Read Dublin, Howth of Stories and Legends of Travel and History‚ for Children , free online book, by Grace Greenwood, on


It is not certainly know who was the founder of Dublin, or Dubhlywn, as the name was written formerly. Some learned historians say it was Avellanus, one of the Danish Vikings, an adventurous sort of monarchs of old times, very much given to a seafaring life, and piratical depredations. If Avellanus was the founder and I don’t dispute that he was he showed great taste and wisdom in selecting the site of a city. It has a beautiful harbor; the River Liffey flows through it, a picturesque country lies around it, and in sight are romantic valleys and dark gorges and noble hills, which don’t stop far short of real mountains.

Dublin remained under the rule of the Danish Sea-kings, and their descendants, till they were conquered by the English, in the year 1170. They were, however, put down for a time in the year 1014, by a league of native princes, led by the great king, Brien-Boro. It was during this struggle that the famous battle of Clontarf was fought.

Brien-Boro was a model monarch the King Alfred of Ireland. So perfectly were the laws administered in his reign, that it was said a fair damsel might travel alone, from one end of the Kingdom to the other, with a gold ring on the top of a wand, without danger of being robbed. I doubt very much, however, if any young lady ever performed such a journey.

From the year 1173, when Henry II. received the submission of the Irish princes, and the last Irish king, Roderic O’Connor, Ireland has remained under the government of England, and though it has had several bloody rebellions, it has never been really independent. The Irish formerly had a parliament of their own, but toward the close of the last century it was suppressed, and the union made complete.

The governors of Ireland have always been called viceroys, or lord-lieutenants. Dublin Castle was built for their residence, but for some time past it has been abandoned for “The Lodge,” in Phoenix Park. The Castle is a massive, gloomy-looking building, now principally occupied by the military.

The Parliament House, now the Bank of Ireland, the Custom-House, and Trinity College, are beautiful buildings; but I did not admire the cathedrals and churches very much, after those of England. The church of St. Anne is interesting, as containing the tomb of Felicia Hemans.

We drove about the town on a jaunting car, with a talkative driver, seeing all the sights and listening to strange, wild legends. In the pretty cemetery of Glasneven, we saw, through the grating of a vault, the magnificent coffin which contains the body of Daniel O’Connell, the great orator. We enjoyed most our drive in Phoenix Park, a noble enclosure, filled with fine trees and shrubbery, flowers, birds, gentle deer, and playful, brown-eyed fawns.

But if we liked the streets, buildings, and parka of Dublin, we liked the people better. Very courteous, generous, and cordial we found all those to whose hospitality we had been commended and warm at my heart is now, and ever will be, the dear memory of my good Dublin friends.

A pleasant excursion from the city is to the Bay, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world; and to Howth Harbor, formerly the landing-place of the Dublin packets, but now superseded by Kingston.

The first object which strikes one on approaching Dublin by sea, is the famous Hill of Howth, which rises bold and high, on the northern coast of the bay, and stands like the great guardian and champion of Ireland.

The Dublin people are as proud of this as the Neapolitans are of Mount Vesuvius, which overlooks their noble bay of Naples. “Ah, sure ma’am,” said an Irish sailor, “it’s as fine an ilivation, barrin’ a few thousand feet of height, as that same smokin’, rumblin’ ould cratur, an’ a dale betther behaved.”

At Howth there are some very interesting Druidical remains to be seen, a fine old castle and an abbey, in which repose many brave and famous knights the Tristrams and St. Lawrences, barons of Howth.

There is a curious and romantic legend of Howth Castle, which I will relate here.


In the time of Queen Elizabeth, there was a celebrated woman living in the province of Connaught, Ireland, named Grana Uille, or Grace O’Malley. She was the chieftainess of the O’Malley’s of Clare Island, and called herself a princess, but she was most famed as a female pirate-captain, or vi-queen, as, perhaps, she would have preferred to be called.

She lived in rude, stormy times, when the Irish were nearly as wild and warlike as savages, and fierce feuds and bold robberies, on land and sea, were every day affairs. Indeed, for a man to be a peaceful, honest, sober citizen, was then no ways to his credit; then children were taught by their quarrelsome parents, to fire up on the slightest occasion, and fight for their rights, to revenge all insults, and make free with the property of their enemies; and little was the Sunday-school teaching they had to the contrary; then when women became leaders of lawless predatory bands, they were admired and wondered at; but few thought of condemning them, or dared to scout at them.

Those must have been the days, or Ireland the country, of “woman’s rights,” for throughout the warlike career of the great chieftainess, nobody seems to have been much shocked, or to have thought that Miss O’Malley was going out of her “proper sphere,” and infringing on the sacred rights of the nobler sex, in fighting and pirating; except it may be those men who got the worst of it, in engagements with her.

Grace O’Malley was the daughter of a powerful chief, who, having no heir, brought up his one little girl as though she were a son teaching her all sorts of manly and martial exercises. Instead of dolls and pets, her childish playthings were pistols and daggers, which she soon found very useful in scaring her attendants into instant obedience to her whims; and instead of being allowed to play among the sands and hunt shells on the wild seashore, she was taught to swim, to fish, to row, and to shoot the shy water-fowl. Instead of taking her airings, like a modern nobleman’s little daughter, on a well-trained pony, or a sober, sure-footed donkey, over smooth lawns, and through shady parks and flowery lanes, she was accustomed to accompany her father and his rough followers, mounted on one of the wild horses of the country, on long mountain hunts to dash through bog and briar, to ford swollen streams, and leap wide, dark chasms.

Once, when Grace was but a child, while she was out on one of these hunts, a young fawn that they were chasing, turned suddenly, and singling her out from all the party, ran to her side, laid its head in her lap, and lifted its large sorrowful eyes to her face, as though asking for her protection. “Stand back!” cried she, to the hunters, “call off the dogs, and let no one harm her now, she is mine!”

“Ah, well, comrades,” said one of the men, “let us seek other game, and leave the fawn to our little lady, for a pet.”

“No, by the Rock of Cashel!” cried old Cormac O’Malley, “I will not have my brave daughter made soft and silly, like other girls, by tending pets. Draw your hunting-knife across her throat, Grace, while you have her.”

“That will I not, father, for she has trusted in me. I want no pets, but whoever kills this fawn, must kill me first,” she said, flinging her arms around the poor trembling creature. She looked so fierce and determined that the men cheered, and the old chief laughingly promised her that the fawn should be allowed to escape unharmed. Grace jealously watched the disappointed hunters and yelping hounds till the swift-footed animal was out of sight, and then rode on with the rest.

Such was Grace O’Malley stern and proud in temper, fearless and manly in her habits, but now and then giving way to a kind and generous impulse. When her father died, she assumed the command of his warlike retainers, and the sternest and bravest of them were not ashamed to acknowledge her authority. At first, she only fought in self-defence, or in revenge for what she considered aggressions and insults, and finally, for spoil and conquest, and for the habit and love of strife and adventure. She was a tall, handsome woman, with dark, flashing eyes, a clear, ringing voice, and a proud, soldier-like step. Her dress was a singular mingling of the masculine and feminine fashions of her half barbarous country; but it was picturesque and imposing; made of the richest materials she could procure, and worn with an air of majesty which not Queen Bess herself, in all her glory, could surpass.

But the proud Lady Grace professed to be a loyal subject of Elizabeth. In an Irish rebellion, headed by the Earl of Tyrone, she sided with the English government, and added immensely to her power and possessions, by the victories she gained over the rebels. She did not deign to receive a regular commission from the Queen, but fought in her own wild way, on her own responsibility, at her own risk, and for her own advantage. She took castle after castle, confiscated estate after estate, claiming always the “lion’s share” of the plunder.

When some of the ships of the great Spanish armada, sent against England, were driven by a storm upon the Irish coast, she bore down upon them with her armed galleys, and took several noble prizes. With these ships, she obtained much magnificent dress, belonging to the proud Castilian officers and their stately ladies velvets and brocades, stiff with woven jewels and broideries of gold, with which she went bravely dressed for the rest of her life. And the Spanish Dons and Donnas, what did they do, robbed of their splendid apparel? Ah, they went where they did not need it any more down, down into still, dark ocean-caves, where they reposed on beds of silver sand, with the long sea-weed wrapping itself about them.

But I am not getting on with that legend of Howth Castle.

In the height of the fame and power of Grace O’Malley, when her rude bands were the terror of Connaught and the islands of that coast, and her ships the scourge of the Irish seas, she resolved to pay a visit to the court of Elizabeth. She went almost as a sovereign princess, and was royally received and entertained; for the politic English Queen was only too willing, I am afraid, to close her ears against stories of the cruelty and lawlessness of so useful a subject.

The warlike Grace made a decided sensation at court. In her strange, rich, half martial dress, and always wearing some sort of deadly weapon, she strode about like a terrible giantess among the Queen’s laughing dames, awing them into momentary silence; and even the gay wits, pert young poets, and pages, shrank abashed from her haughty, flashing looks.

“Gra’ mercy!” whispered one, as she passed, “she hath daggers in her eyes, as well as in her girdle.”

“Ay, and pistols in her voice,” said a saucy page, who served at the Queen’s table; “when she saith ‘Sirrah!’ I have ever a mind to drop upon my knees and beg for my life.”

But Grace O’Malley soon tired of the stately gayeties of the court. She curled her scornful lip at the safe and easy way of hunting in the royal parks calling it “child’s play.” She laughed at their formal balls and feasts; and when the Queen, especially to please her, led off the court dance, the solemn, but graceful minuet, played the harpsichord with her own royal hands, and sung madrigals, and read Latin verses of her own composition, Grace only yawned, and said: “I wonder your Majesty should throuble yourself with things of this sort at all. Sure in Ireland, we have people to do the likes for us, and save us the worriment.”

Once, on the Queen having expressed some curiosity in regard to the Irish national dances, Grace made sign to her harper, a wild-eyed, white-haired, long-bearded old gentleman, who struck up a stirring Celtic air, and instantly her warlike followers rushed into the midst of the hall, and began dancing, in the strangest, maddest way imaginable. Faster and louder played the harper, wilder and more furiously they danced; they wheeled and leaped and shook their arms in the air, and shouted fierce Celtic battle-cries, till all the court ladies trembled, and not a few of the courtiers drew near the throne for fear, and even the Queen had to thank her rouge for not looking pale. However, it all ended like a modern Irish jig, in a harmless “whoop!” and the fiery dancers quietly returned to their places about their mistress. “That, your Majesty,” said Grace, proudly, “is rale Irish dancing.”

“And by our faith, brave Lady Grace, we hope it may ever remain Irish dancing. The fashion suits not our peaceful court,” replied Elizabeth, laughing.

Grace O’Malley returned to Ireland loaded with princely gifts. It is not recorded in history that Elizabeth ever returned her visit, though at parting, Grace gave her Majesty a cordial invitation to come over to Connaught and see some hunting and fighting that were no shams.

“The O’Malley,” as Grace called herself, after the fashion of great Irish chiefs, landed first at Howth, intending to pay the Earl a visit. But it happened to be dinner time, and the castle gates were shut, as they always were at that hour, by command of his lordship, who was a high liver, and had a particular objection to being disturbed at his meals. When Grace haughtily demanded admittance, the warder not having a proper sense of the honor she was intending to do his master, sturdily refused. This surly, inhospitable reception so enraged the chieftainess, that she was quite ready to storm the castle, and slay the fat Earl at his own dinner-table, with all his guests and retainers. But she had not with her a sufficient force for this; so was obliged to return to her ship, where she strode up and down the deck in a terribly wrathful state, and made all ring again with her threats and imprecations against the Earl, for the insult she had received. Suddenly a gleam of malicious joy flashed over her dark face. She commanded her men to land her again, and as soon as she reached the shore, she rushed up to a cottage, where she remembered that the nurse of the young lord, the Earl’s little son, was living. She caught the child from the woman’s arms, telling her to tell her master that she would take charge of his heir, and bring him up to have better notions of hospitality and good manners than could be learned at Howth Castle. Then she hurried back to her ship, with the poor little lordling who seemed too frightened to cry, and hid his face against her bosom, as though shrinking from the look of her dark, angry eyes. Immediately she ordered all sails to be set, and sped away toward Connaught. The nurse ran up to the castle with the news, but as she could not be admitted till the Earl had dined and drunk his punch, so much time was lost that, before his galley could be manned and sent on, Lady Grace’s sails were already glimmering down the horizon, and the pursuit was hopeless.

Tristram St. Lawrence, the little lord, was a handsome child, between two and three years old, with a look of brave, yet quiet dignity in his face, which roused some kindly feeling in the sternest mariners and warriors, on board the piratical ship, and even touched the heart of the Lady Grace herself that unsuspected womanly heart, which she had kept sternly pressed down so many years under her breastplate of steel.

When she first went on board, she gave the boy to one of her women, telling her to tend him and give him food and playthings. But when they had been at sea some time, the woman came to her mistress, and said that the child would neither eat, nor play; that he gave no heed to any one, but stood apart, sullen and silent, looking back over the sea toward Howth. Then Grace, whose quick anger had cooled down in the fresh evening breeze, went to him, laid her hand on his shoulder and spoke his name. He did not start, or answer, but kept his sad, wistful eyes fixed on the distant towers of his father’s castle. So she stood over him, watching, and so he stood gazing, till the ship rounded a point which hid the castle from sight. Then, for the first time, the child burst into tears; but, flinging himself on the deck, he covered his face with his hands, as though to conceal his crying, and seemed to try to check the sobs which shook his little breast. So much proud and delicate feeling in one so young a mere baby appealed strongly to the Lady Grace. She felt her heart soften and yearn over the noble child, in his grief and loneliness. She knelt at his side and slid her hand under his head, and speaking his name more tenderly than before, she told him not to be afraid, not to grieve any more, and he should go home soon. She made her harsh, commanding voice sound so sweet and motherly that the child turned a little, and clasped that large brown hand, and held it against his lips and his eyes, while he wept and sobbed, till his heavy heart grew lighter. When Grace drew away her hand, and found it all wet with tears, she looked at it for a moment, with a strange tenderness in her imperious eyes. It seemed to her that those tears of a sinless child, were like the holy water of baptism, and would purify that hand, so often stained with blood.

Great was the astonishment of the rough mariners and warriors when they saw their stern mistress, whose name was used by mothers and nurses all over the kingdom, as a bugbear, with which to frighten naughty children, now comforting and caressing this stolen child; when she fed him with her own hands, and then took him in her arms and hushed him to sleep singing to him a wild, childish ditty, which she remembered, because her own long dead mother had sung it to her, when she also was an innocent babe.

So kind and gentle did the bold vi-queen become, that before many days the baby-lord became passionately attached to her, and ceased to ask for his nurse and parents. And he, with all his endearing, infantile ways, was such brave, grand little fellow a child so after her own heart that Grace, who, in her pride and independence, had never envied anybody any thing, not even Elizabeth her crown envied the stout Earl of Howth his only son and heir, with a bitter, hopeless, lonely envy. It made her sometimes sad, but it made her better, and gentler, and even almost humble; and the most harmless, if not the happiest part of her life, was that in which she retained the child with her, at her gloomy stronghold in Connaught.

At length, after sending several messengers and agents in vain, the proud and indolent Earl of Howth came himself, with a large ransom, to buy back his heir. Grace O’Malley refused the money with scorn, but offered to restore the child to him, if he would solemnly promise that the gates of Howth Castle should always be thrown wide open when the family were at dinner. He readily promised this, and the hospitable custom has remained in his noble house to this day.

The Earl could scarcely believe his eyes when, as he was about to leave, he saw the stern chieftainess lift little Tristram in her arms and embrace him tenderly, while the child clung to her and cried. “By my soul,” whispered his lordship to one of his train, “there’s a saisoning of the woman and the Christian about the heathen Amazon, after all.”

The Earl and the Lady Grace parted very good friends, and the baby-lord went home loaded with presents. Oh, lonely and dreary seemed Grace O’Malley’s old castle when he was gone doubly dark seemed its great cavernous hall, without the sunshine of his joyous life doubly desolate the lady’s shadowy chamber, in the windy old turret alone, without the brightness of his winsome face and the music of his happy voice.

The Lady Grace became sadder and more silent than before, but she seemed less haughty and warlike. She still followed the chase as fiercely as ever, but she gradually gave over fighting and plundering. She began to notice kindly little children to give more generously to the poor, and was even suspected of praying sometimes, and of wearing a concealed crucifix. Her men said that the baby-lord had spoiled their fiery vi-queen, who led them no longer on marauding and piratical expeditions; but her women blessed the saints that their mistress had “softened down a bit, and made it more comfortable like to sarve her.”

Once every year, Grace O’Malley went in state to Howth Castle, to see her beloved little friend and carry him presents, till at last, just as he was growing into manhood, a cruel sickness came upon her, and she was unable to go. Yet she sent her galley and the presents, as usual, to prove her faithful love.

Tristram, who had grown up a noble, generous youth, was grieved to hear of the illness of this strange, proud woman, who had seemed to lay aside her very nature to love him, and as he had always kept his old childish affection for her, he resolved to go and see her once more.

So the galley, on its return, took the young Lord of Howth to the O’Malley’s Castle, in Connaught.

It was night when they arrived a wild November night. The sky was heavy with storm-clouds, and the sea was running high before a strong wind, and breaking with a sound like thunder upon that bleak, black shore. There was a great fire burning in the vast chimney of the old hall, but in the farther corners, dark shadows were lurking, and the stone walls were glistening with a chill dampness.

As the heavy hall door swung open, to admit the young lord and his train, so much of the tempestuous night rushed in with them, that the old armor and the banners hanging on the walls clanged and flapped, and the fire roared fiercely and whirled out an angry cloud of smoke. In the midst of the hall the Lady Grace was lying, surrounded by her retainers, her warriors, and seamen, on a rude couch, piled with skins of deer she had slain, but curtained with rich crimson drapery, suspended from the ceiling by enormous antlers of elks. She was dressed in her old way, except that she had no arms in her girdle, and wore a rosary about her neck. By her side stood a venerable priest, holding a crucifix and the Lady Grace was repeating after him very devoutly a prayer for the dying; but when she saw Tristram, she forgot both priest and prayer. She sprang up from her couch to meet him, with a glad cry; and though she sank back at once, in weakness and mortal pain, she was content, for her arms were about the neck of her darling. She wiped the rain-drops from his face and pressed them out of his soft brown hair, and gazed at him with a fierce joy of love in her great dark eyes, which seemed larger and darker now, and shone with new splendor, since her long black locks had turned to silvery white.

“It was noble and like thee, mavourneen deelish,” she said, “to give my dying eyes this last best blessing of life beholding thee once more. For this boon, I bestow upon thee the proudest legacy I have to leave this ring of most precious stones the gift of my sister, Elizabeth of England. With the ring, I would give thee my benison, but that I fear the blessing of so sinful a woman might do thee harm. And yet, as I have loved thee purely, as a mother might, the saints may make it good. So, I will bless thee, jewel of my heart!”

The young lord knelt reverently to receive her blessing, and after she had ceased to murmur the fervent words, he still kept his place, for her large hand yet pressed heavily upon his head. After a moment’s silence, she recommenced speaking, but rapidly and wildly, for her mind was wandering. It seemed to have gone back to the night when she had taken the heir of Howth from his nurse. She began railing against the old Earl’s churlishness, and vowing she would teach him a lesson in hospitality Then she called out in loud, stern tones to her mariners to set sail for Connaught, and laughed fiercely over her prize. But soon her mood changed; she began to stroke the head of Tristram, and comfort him by gentle words and kind promises. She did not seem to perceive that the firm, manly face now before her, was not the smooth little face all wet with tears, she once caressed. The young lord was again a baby-boy to her; and presently she drew him closer, and began singing that same nursery song with which she used to soothe him to sleep.

It was a strange sight to see, that dying woman, rocking herself back and forth, and singing that wild lullaby, with her staring servitors and grim old fighters grouped around her, hardly able to believe that this was indeed their haughty mistress, their brave leader, their bold sea-captain.

At first, her voice rang out clear and full, but soon it faltered and failed, and sunk lower and lower. And lower and lower sunk the head of the old chieftainess, till her long white locks mingled with the dark curls of the young lord; then her voice ceased altogether, and her forehead lay heavy and cold against his, and he knew that Grace O’Malley was dead.