Page 21:The Prankquean

It was of a night, late, lang time agone, in an auldstane eld,
when Adam was delvin and his madameen spinning watersilts,
when mulk mountynotty man was everybully and the first leal
ribberrobber that ever had her ainway everybuddy to his love-
saking eyes and everybilly lived alove with everybiddy else, and
Jarl van Hoother had his burnt head high up in his lamphouse,
laying cold hands on himself. And his two little jiminies, cousins
of ourn, Tristopher and Hilary, were kickaheeling their dummy
on the oil cloth flure of his homerigh, castle and earthenhouse.
And, be dermot, who come to the keep of his inn only the niece-
of-his-in-law, the prankquean.

Grace O’Malley or Grainne Mhaol was a sixteenth-century Irish pirate who ruled the seas with a fleet of ships, taxing all those she could. She amassed a great amount of wealth and built castles along the west coast of Ireland to protect her property. The story that begins on page 21 tells of her encounter with the Lord of Howth (Jarl van Hoother) when she asks to be given shelter in Howth Castle and is denied admission because the family are at their dinner. Not to be snubbed, she kidnaps the heir of the family and takes him back to the West of Ireland; he is only returned when she secures a promise that the gates of Howth Castle would never again close at the hour of dinner, and that a place would be laid at the table for an unexpected guest. This tradition remains today.

This illustration is inspired by a visit I made to Grainne Mhaol’s castle on Achill Island some years ago. Standing 12 metres in height, it looks over Achill Sound, making it strategically important for the protection of Clew Bay and surrounding areas. These typical Irish tower houses were often incorporated into larger and grander castles of the later periods.