We are the Pirates (the Mighty, Mighty Pirates)

When my daughter was 5 months in utero, she went on her first trip. My husband and I traveled to Ireland, flying into Shannon and driving up the western coast as far as Westport in County Mayo. Even then, we had pirates on the mind, as we were traveling through Grace O’Malley territory.

Grace O’Malley is an astonishing figure, no matter what century. If even half of the tall tales about her are true, she earned her place in the super-folk-heroes pantheon with Paul Bunyan and Robin Hood. According to legend, she tricked her husband into giving her his castle, repeatedly outsmarted the British navy, engaged in political negotiations with Queen Elizabeth I, and could handle a vessel as well as any man.

Rockfleet Castle (Carraig-an-Cabhlaigh) by Keith Salvesen

Rockfleet Castle (Carraig-an-Cabhlaigh) by Keith Salvesen © Copyright Keith Salvesen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

At that point, I was reading everything I could find about Granuaile (“Grace the Bald”, as she was affectionately known), recounting snippets to my husband, like she was a celebrity in a gossip rag. (“And THEN, they say Grace O’Malley scandalized the court by…”) After a visit to one of her castles around Clew Bay, we decided to name our daughter after her. We should have guessed that, like one of the fey folk, she’d repay us with a wild, fierce, and lovely daughter, who spent the start of her life bald as an egg–our Granuaile.

For three years, we had only three crew members: Granuaile, my husband, Cap’n Pea, and me. We traveled to Washington, DC; Chautauqua, NY, Wilmington, NC, and yearly trips to Seattle. Three years later, we took our show overseas again. This time, I was pregnant with our son, the Wee Boatswain. We went to Germany and Iceland–a gorgeous and formidable hunk of rock. As my daughter was ripped from my arms by 100 mph winds, I could hear Grace laughing–it’s not easy, she said, but it’s worth it.

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