Tibóid Ne Long Son of Grace O’Malley
Tibóid Ne Long Son of Grace O’Malley
“It is a little-known fact that Grace O’Malley’s only child from her second marriage, Theobald Bourke, or Tibóid Ne Long, is buried at Ballintubber Abbey. How did this come to pass?
Well, Grace was married twice. Her first marriage was arranged by her father to a man called Donal O’Flaherty from Connemara, with whom Grace had 3 children. Donal acquired the title ‘Donal of the Battles’ because he was always fighting. Sadly, he died in his 20s, leaving Grace a widow with 3 children.
She married Richard Bourke (De Burgo) of Rockfleet Castle near Newport. She insisted on a contract. One term in the contract was that she could divorce ‘after one year certain.’ That is exactly what she proceeded to do but kept Rockfleet for herself! She and Richard actually continued to work closely together over the years despite their divorce.
But in the meantime, Grace had become pregnant, and the story goes that Tibóid was actually born at sea! She was nursing her newborn when the boat was attacked by North African pirates called ‘Corsairs’. Her men had to call Grace to help defend the boat. They succeeded in overcoming the pirates who turned and fled for their lives. It is from this time that Theobald got the name ‘Tibóid Ne Long’ or ‘Toby of the Ships’. Other accounts say the name is from the fact that he ultimately inherited the fleet of galleys from Grace. The O’Malleys were the only family in Ireland with a fleet of galleys in the 1500s, so the boats conferred great status on Tibóid.
His connection with Ballintubber is that his parents, Grace and Richard, chose to foster him with the McEvilly family in Kinturk Castle, Ballyheane, and so he grew up in the area. Fosterage like this was not unusual in those days. It was a way to make a strong alliance and guarantee this family’s support in times of battle. Tibóid later in life inherited Kinturk Castle. He also came to own other castles in the area such as Castleburke and Castlecarra.
At one time, Richard Bingham, Governor of Connaught, captured Tibóid and imprisoned him in Athlone Castle. Tibóid was charged with treason and sentenced to hang. This prompted Grace to make the courageous decision to visit Queen Elizabeth I in person at Greenwich Palace, London, to appeal for Tibóid’s life. She was successful, and Tibóid was released from prison.
Tibóid was an expert strategist. As the Battle of Kinsale drew close in 1601, Tibóid kept both the Irish and English sides in suspense as to which side he would choose. The O’Neills and O’Donnells of Ulster had made a number of overtures to him on behalf of the Irish. Similarly, Lord Mountjoy had used intermediaries to entice him to the English side. When the battle began in earnest, Tibóid sailed into Kinsale with his galleys and lined up with the English against the Irish. The Battle of Kinsale changed the course of Irish history as England gained the upper hand in Ireland, and the Gaelic way of life gradually became a thing of the past.
Tibóid was given the title First Lord Viscount Mayo by James I for his support in the Battle of Kinsale. Interestingly, his countrymen in Mayo leaned on him for support as the English moved in to take control of their lands. He worked on their behalf to protect their lands, and he received land as payment for his services.
When he died in 1629, he was said to be the wealthiest man in Connaught with over 70,000 acres. He is buried in a crypt under the sacristy floor in the abbey. The sacristy is only accessible in the company of a staff member. The room was built originally as a mortuary chapel for the Bourkes of Mayo. It was built next to the abbey sanctuary and the old altar of 1216, which was an indication of the family’s status in the locality.
We believe that the mortuary chapel was built in the early 1600s. It was where Bourkes from Mayo could be prepared for burial and also repose. The altar in the room demonstrates extraordinary craftsmanship for the time. The apostles were represented across the front of the altar. The altar was said to be damaged at one time by an English army who believed the altar was a tomb and might contain riches. They struck solid stone and realized the error of their judgment.
Theobald Bourke, 1st Lord Viscount Mayo, is buried in the crypt with his wife, Maeve O’Connor Sligo. Four other subsequent Lord Viscounts Mayo with their spouses are also buried there. Access to the crypt existed until Fr. Thomas Egan chose to seal the crypt as part of his restoration work on the abbey in the 1960s.”