Meet Grace O’Malley: free talk at the Greenwich Old Royal Naval College
Grace O’Malley: pirate, plunderer, brawler and leader of 200 men and three ships, one of the most notorious women of Ireland – and indeed the world – during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. At a time of massive international and domestic strife for Ireland, this country woman of noble descent took to a shady world of backstabbing and dirty dealing as a way of making a living and seeking a thrill, leading ferocious attacks on the one hand and parleying with the Queen on the other with the tenacity, charisma and cunning of a female Jack Sparrow. Imprisoned and pardoned twice, a statue of her now stands beside that of Elizabeth I’s at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
The free talk takes place inside the Discover Greenwich centre, right next to the London 2012 festivities taking place on the banks of the Thames. The atmosphere on the grounds is amazing – stalls with food and drink aplenty surround a huge screen showing the day’s Olympic events, with thousands of revellers of all ages taking in the sunshine and the stunning architecture of the College.
Inside the centre, you can browse the free exhibition on the history of the Royal College before heading upstairs to catch the talk. It is presented by an actress in period dress who banters with the audience in a thick Irish accent, cracking jokes for the adults and the children alike and receiving titters from her attentive – albeit captive – audience.
The setting for the talk is not ideal as the noise of the tourists enjoying themselves in the exhibition below frequently drowns out our protagonist, but her animated style, more suited towards children than adults but still quite entertaining, keeps us attentive and entertained throughout. She certainly looks the part and comes across as very endearing, while her action-packed stories do conjure a thought-provoking image of the hardship faced by the rural population of Ireland at the end of the 14th Century.
It’s worth a trip down to Greenwich just to bask in the sunshine and have a look at the likes of the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory and the Naval College, formerly Elizabeth I’s palace. Meeting Grace O’Malley wouldn’t necessarily interest the young 20-something out for a drink, but it is a great family event that could really bring the history of the high seas to life for the children, and it only lasts a very palatable 25 minutes which, in our opinion at least, flies by.
Orestes Daniel Kouzof
For more information on the Meet Grace O’Malley talk and other events at the Old Royal Naval College, click here.