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Locations > Clew Bay

Clew Bay

Background

Clew Bay - Abraham Ortelius (1574)

Clew Bay - Abraham Ortelius (1574)

Clew Bay was a famous pirate haven located on the west coast of Ireland during the Privateering Era of the 16th century. The fortress was ruled by a female corsair named Grace O'Malley who was the ruler of a local clan that grew to dominant the coast through piracy.

Overlooking Clew Bay was her stronghold at Rockfleet Castle and was O'Malley was known to have commanded a fleet of about twenty ships and hundreds of soldiers. She raided rival clans in Ireland and merchant ships as well. The British government tried to stop her piracy and attempted to siege her castle in 1574. They were unsuccessful and O'Malley and her soldiers were able to force the British to retreat.

O'Malley was briefly captured in 1577 but by the 1580's she was free again to operate out of her base in Clew Bay. She is known to have been a fearsome warrior and pirate herself, rumor has it she gunned down a Barbary corsair the day after she gave birth. She was also able to hold her own against the queen of England at that time Elizabeth I. Eventually the British were able to capture her pirate fleet and her son as well. O'Malley played the same game as the authorities and petitioned for redress and was able to get a meeting with Elizabeth where she negotiated the release of her son and her fleet in 1593.

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