This episode of 'Irishmen and Irishwomen' tells the story of the 16th-century pirate queen Gráinne Ní Mháille,also known as Grace O'Malley and Lady Burke but most commonly as Gráinne Mhaol because, it was said, she wore her hair short like a boy.
Gráinne came from a notorious family of Mayo pirates and with a Clare Island base she and her followers took control of the western seaboard using galley ships.
While it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, we know that Gráinne married Dónal Ó Flaithbheartaigh known as Dónal an Chogaidh (Dónal the warlike) who died in battle leaving her with two sons Eoin and Murchadh and perhaps a daughter too. Contrary to his name, Dónal was not a great warrior and in one instance Gráinne had to step in to defend his castle.
If trousers had been the fashion of the time she would have worn them.
Her second marriage to Risdeárd de Búrca known as a Risdeárd an Iarainn (Iron Richard) was one for security and prestige. The agreed length for their marriage was one year, and during this time they had a son, Tiobóid de Búrca. Shortly after the year was up, Risdeárd returned from battle to his castle in County Mayo to find it under the control of Gráinne and her followers. Legend has it that Gráinne leaned out of the window and shouted to her husband
I dismiss you, you are fee to go, the agreed period of our marriage, one year certain as I stipulated is over, I dismiss you.
This programme includes a dramatisation with Ann O’Dwyer playing Gráinne Mhaol.
This episode of ‘Irish Men and Irish Women’ presented by Ronnie Drew was broadcast on 18 November 1976. The programme was scripted by Bernard Share with set design by Charles Self.