Real TGG #01 - Grainne O'Malley, The Pirate Queen of Connacht - Raging Heroes

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February 27, 2021 3 min read

The Toughest Girls of the Galaxy aren't just the Sci-Fi and Fantasy characters we make here at Raging Heroes!

We want to shed light on some female figures from history, mythology, and in today's world that are perhaps less well known than they should be. Those brilliant thinkers, brave pioneers, fearsome warriors, and inspirational leaders!

In our first blog in the series we look at a commanding and driven Irish women from the 16th Century.

Grainne O’Malley
The Pirate Queen of Connacht

Vilified by her English adversaries as "a woman who hath imprudently passed the part of womanhood". Grainne was a thorn in their side for the vast majority of her life being described in 1590 as the "nurse of all rebellions for the last 50 years". 

 Born into a wealthy family, the daughter of a regional king/chief in Ireland around 1530.

According to Irish legend, as a young girl Grace wished to go on a trading expedition with her father, and on being told she could not because her long hair would catch in the ship’s ropes, she stubbornly cut off most of her hair, earning herself the nickname “Gráinne Mhaol” (Grace the Bald).

Upon her father's death she took over lordship of all they owned, which included a fleet of ships and profitable farmland. Despite having a brother, Donal, she took power, possibly because she was more capable and well respected by the family's soldiers and sailors. 

Despite their wealthy farm lands they would sail along the coast and find merchant ships so they could enforce a "tax" for sailing in their waters. Refusal to pay wasn't really an option. 

These piratical activities escalated and her fleet would go raiding around Ireland, resulting in her capture and imprisonment in a dank and putrid cell at Dublin castle for two year! Only Grainne would be able to come out of that situation, not only alive and relatively healthy, but now a Lady married to an English nobleman.

 One of our favourite stories about her comes from when she lands at Howth castle looking for hospitality. With her reputation preceding her the occupants barred the doors and refused her entry. In a furious rage she stalked back to her ship, fortuitously spotting the castle's young heir playing on the beech... so of course she took him hostage and sailed back home. The heir's grandfather travelled across the country to negotiate for his release, part of the terms Grainne made sure were included was a place at their table whenever she called. 

This is just a small slice of the great stories we found out about as we researched Grainne's life. Her story is long and detailed, full of adventure, shows of bravery and strength, and negotiations with powerful people (including the Queen of England). Here are a couple of the great pieces we used, if you are looking for more details.

You're Dead To Me - A BBC adult history podcast from Greg Jenner, the guy who writes the Horrible Histories TV show.


History Ireland - Gráinne Mhaol, pirate queen of Connacht: behind the legend

We hope you enjoyed the 1st installment in the Real TGG series, and we would love to hear your feedback.

My final thought while putting this together, aside from how Grainne really squeezed all she could from her life, was what model from our Pirates collection would I use to represent Grainne, with a fantasy twist. She was such a larger-than-life character and seems more outlandish and epic than any NPC I could create.

What about you, what model would you use for Grainne if you include her in your next Adventure?

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