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Pirates: image & reality
Key Stage 1 study unit

Should We Call Grace O'Malley a Pirate?

  1. Study Unit - large pdf file, with many pictures, please be patient

  2. PowerPoint of Pictures

  3. The Story of Grace O'Malley (for Lesson 2, Activity 1)

      For class use or for children to read own their own: PowerPoint  pdf
  4. Sequencing Grace's Life (Drag & Drop Exercise - mouse control - Flash)

This four-lesson unit is intended as a depth study within the Key Stage 1 of the History curriculum when studying the lives of significant men, women and children drawn from the history of Britain and the wider world. A variety of stimulus material encourages children to explore the past by examining the image of pirates, with particular reference to the complexities of Grace O’Malley's life and values.

Lesson 1. What is a pirate?

Lesson 2. What were the main events of Grace O'Malley's life?
Lesson 3. What do you think happened when Grace met Elizabeth I?

Lesson 4. How far does Grace fit your image of a typical pirate?

Key Stage 2 study unit

The Pirates Grace O'Malley & Francis Drake: Goodies or Baddies?

  1. Study Unit (pdf)

  2. Pictures & Lyrics of Songs in Unit (PowerPoint)

  3. Singalong with Grace O'Malley & Sir Francis Drake (PowerPoint with sound)

      Iconic songs: Óró sé do bheatha ‘bhaile ('You Are Welcome Home')* & Drake's Drum

This four-lesson unit is intended as a depth study within the Key Stage 2 History curriculum when studying Britain and the wider world in Tudor times. A variety of stimulus material encourages children to explore the past by examining the image and reality of pirates, with particular reference to Grace O'Malley and Sir Francis Drake.

Lesson 1. What is a pirate?
Lesson 2. Are all pirates outlaws?
Lesson 3. Why did Elizabeth I meet the pirates Grace and Drake?
Lesson 4. Have the stories of Grace and Drake changed your views of pirates?

Grace O'Malley, alias Granuaile, 'Chieftain, Pirate, Trader' (1530-1603)
More than a woman, Grace was a Gaelic chieftain. She commanded a fleet of war and merchant ships, trading with France, Spain, England and Portugal, dominating the waters off Western Ireland, robbing ships, resisting and then treating with the invading Tudors.

The only Gaelic woman ever to appear at court,‘the wild grandeur of her mien erect and high, before the English Queen she dauntless stood ... well used to power [and] dominion over men of savage mood’.

By land Grace stormed and defended castles, engaged in the then favourite Irish practice of cattle rustling, gave birth to four children and generally showed she was the equal of, if not better than, any man.

Such was Grace’s power that in 1593 Elizabeth I agreed to meet her in London to consider requests for money and permission to invade with sword and fire’the queen’s enemies.

According to one horrified Tudor official, she ‘hath impudently passed the part of womanhood and been a great spoiler and chief commander and director of thieves and murderers at sea’.

Her petition was successful, but Grace died ten years later outwitted and impoverished by Tudor officials who never forgave her earlier 'betrayals'.

Supporting materials
More about Grace O'Malley on the Internet

More Ireland in Schools resources for History & Literacy Hour

‘The Official Site’ by Anne chambers. Grace’s biographer
Web resources
Pirates and privateers.
An excellent resource for pirates and their vessels
Biography of Grace O’Malley, Irish Chieftain, pirate, trader and seafarer.
Questions about Grace, but with annoying pop-ups
Kidnap of Lord Howth's son
A tourist attraction

Grace O'Malley videos

1. Warrior Women 2 - Grace O’Malley
Short documentary hosted by Lucy Lawless; 8+ mins

2. Grace meets Elizabeth I, 1593

Short documentary hosted by Anne Chambers

3. A Pirate’s Life for She
Morgan Llywelyn on Granuaile becoming a musical; 4 mins

4. Granuaile
Sung by Rita Connolly; 10 mins

5. Celtic Woman - A New Journey - Granuaile’s Dance
4 min - Live at Slane Castle, Ireland 2006
Pirate videos

1. Lazy Town's 'You Are a Pirate' videos

Original version:

Karaoke version:

Pirates of the Caribbean version:

2. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 Trailer

* Different versions of Óró sé do bheatha ‘bhaile ('You Are Welcome Home')

This song is about Granuaile, or Grace O'Malley, probably dates from her own lifetime as a song welcoming her home after one of the occasions on which she was held captive by the English.

Padriac Pearse, one of the leaders of the Irish Rebellion of 1916, composed the poem, upon which modern versions of the song are based, as invitation to all the Irishmen in Europe who were fighting for the British Empire and the freedom of small nations to come home and tackle the ancient foe on their own little island.

Lyrics    pdf version

Best for singalong

Clancy Brothers - video


Sinead O’Connor - video


Trasna - mp3


Green Man - mp3

Wolfe Tones - video


Wind that Shakes the Barley
Marching song - video

Darach Ó Catháin - video