queen separately, in her private quarters.

"Ach!" he said, "It is YOU that are my favorite queen. I want it to be you the land will be named for, dear lass." Each queen, smiled ever so sweetly, when they heard the old man speak, perceiving she would be the one chosen. "So," the old man continued. "I will tell you how the name will be decided. Every morning the three of you go for a walk. Tomorrow, after you leave, I will announce to the assembly that the first queen who enters back through the gate of the Dun will win. If it happens to be you, my lass, the island will be known forever by your name. It is a verrry great honor."

The next morning, the queens prepared for their walk. Each one wearing their very finest dress and all the gold they owned. They walked leisurely, so their elegance could be seen. Out they glided, ever so serenely, through the gate of the town.

The people were told of the contest, and went to the ramparts of the Dun to watch the progress of the three queens. Many a comment was heard about the grace and beauty of the three women.

Very lady like, they were, as they walked out to the turning point. They turned, leisurely and elegant, for they knew they were being watched. They began the journey back to the Dun.

Banba was the first to pick up the pace and went out in front. Fodhla and Eire quickened their own steps. For a while, Fodlha took the lead, and the others quickened the pace, again. Unable to keep up at a walk Eire broke into a jog, kicking off her sandals. The others followed suit. Encumbered by her skirt, Banba picked up the hem and flung it over her shoulder. The other queens followed suit. They neared the Dun at a flat out run, leaning forward in the effort, they were, so they could inch out ahead of the others.

On the ramparts the people were beside themselves with amusement. Some were laughin' so hard they could scarcely stand. When the two behind grabbed the leader to pull her back the watchers slapped their thighs and tears of mirth ran down many a cheek.

When they were near to entering gate, their hair was flying and fion cloths disheveled. Did I mention that it had been a soft evening the night before, meanin it had been raining? Well, it had, and the entry to the Dun had been trod into mud. Through the slop the three queens ran, splattering the lovely silks and faces.

Ach, what a sight it was, never to be forgotten by anyone there, and a laugh it would always bring in the re-tellin'.

Now, ye'd all know who the winner was. The beautiful, elegant and verry ladylike, Queen Eire was the first through the gate. True to his word, the old man bestowed the name of Eire on the island, by which it is still known today.

So you see, a worthy queen, it was, our bonny land was named after, and one who brought joy and laughter, as well. Whether she enjoyed the laugh, herself, we'd not be knowin'

The United Irishmen, the revolutionary organization that led the '98 Rising, took its inspiration from the American and French revolutions which preceded it. Virtually all of the founders and leaders of the United Irishmen were Protestants, including the famous Theobald Wolfe Tone.

The Rising of '98 is one of the most tragic events in the history of a country whose middle name might well be tragedy. In the space of just a few short months that summer about 30,000 people were killed. Many of the dead were peasants who charged cannons armed with farm implements or crude pikes, and a significant number of them were women. The fact that so many would take the field so poorly armed, with so little hope of success, is another indication of just how far down the road to total despair England's corrupt colonial rule had driven the impoverished masses of Ireland.

The rebellion was put down with as much violence as the British Empire could muster. Many who tried to surrender were killed on the field and many more executed afterwards. When it was over the British government forced an Act of Union on the Irish people that would prove to be another sad and tragic legacy of England's misrule of their neighbors.

The Women of 1798

Information on the women of 1798 relies mainly on their own accounts and on contemporary ballads. There is little mention of women in the written histories of the country. They did not have a vote or could not hold property in their own right. This article is dedicated to the Irish Women of 1798 may their efforts and heroism never be forgotten.

Molly Weston

On 26 May Molly and her brother of Worganstown, County Meath, having recruited and organised the United Irishmen in the Fingal area, rode on horseback into Tara, County Meath. She was described as ``handsome and vivacious, quick in mind, active in body...a daring and accomplished horse-woman''.

``Arrayed in green... mounted on a white horse, [she] rode hither and thither upon the field with drawn sword in hand, rallying the pikemen and leading them in successive charges with the utmost fearlessness'' (Patrick Archer, ``Fingal in 1798'').

``She wore a green riding costume, with gold braid in the manner of a uniform and a green cocked hat with a white plume. She was armed with sword and pistols and was accompanied by her four brothers when she rode into battle. Weston rallied and regrouped the stricken pikemen; she placed herself at their head and led repeated charges against the Reagh Fencibles.''

She fired a big gun captured from the Fencibles during the course of the battle, killing eleven of their number. Molly died along with her four brothers at the Battle of Tara. Her side-saddle was recovered from the battlefield

Mary Doyle

Mary Doyle of the Battle of New Ross fame came from Castleboro and lived ``a charmed life, moving from point to point where the fighting was heaviest''. A single woman of 30 years who was engaged to the famous Kelly of Killanne (hanged in Wexford), ``she bore herself as gallantly as the most courageous man...[and] made herself useful by cutting with a bill-hook the cross belts of the fallen dragoons, and handing them, together with the cartouche boxes, to her comrades''.

When the United Irish army were leaving the field of battle despondent at not having captured the town she sat on a cannon, refusing to move unless they took it with them. Thus she embarrassed them into taking with them the last of the six pieces of artillery they had captured.

Another Mary Doyle was the County Wicklow woman who eloped with the rebel leader Michael O'Dwyer during that turbulent year. She operated against the crown forces with Michael and the remnants of the United Irish army in their stronghold of County Wicklow for five years following the collapse of the 1798 rising. Despite being captured and being wooed by a loyalist, Lord Huntley, she refused to reveal Michael's whereabouts and managed to trick Huntley into meeting her by a stream at night. Michael turned up disguised as his wife and Lord Huntley was found dead shortly afterwards.

Mary followed her partner to Australia after his transportation there in 1803 after five years on the run. They had seven children before Michael died in 1825. Mary survived him by 35 years, dying in 1861.

Margaret Bond

Margaret Bond, wife of Oliver Bond, also famed for smuggling documents into Kilmainham gaol in freshly baked pies

Matilda Tone

Martha `Matilda' Witherington was 29 when her husband died in mysterious circumstances after his trial in the Provost Jail in Dublin on 19 November 1798. Similar to many of the leaders' partners she endured much hardship, worry and disruption in her life with her husband's constant travel for the United Irish cause. When she was ``not 16 years of age'', she eloped with Theobald Wolfe Tone, then 21, and stayed in Maynooth till her parents' anger abated. She remained estranged from her family and came to regard the Tones as her family.

Of her three children only William lived beyond his teens. He joined Napoleon's army and later accompanied Matilda to the United States after she married Thomas Wilson in Paris in 1816. Along with William she ensured that her husband's memory and ideals lived on in the biography they published in 1826. Matilda died in 1849, aged 80 having survived all three of her children

Anne Flood

Anne Flood had a farmhouse at Garrystackle, not many miles from the hill of Bree in County Wexford. Her family's sympathies lay with the United Irishmen, but they were not directly involved in the fighting. When an abusive Hessian captain invaded her home a few days after the United Irish defeat at New Ross she took the opportunity presented. When he bent over to relight his pipe she struck him a mortal blow with a lump of timber and concealed the body in a shallow grave with the help of a maid who returned that evening.

Susan O'Toole

Hester Long (Holt's wife) and the wounded Ann Byrne (shot in a crown forces raid on the camp) were among the ``several women in the camp'' which General Joseph Holt of the people's army in County Wicklow referred to. Another was Susan O'Toole who would visit them regularly. Holt referred to her in his memoirs as `The Moving Magazine' as she would move weaponry and ammunition around the county for the rebels under her skirt.

She was a daughter of the blacksmith, Phelim O'Toole from Annamoe. An only child she was equal to all the tasks in the forge. At the age of 30 she was around five foot eight and went about the county and amongst the English and loyalist troops selling delicacies as a cover for her clandestine activities. She would bribe them for weapons, which she would then bring to the camp.

``She had an extraordinary ability to change her whole appearance. With her dirty pepper and salt coloured frieze cloak, her stoop and drooped jaw, she could appear a decrepit miserable baccagh (cripple) scarcely able to crawl, but when it was necessary to act with vigour, her powerful muscles and brawny limbs made her more than a match for any man. A blow from her clenched fist was like the kick of a horse,'' Holt said of her:

``A spy on the movements of the army, and a most useful ally I found her. The slightest motion was instantly communicated by her means to my outposts, and they speedily conveyed the intelligence into headquarters; so we were tolerably safe against surprise. I consider her my chiefest treasure and ordered her to be supplied with the best my camp could afford.''

Submitted by Steeler.


In considering the unsuccessful struggle in which my brother was engaged, many are too apt to forget the evils of the time: the grinding oppression under which the people laboured; the contempt in which public opinion was held; the policy which prevented its expression and intimidated the press. The only means then existing of stemming the torrent of corruption and oppression was tried, and they failed, but the failure . . . was not without its beneficial effects. -- Mary Ann McCracken

The annals of '98 record nothing more terrible than the sufferings endured by the women of Ireland. The pathway of the Yeomanry was often strewn with dead women, above whom their surviving children were screeching and bewailing them. The names recalled in this article are not chosen as the greatest in the history of the period, but because in the varied services they rendered, they are representative of the magnificent contribution made by the women of Ireland to the glorious struggle of 1798.

Countless numbers of women, the majority of whose names will forever remain unknown, fought, worked and died with the insurgent forces; after making victory possible and gave to defeat so magnificent a character that it has remained an inspiration for all time.

It is not possible to surpass Mathilda Tone in her devotion to and support for her husband during the difficult years leading up to the Rising of 1798.

Theobald Wolfe Tone in his diary wrote:

"My wife especially, whose courage and whose zeal for my honour and interests were not in the least abated by all her past sufferings, supplicated me to let no consideration of her or our children, stand for a moment in the way of my engagement to our friends, and my duty to my country, adding that she would answer for our family, during my absence, and that the same Providence, which had so often as it were miraculously preserved us, would, she was confident, not desert us now."

When Tone's son, William, had reached manhood, he wrote: "I was brought up by my surviving parent, in all the principles, and in all the feelings of my father." Mathilda Tone was faithful to the trust and, like so many other wives, the unsung heroines of Irish history, she stood by her husband in difficult times.


In one of his poems, the Young Ireland poet, John Keegan Casey, immortalised the dedication bravery and heroism of the women of 1798:

"When the tyrant's hand was laid Upon the true and brave, In the tender pride of womenhood They rose to help and save."

By 1798 the wearing of the colour green was forbidden by order of the English government, but this order was defied by the women, especially in Wexford. The women of Wexford had their petticoats, handkerchiefs, cap ribbons and all parts of their dress that exhibited a shade of green, torn off and were subjected to the most vile and indecent language by the Yeomen.

Any women who encountered the government troops ran a most terrible risk. In a desperate encounter with a Hessian Captain, Anne Ford of Garrysackle, County Wexford, slew him with a mallet.

Peg Kavanagh was one of many women who conveyed despatches and food to Michael Dwyer and Joseph Hall in their hiding place in the Wicklow Mountains. Susan O'Toole, the blacksmith's daughter of Annamore, carried ammunition and provisions to the insurgent chiefs for many a long year. Hall used to call Susan O'Toole his "moving magazine".

William Rooney has immortalised the memory of Mary Doyle a fearless Wexford insurgent.

"But a figure rose before us,
Twas a girl's fragile frame
And among the fallen soldiers
There she walked with eyes aflame,
And her voice rang o'er the sea:
"Who so dares to die for Ireland
Let him come and follow me!"

Mary Doyle, the heroine of New Ross, County Wexford, so often shouldered her musket and did sentry duty at the insurgent camp. The success of the Irish forces at New Ross was to a large extent due to her, who in one of the turns of the fight, when hesitation might have resulted in rout, leaped out in front of the insurgents, brandishing a scythe, with which she cut the cartouche (ammunition) belts of the fallen enemy, and threw their contents among the Wexfordmen to replenish their stock, calling on them to be resolute and follow.

Her magnificent courage undoubtedly won for them whatever success they attained. The intrepid woman, Mary Doyle, seeing the insurgents about to quit the scene of one of their conflicts and leave behind a gun they had brought with them, seated herself upon it and refused to move unless the gun was taken with them. The weary men were shamed into complying with her request.

It is said that she perished amid the flames, like so many other women, that consumed so much of the town of New Ross.


Equally brave were the exploits of the beautiful young northern heroine, Betsy Grey of Granshaw, County Down, who on June 13th followed her brother George and lover, Willie Boal, to the fatal field of Ballinahinch, where she fought bravely at their side during the entire conflict, and perished with them in the fight that ensued.

From the north also came the indomitable spirit of Mary Anne McCracken.

Much has been written of the heroic mothers and wives of our freedom fighters and much more remains to be written. But little is heard of their sisters, who like Mary Anne McCracken, sister of Henry Joy, stood by their brothers in their darkest hours.

Mary grew to womanhood with a passionate love of liberty and followed with enthusiastic interest the progress of the American War of Independence. She joined the United Irishmen and was swept into activism in the Movement of 1798 against English control of Ireland.

After the Rising in Antrim, Henry Joy McCracken and his companions were forced to withdraw to a hide-out in the hills. Mary insisted in finding him, and at last traced him to Brownhill with Jemmy Hope and some other insurgents.

After this their encounters grew more tragic. He was arrested in an escape bid to America and flung into Carrickfergus Jail. His faithful sister followed him and spoke words of comfort through the prison bars. When he was later transferred to Belfast she followed him there too. She was present at his trial, comforted him in his cell as he awaited execution and accompanied him to the scaffold.

Forty years after the execution of her brother, Mary Anne McCracken described her terrible ordeal on the afternoon of his execution:

"At 5pm he was ordered to the place of execution - the old market-house, the ground of which had been given to the town by his great-great-grandfather. I took his arm and we walked together to the place of execution (outside the house in Rosemary Street, Belfast where he was born) where I was told it was the generals orders I should leave him, which I peremptorily refused. Harry begged I would go. Clasping my hands round him I said I could bear anything but leaving him. Three times he kissed me and entreated I would go . . . I suffered to be led away . . . I was told afterwards that poor Harry stood where I left him at the place of execution and watched me until I was out of sight."

Just as she had seen the brother whom she had loved make the supreme sacrifice for liberty, so she had watched Thomas Russell, the man who she had secretly loved for many years, drawn into the governments' net and pay the same price at Downpatrick Jail. And when the gallows had done their work it was she who committed his remains to the soil of Downpatrick to rest forever under the simple stone inscribed "The Grave of Russell".

Upon the grave of Mary Anne McCracken, near to which is buried her brother, Henry Joy, the stone describes her as "True till death".

Other heroines of '98 include: Teresa Malone of Carlow, May Loftus and her daughter, Bridget, of Wicklow, Mrs Oliver Bond, Mrs Henry Sheares and Lady Pamela Fitzgerald.

Part of Robert Emmet's Speech...

Click here and you'll find the whole speech.

"Let no man dare, when I am dead. to charge me with dishonor; let no man attaint my memory by believing that I could have engaged in any cause but that of my country's liberty and independence, or that I could have become the pliant minion of power in the oppression or the miseries of my countrymen. The proclamation of the provisional government speaks for our views; no inference can he tortured from it to countenance barbarity or debasement at home, or subjection.

humiliation. or treachery from abroad; I would not have submitted to a foreign oppressor for the same reason that I would resist the foreign and domestic oppressor: in the dignity of freedom I would have fought upon the threshold of my country, and its enemy should enter only by passing over my lifeless corpse. Am I, who lived but for my country, and who have subjected myself to the dangers of the jealous and watchful oppressor, and the of the grave, only to give my countrymen their rights, and my country her independence, and am I to be loaded with calumny and not suffered to resent or repel it--no, God forbid!

If the spirits of the illustrious dead participate in the concerns and cares of those who are dear to them in this transitory life--oh, ever dear and venerated shade of my departed father. look down with scrutiny upon the conduct of your suffering son; and see if I have even for a moment deviated from those principles of morality and patriotism which it was your care to instill into my youthful mind, and for which I am now to offer up my life!

My lords, you are impatient for the sacrifice-the blood which you seek is not congealed by the artificial terrors which surround your victim; it circulates warmly and unruffled, through the channels which God created for noble purposes. but which you are bent to destroy. for purposes so grievous. that they cry to heaven. Be yet patient! I have but a few words more to say. I am going to my cold and silent grave: my lamp of life is nearly e4inguished: my race is run: the grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its bosom! I have but one request to ask at my departure from this world--it is the charity of its silence! Let no man write my epitaph: for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them. let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them and me repose in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, until other times, and other men, can do justice to my character; when my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.

The Death of Brian Boru

April 23rd 1014AD

Following a chess game at the castle of Brian with Maelmordha, King of Leinster, the King left after feeling affronted....asked the Danes to again invade Ireland, and overthrow Brian.....the result is of a chess game gone bad .... Seamiuse

"To show the world that Brian wished not that his race and name should survive the liberties of their country, every member of his family who were males attended his standard- his five sons, his grandson, his fifteen nephews, and the whole body of the Dalcassion Knights, together with all the chiefs of North Munster. South Munster, also unanimously gathered around the Royal standard of Brian, not one absenting himself from the muster. The great steward of Lennox, the great steward of Mar, and many other Scottish Chiefs, repared also to the Army of Brian.


Surrounded by his Dalcassion Knights, Brian marched into Leinster at the head of about thirty thousand men in the beginning of April 1014, in three divisions, and was there joined by Malachy II., King of Meath. He encamped, as he had done the year before, in the war against Maelmordha, near Kilmainham. After both armies had viewed each other it was agreed to determine the fate of Ireland by a general battle on the plain of Clontarf. Brian offered the Danes battle on Palm Sunday, which they declined; but on Good Friday, they signified, by their dispositions, that they were about to open their attack.

Brian felt much grieved that a day so sacred to the Christians should have been destined for the work of death; but with dauntless spirit and a calm and confident exterior he issued orders for arranging his troops in order for battle.


The right wing of the Irish Army was composed of the Dalcassion knights, the household troops of Ireland, heroic defenders of race and religion in that age, worthy successors of the ancient knights of former ages and worthy predecessors of the Ancient Order Of Hibernians of our own age. Next to the Dalcassion knights were the nobility of Munster, and Malachy, with all the forces of Meath. This wing was to be commanded by Brian's son, Murrough, and by the Prince of Ulster. In the left wing were the troops of the king of Connacht Tadgh Mor O'Kelly; in the center of this wing were the Knights of Connacht made up of warriors of the O'Kelly Clann of Ui Maine, the Damnonians, and on one side of them were several detachments from the troops of Arra, Coonach, Muscry, and Cora-Baisgne. The troops of South Munster, under their different chiefs, with those of the Deasies, formed the central division, were commanded by Cinn, the son of Maolmuadh, of the royal house of South Munster. Their ranks had been formed before daylight, and as the sun rose, Brian rode through the lines of his soldiers with a crucifix in one hand, and a drawn sword in the other; he reminded them of the day selected by the pagan invader to offer battle, and exhorted them to conquer or die. Standing in the centre of his army, and raising his powerful voice, his speech was worthy of so great a king and so good a man: "Be not dismayed my soldiers, because my son Donough is avenging our wrongs in Leinster; he will return victorious, and in the glory of his conquests you shall share. On your valor rests the hopes of your country today; and what surer grounds can they rest upon? Oppression now attempts to bend you down to servility; will you burst its chains and rise to the independence of Irish freemen? Your cause is one approved by Heaven. You seek not the oppression of others; you fight for your country and sacred altars. It is a cause that claims heavenly protection. In this day's battle the interposition of that God who can give victory will be singnally manifested in your favor. Let every heart, then, be the throne of confidence and courage. You know that the Danes are strangers to religion and humanity; they are inflamed with the desire of violating the fairest daughters of this land of beauty, and enriching themselves with the spoils of sacrilege and plunder. the barbarians have impiously fixed, for their struggle, to enslave us, upon the very day on which the Redeemer of the world was crucified. Victory they shall not have! from such brave soldiers as you they can never wrest it; for you fight in defense of honor, liberty and religion-in defense of the sacred temples of the true God, and of your sisters, wives and daughters. Such a holy cause must be the cause of God, who will deliver your enemies this day into your hands. Onward, then, for your country and your sacred altars!" ( From Annals of Innisfallen, Mooney, p436).

The brave and dauntless old king then held out his vigil crucifix in one hand and waved his gold-hilted sword with the other, signifying that he was willing and ready to die for the cause of Christianity and his native Ireland. He proceeded, amidst the wild shouts of his troops, towards the Dalcassions to take his station in the midst of them and lead the advance, when all the chiefs interposed, and implored him, on account of his great age to retire to his tent and leave the command to his son, the valiant and skillful Murough. Although bent with the weight of eighty-eight years of toil and covered with the scars of a hundred battles, the courageous old man protested that he was fit for command; but at last unwillingly allowed himself to be conducted to his tent.

The Irish army then called on their chiefs to lead them to the fight; the intrepid Dalcassians, the body-guard of Brian, raised the sunburst standard of Fingal- the "Gall-Greana," or "blazing sun," marked with arms of O'Brian, the hand and sword, bearing the inscription "Victory or Death." At eight in the morning the Dalcassians led the way with the right wing to attack, sword in hand, all dismounted, for the ditches in front of the Danish position prevented the charge of horse. At this moment the Meath legions retired suddenly from the field, leaving the Dalcassians exposed from the far superior number of the enemy's left wing. But Murrough, with great presence of mind, cried out to his Dalcassians: "that this was the time to win fame, for the greater the enemy the greater the glory!" And now the right was closely engaged with battle-axe and sword, spear and dagger, the left, under the command of the king of Connacht, with his Damnonian knights, hastened to engage the Danes of Leinster and their foreign auxiliaries while the troops of South Munster, with the Eoganachts, attacked the apostate Maolmordha and his degenerate subjects.

(For only reasons of typing it all, I will omit. for now the details of the battle. Suffice to say that Murrough lifted the standard of Fingal, and waving it yelled " Before the hour's end this standard will float over the Danish camp, or over my dead body!" The other chiefs were enriched again with vigor, and charged again the Danes........Thrown into confusion and panic, ranks broken the fled pursued to their ships by the victorious Irish... writes a spectator in the "Chronicum Scotorum.."I have never, beheld with my eyes, nor read in history, a sharper bloodier fight than this")

'The right arm of Murrough, swollen with the enormous exhertiona of his valor, forced him to halt beside a brook to bathe it with cool water. at that moment a straggling party of Danes, who were retreating from the field, accidentally came near, and one of them, a chief named Anrud, set upon him. But Murrough, though not able to raise his right arm, with a trip, prostrated him upon the dirt, and with his left arm actually dragged his coat of mail over his head, place the point of his sword on the Danes body, and, leaning on it with his own body, drove it through his enemy. While Murrough was so stooped over his foe the Dane snatched a scimitar from Murrough's girdle and plunged it into the breast near the heart of the brave son of Brian. The Dane immediately expired, and Murrough lingered until the following day, receiving all the rites and consolations of religion before his valiant spirit took its flight from earth.

This prince has been called the "Ajax of Clontarf," and truly he was the mould of an heroic age. according to the Munster Book of Battles, Prince Murrough was buried in the west end of a chapel in the cemetery of Kilmainham. Over his remains was placed a lofty stone cross on which his name was engraved. {Note: This cross fell from its pedestal in 1798. Under the base were found Danish coins and a fine sword in a good state of preservation, supposed to be that which the prince Murrough used at the battle of Clontarf. In 1843 this sword hung in the headquarters of the commander-of-the forces at Kilmainham}

Corcoran, one of the marshals of Brian, was the first to fly to the tent of the monarch with the intelligence of the death of his son Murrough. He found Brian kneeling before a crucifix; and the heroic old warrior, on hearing the sad news, though that the battle had been one by the Danes, and instantly said: "Do you, and the other chiefs fly to Armagh, and communicate my will to the successor of St. Patrick. But as for me, I came here to conquer or die, and the enemy shall not boast that I fell by inglorious wounds." At this instant, Brodar, The Dane, with a small party, rushing in their despair towards a small wood near which Brian's tent was erected, resolved, in the madness of his desperate rage, to be avenged for the defeat of his countrymen by killing the king of Ireland. The aged but heroic Brian, seeing them rush into the tent, seized his great two-handed sword, and with one blow, cut off the legs of the first Dane that entered. Brodar, entering next, struck Brian on the back of his head with his axe; but in spite of the stunning wound, Brian, with all the might strength for which he was renowned, by a fortunate stroke, cut off the head of Broder, and killed the third Dane that attacked him; and then calmly resigned himself to death. Thus, in the eighty-eighth year of his age, in the midst of conquest, fell one of the bravest, wisest, and noblest of all the kings of Ireland, whose reign exhibits the most splendid display of glory in all the annals of his country. His long life is a jewel which his country will wear forever, irradiating his glory upon the humblest of her sons........The Danes were pursued to their ships, Dublin was captured........It is said that the army of Brian set fire to houses long into the night so that they would have light by which to discover the fleeing enemy...........

The remains of Brian were conveyed to Armagh by the whole army. With Brian, some accounts say, went also the bodies of Murrough, Conaing, and Moltha; and that their obsequies were celebrated for twelve days by the clergy of Armagh, after which the body of Brian was deposited in a stone coffin on the north side of the high altar in the great cathedral, the body of Murrough, it is said, being interred on the south side of the church. The remains of Turlough, and several other chieftains, were buried in the old churchyard of Kilmainham, known afterwards as "Bully's Acre," where the shaft of an ancient Irish cross still, it is said, marks the spot."

And thus the end of Irelands Most beloved sons.

Article found at:

Grace O'Malley 1530 - 1603
Ireland's Pirate Queen

The scourge of the high seas during the 16th century, Sligo-born Granuaile was a woman ahead of her time.

There came to me also a most famous feminine sea captain called Granny Imallye [who] offered her services wheresover I would command her, with three galleys and two hundred fighting men, either in Scotland or in Ireland. She brought with her her husband, for she was as well by sea as by land well more than Mrs. Mate with him&ldots;This was a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.

-Sir Henry Sidney
Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1576

This tantalizing cameo is one of many hidden among the swirls and flourishes of the Elizabethan State Papers. To 16th-century English administrators and military men, who by persuasion and by the sword came to conquer the land of her birth, this "notorious woman" provoked awe, anger, revulsion, and admiration.

But in Ireland, for more than 400 years, she was destined to remain a prisoner of indifference, as her unique contribution to the social, political, and maritime history of the country was ignored. Grace O'Malley, also known by her Irish name Granuaile (pronounced: Gron-yu-aYle), like her fellow Irishwomen of the time, fell afoul of the mainly male orientation of historical record and analyses. Further, as a woman who was once described by one of her male detractors as having "overstepped the part of womanhood," Grace did not conform to an acceptable political, social, or religious mold. It was my quest to rectify this neglect in the public's consciousness that made me set out on what was to become a most fascinating and rewarding voyage of discovery in search of the "real" Grace O'Malley.

My quest revealed a life that was indeed stranger than the proverbial fiction.

The Chieftain's Daughter

Grace O'Malley was born into Gaelic aristocracy in 1530, the only child of Dudara O'Malley, a chieftain of the Kingdom of Umhall, on Clew Bay in County Mayo. The O'Malleys differed from other Irish clans of the period in that they derived their living mainly from the sea. Poets, legends, and ancient annals trace the O'Malleys and their maritime expertise to the dawn of Irish history.

As custom dictated for the chieftain's daughter, Grace was married at age 15 to Donal O'Flaherty, the chieftain of Connemara. It was a politically motivated union, and for Grace, apparently was not a happy one. The union did, however, produce three children, two sons and a daughter. Donal's truculent disposition and his irresponsibility as a chieftain set Grace on her first step to becoming a major player in the political turmoil of Irish tribal politics. Donal's recklessness brought about his downfall and gave rise to one of the many legends about Grace. Despite Brehon law, which debarred women chieftains, Grace emerged as de facto head of her husband's clan and the accepted leader of his clansmen. This role was solidified after Donal was killed by the Joyce clan while defending Cork's Castle in Lough Corrib. Far from playing the grieving widow, Grace led her husband's clan in a counterattack and regained the castle. She demonstrated such personal bravery in the battle that the castle was thereafter called Hen's Castle, its present name.

The Pirate Queen

Having tasted power, Grace was determined not to be denied by either law or convention. She returned to Umhall, where she settled on Clare Island. Many of her husband's followers crossed tribal lines and joined her, but on land, she remained a "chieftain" without a kingdom. Instead, the sea would become her domain. With a private army of 200 men and a flotilla of galleys, described as being "rowed with 30 oars and sail&ldots;to defend her 100 good shot," Grace launched herself on a career of piracy and mercenary work that was to establish her forever as the "Pirate Queen" of Ireland.

The merchant ships plying the west coast from England, Spain, and France, with cargoes of wine, Toledo steel, salt, silk, and alum, made rich pickings. In vain, the merchant princes of nearby Galway city complained to the English Council. When they eventually sent an army to capture her, Grace routed them after enduring a 21-day siege.

To achieve even part of the crimes she is alleged to have committed, Grace had to be an accomplished seafarer. Operating in the harsh, all-male environment of the sea, a bastion as little encroached by women then as it is now, was not for the fainthearted. Conditions onboard were primitive; privacy was non-existent. To remain in control of her multitribal male crews and overcome the prejudices of native mores and chauvinistic pride required that she lead by example and possess a rare charisma. And from Dingle to Donegal, stories of her exploits bear this out.

In the English-controlled Pale Grace also made her presence felt when she kidnapped the heir of the Earl of Howth. The Earl, it seems, had incurred her wrath by refusing her the hospitality of his castle. Her ransom demand for his grandson's safe return was that the Earl and his descendants would forever set an extra place at his dinner table, a tradition honored in Howth Castle to this very day.

In about 1566, Grace decided to marry again. This time, however, she did the choosing, and a castle, rather than its owner, was the reason for her choice. Rockfleet Castle on the north shore of Clew Bay, a sturdy tower enclosed by a bawn and barbican and with a safe and deep anchorage, was owned by the chieftain of the Mayo Bourkes, Richard-in-Iron. Folklore maintains that Grace married Richard for "one year certain," a trial marriage that under Brehon law was permissible, and in vogue among the Gaelic aristocracy. When the marriage had reached the one-year duration, and when Grace had her men safely installed inside the castle, she locked her husband out of Rockfleet and shouted from the ramparts, "Richard Bourke, I dismiss you," thereby divorcing a husband while gaining a castle.

The couple was married long enough, however, to have one son, Tibbott-ne-Long (Toby of the Ships), born aboard Grace's galley. The day after his birth at sea, the ship was attacked by Algerian pirates, who often infested Irish coastal waters at that time. Without Grace to lead them, her men lost heart. The captain begged her to come up on deck to rally the men. "May you be seven times worse off this day 12 months," Grace swore at him, "who cannot do without me for one day." Storming onto the deck, sword in hand, she rallied her men to victory.

Trouble on the High Seas

Ten years later, in 1578, while leading a plundering expedition on the rich lands of the Earl of Desmond in Munster, Grace was captured and thrown into Limerick jail. Desmond handed her over to the English, who imprisoned her in Dublin Castle for a further 18 months--a period that was a living death for the fiesty Grace. Eventually she obtained her freedom by promising to bring her husband, who had gotten himself involved in a rebellion, to heel. But once she was free, she took a broad interpretation of her promise to the English. An official subsequently sent to collect taxes from her was given short shrift, Grace threatening, as he reported, "that she would fight with me before she was half a mile near me," rather than pay.

It is not surprising that the English were keen to bring Grace into the tax net. She had amassed a considerable fortune. Apart from the tolls she exacted from shipping and the payments for the importation of Scottish gallowglasses, she was also a woman of substance by land, having, according to her own reckoning, "1,000 head of cattle and mares."

Richard-in-Iron died in 1583, and Grace quickly established her rights to Rockfleet by simply gathering together all of her followers and taking up residence in the castle before either the law or Richard's family could deny her. Grace was now 53 years old and seemed determined to continue her extraordinary career. But onto the political stage strode the menacing figure of Governor Richard Bingham, the bête noir of her life.

As hostility between England and Spain intensified, English control of Ireland took on a new urgency, lest Spain use it as a back door to England. Bingham was one of the new breed of English administrators intent on bringing the Gaelic chieftains to their knees. He especially despised Grace, whom he accused of being "nurse to all rebellions for 40 years." Three times Grace rebelled against Bingham's cruel rule. He eventually captured her and, as she later complained to Queen Elizabeth I of England, "caused a new pair of gallows to be made for her last funeral." At the last moment the chieftains of Mayo submitted hostages to secure her release. When she heard that her second son, Murrough O'Flaherty, had been prevailed upon to side with Bingham against her, Grace was incensed.

In a fury, she set out to teach her son a lesson by attacking his castle and pillaging his town. But Bingham took his revenge, confiscating Grace's castle and horses. Fearing her ability and her considerable fighting power, Bingham then captured her youngest son, Tibbott, as a hostage, while her eldest son, Owen O'Flaherty, was murdered in the custody of Bingham's brother. Politics and Piracy

Time, as well as Bingham, had finally caught up with Grace. The remoter havens of Ireland were gradually being brought under English control, and a more accurate map of the country was commissioned, depicting with greater accuracy the names and territories of the principal chieftains. It is the most conclusive tribute to Grace's political status that she was included on this map, the only woman chieftain ever recorded.

When Bingham threatened to hand over Tibbott to the English, Grace realized that in order to save him she would have to go above Bingham's head and appeal directly to Queen Elizabeth I Her first petition is dated July 1593. Intrigued, the Queen sent her a set of 18 questions "to be answered by Grany Ni Maly." The answers provided by Grace give an interesting résumé of her life. Her deft replies were more than a match for the Machiavellian subterfuge of the Elizabethan court. But leaving nothing to chance, she followed her correspondence, sailing her ship from Clew Bay to Greenwich, determined to put her case to Elizabeth face to face. Despite the weight of evidence against her, Grace successfully elicited an audience with the Queen. Of similar age, and both women of power in a man's world, the elderly pair found they had much in common. Elizabeth was ultimately won over by the Pirate Queen and disregarded Bingham's advice that Grace should be thrown into the Tower of London. Elizabeth instead ordered Tibbott's release and accepted Grace's proposal, as she wrote, "to employ all her power to prosecute any offender against Us&ldots;and fight in Our quarrel with all the world," which, to Bingham's consternation, was Grace's ruse to return to her plundering ways, but this time under the Queen's protection.

Grace returned to Mayo in triumph. Bingham tried to circumvent what he considered to be his Queen's rashness, but he overstepped the mark and, in 1596, was recalled to England in disgrace. Grace promptly returned to sea and is recorded to have led an attack against the island of Barra in Scotland.

At this stage, the Ulster chieftains, O'Neill and O'Donnell, had joined forces with Spain against England. Grace, her galleys, and her men were eagerly sought after by both sides. Initially, she and her sons sided with the Ulster chieftains. But O'Donnell attempted to usurp Tibbott's power in Mayo, and forged an alliance with the English, fighting alongside them at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. This campaign hastened the application of English common law to Ireland and ended the dominance of the chieftains in tribal Ireland.

Two years later, Grace died at Rockfleet Castle. She is thought to be buried in the abbey on Clare Island, beside the sea that had so sustained and enriched her throughout her remarkable life. Yet, while the legacy of Queen Elizabeth I would be passed down through the centuries, the story of Granuaile was, until recently, nearly lost. Now, with film and television projects about her life in the offing, it appears that Ireland's pirate queen has reclaimed her rightful place in history.

Granuaile Remembered

While Granuaile may have been forgotten in the past, the publication of her biography involved me in many new and exciting undertakings on her behalf. Among these projects include three television documentaries, innumerable articles for books and magazines, interviews around the world for television and radio, lectures, and conferences. The latter two brought me on a tour of 22 U.S. cities under the auspices of the Irish American Cultural Institute. I also helped design an interpretative center based on her life and times, and presently am overseeing a motion-picture screenplay that would bring her remarkable life to the attention of an even wider audience.

The famed Irish composer Shaun Davey's evocative "Granuaile Suite" enshrined her in music and song, while the Trinity Dancers of Chicago won the World Championship gold medal with a dance drama inspired by her life. Deep-sea diving clubs, yacht races, handmade Irish chocolates, women's support and self-help groups, including the Loyal Krewe Of Grace O'Malley (based in Tampa, Fla.) and the Granuaile Trust of the O'Malley Clan, which promotes the historical and cultural aspects of the clan, demonstrate that the number and range of undertakings associated with her seem never-ending.

The Descendants of Granuaile

Grace O'Malley's youngest son, Tibbott, was knighted in 1603 and was made the First Viscount of Mayo in 1627. Her descendants are mainly traceable through his line. Like their famous ancestor, many of them made an impact on their contemporaries.

Her great-great-great-granddaughters, Maria and Elizabeth Gunning, known as "the gorgeous Gunnings," took 18th-century English society by storm with their beauty. One married the Earl of Coventry and then the Duke of Hamilton; the other married the Duke of Argyle. In 1669, her great-great-granddaughter, Maud Bourke, married John Browne of Westport, whose mansion, Westport House, was built near the old O'Malley castle. Their descendants included Howe Peter Browne, the 2nd Marquess of Sligo, who, as governor of Jamaica (1834-36), championed emancipation of that island's slaves. The present Marquess of Sligo of Westport is Grace's 13th great-grandson. Claiming a similar descent is the film producer Lord Brabourne, married to the daughter of the late Lord Louis Mountbatten. With tragic irony, their son, Nicholas, a 14th great-grandson of Grace O'Malley, was killed with his grandfather, grandmother, and young friend off Mullaghmore Harbour in 1979, in waters once traversed by his famous ancestor.

Grace's descendants through her O'Flaherty and O'Malley lines are less certain. Confiscation and famine scattered the O'Flaherty and O'Malley clans throughout the world.

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