Monday, November 26, 2012

A sketch of Granuaile O'Malley, Irish Cheiftainess, and Elizabeth the 1st, Queen of Britain, for "The Pirate Meets the Queen", written and illus.d by me, publ.d by Phylomel/Penguin&Putnam. I did these sketches on two separate sheets of a small sketch book while sitting in on a lecture for instructors at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Being of Irish descent and having inherited a fond
ness for the heroic struggle of the "under dog" from my Dad, I tend to favor Granuaile's part in the story of the struggle between their cultures and the meeting of these two great women. Even so, I fully recognize and honor the tremendous energy and genius of both figures. I envisioned Granuaile dressing in a sailor's (or pirate's as the British preferred to call her) garb. She was the daughter of a chieftain, Dubh Dair (Gaelic for Black Oak). In her early teens she took up the family's trades- fishing, shipping and raiding British merchant ships, which they called "maintenance by sea". This all to her mother's disgrace. When her father died and the British over ran the O'Malley coastal holdings, Granuaile took her people to island havens, one in particular called Clare Island and from there continued her efforts to take back what was hers. Eventually, upon the arrest of her son and the need to find protection from other Anglo/Irish sea lords, Granuaile sailed all the way to London to ask the favor of Elizabeth. What a fantastic moment that must've been- the meeting of these two great women. Upon acquiescing to the Crown and making a promise to refrain from further attacks on British shipping (a promise she didn't keep) Granuaile was granted a British title and her son set free. Some take this action by Granuaile grounds to label her a traitor to the cause of Irish nationalism. Perhaps so. But, being an ocean away and hundreds of years apart, I just find her to be one of the most extraordinary historical figures I've ever encountered. Pencil, 1999.

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