July 28

Finding Grace


Westport House and the O’Malley Clan Association


Finding Grace

Grace O’Malley (1530-1603), “the Pirate Queen”, is one of the most important figures in Irish history and a source of great national pride. Her many exploits are both legendary and inspirational, with successive generations of people worldwide becoming enthralled with her life history and its legacy.

Grace’s biographer, Anne Chambers, describes her as “an accomplished mariner, a fearless leader, by land and by sea, a shrewd political tactician, a successful independent business woman, a ruthless plunderer, a mercenary, a rebel, the protective matriarch of her family and her tribe and – above all else – a woman who broke the mould and refused to allow the barriers placed in her path, either by society or by nature, to deter her from her quest”. 

The O’Malley Clan Association is conducting research into Grace’s genetic heritage, in a bid to identify the genetic signature of her immediate forbears. We hope that soon, O’Malleys from all over the world will be able to find out how closely they may be related to her. In so doing, we aim to highlight the importance of genetic heritage, attract the O’Malley diaspora to their ancestral home and draw further attention to the incredible human being that was Grace O’Malley.

On Saturday, 13th August, Dr Maurice Gleeson, a leading genetic genealogist, will present the findings (so far) of this ground-breaking project. He will explain how multiple O’Malleys have combined their historical connections to Grace with DNA analysis to reveal the complex story of O’Malley descent. He will be joined by Anne Chambers, biographer of Grace O’Malley, who will talk about the O’Malley Clan into which Grace was born and how they interacted with the other leading families of the time. The panel discussion, chaired by Newport local historian, Peter Mullowney, will bring together the project, the woman and her impact on Mayo, Ireland and the world.

There is no charge for attendance, but please reserve a place at: shop.westporthouse.ie 

Programme – 13th August 2022

  • 1:30   Open for signing in
  • 1:50   Welcome from Chair Peter Mullowney
  • 2:00   Dr Maurice Gleeson:  The Finding Grace project and results to date
  • 3:00   Anne Chambers:   Grace O’Malley and her family connections
  • 4:00   Panel Discussion moderated by Peter Mullowney. The speakers will be joined by Kathryn Connolly, Supervisor at Westport House
  • 5:00   Close

Speakers & Panel

Maurice Gleeson

Maurice Gleeson is a psychiatrist and pharmaceutical physician as well as a genetic genealogist. He is administrator of several Surname DNA Projects, including the O’Malley, Gleason, Spearin, & Farrell Projects among others. He is an international speaker and organised the DNA Lectures for "Genetic Genealogy Ireland" in Dublin/Belfast and "Who Do You Think You Are" in the UK. He also works with adoptees and with people of unknown parentage and has appeared on Irish TV as a consultant for the TV series Adoption Stories. He authors several blogs (e.g. DNA and Family Tree Research) and is a regular contributor to genealogical magazines. His YouTube videos on genetic genealogy are very popular and he was voted "Genetic Genealogist of the Year 2015” (SurnameDNA Journal) and “Superstar Genealogist, Ireland” in 2016 (Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections).

Anne Chambers

Anne Chambers is a biographer, novelist and screenplay writer. Her books include TK Whitaker: Portrait of a Patriot; Eleanor, Countess of Desmond; Ranji: Maharajah of Connemara; At Arm’s Length — Aristocrats in the Republic of Ireland; The Great Leviathan: Howe Peter Browne 2nd Marquess of Sligo 1778 1845; and Granuaile: Sea Queen of Ireland (for children). She is passionate about making the past accessible, as well as adjusting history’s glaring gender imbalance.

Peter Mullowney

Peter Mullowney is a retired veterinary surgeon. He worked in the U.K. and United States and was in practice for ten years in Newport. For the last 20 years of his career he was employed by the Department of Agriculture.

He has always been interested in Local History and obtained an M.A. from Maynooth University on “The Expansion and Decline of The O’Donel Estate Newport, County Mayo 1785-1852.” in 2002.

Since retirement he has contributed articles on Local History to “Burrishoole Parish Annual”, ”Cathair na Mart”, "St Patrick's Church, Newport 1918-2018 - A celebration of Burrishoole Parish", "Remember Us, The People's War, Newport Area, Mayo 1914- 1924" and edited “Newport 300: The First 200 years (1720 -1920)”, which was published in May 2022.

Kathryn Connolly

Kathryn Connolly is Supervisor at Westport House and lead tour guide. Kathryn has an honours degree in History and Heritage, graduating from ATU Castlebar in 2015. She began working in Westport House March 2016 when the House was still owned by the Browne Family and has been part of the transition of ownership to the Hughes of Westport. She has immersed herself in the history of Westport House and is passionate about the story. Kathryn has had her own blog delving into the many stories, writing about the architecture, and restoration of the magnificent Georgian Manor.

Westport House was built in 1730 by the 1st Earl of Altamont John Browne. Significantly, the House is built on the ruins of an O'Malley fortress and the remnants of the tower house that once stood in its place. The Brownes are direct descendants of Grace O’Malley - Colonel John Browne, the first Browne to come to Westport in the mid 1600s, married Grace O’Malley’s great great granddaughter Maud Bourke.


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