O'Malley, Pamela (Kathleen Mary) (1929–2006), bohemian, radical and educationalist, was born in Dublin on 12 July 1929, daughter of Patrick O'Malley, Limerick tea, wine and spirit importer, and his wife Kathleen (née Bonass). Donough O'Malley (qv) was a second cousin.
O'Malley was brought up in Limerick and first visited Spain in 1947 on a visit to her family's sherry suppliers with her brother George (who later inherited the business); she was struck by the fact that Spain was even more puritanical than Ireland in the same era. She inherited a rebellious streak from her mother, and while attending UCD she moved in literary and bohemian circles in Dublin, and was a friend of Kate O'Brien (qv) and Brendan Behan (qv). While at university she dismayed her parents by becoming the lover of, and openly cohabiting with, the American divorcé Gainor Crist (qv), model for the hero of J. P. Donleavy's novel The ginger man (1955). They moved to London in 1952 and to Barcelona two years later, working as English teachers. After marrying in Gibraltar they moved to Madrid, where O'Malley worked as a teacher. Crist died in 1964; there were no children of the marriage, but O'Malley remained close to her two stepdaughters. She always regarded Crist as the love of her life and sometimes described herself, particularly in Spain, as 'Pamela O'Malley de Crist '. She was also known in the Spanish manner as 'Pamela O'Malley Bonasso '.
O'Malley eventually joined the staff of the British School in Madrid, where she worked for 34 years until her retirement in 2003; her pupils included the children of senior members of the Franco government. She adopted dual Spanish and Irish nationality. Her flat in the Calle Arguenzela, where she held regular soirées, became a meeting-place of intellectuals, bohemians, and Irish visitors with whom she shared her intimate knowledge of the old quarter of Madrid. One such was the poet Seamus Heaney, who recalled her both as a 'noble fighter for democracy', possessing 'the kind of glamour that I imagine must have surrounded Maud Gonne', and as an 'amicable, intellectually springy, intoxicatingly companionable Irishwoman, capable of banter and laughter but equally capable of passionate argument and advocacy' (tribute by Seamus Heaney, 2 April 2006). A manuscript of Heaney's poem 'Summer 1969' (describing the experience of hearing of the outbreak of the Northern Ireland troubles in Madrid while O'Malley introduced him to the Velázquez and Goya pictures in the Prado) was one of her cherished possessions.
In the 1960s she joined the underground Spanish communist party and was a founder member of the education branch of the then illegal workers' commission, an underground trade union movement. She later stated that she had joined the communist party because it was the only body sufficiently well-organised to form a coherent underground opposition, and she accepted its professed policy of 'national reconciliation' which promised to accept democracy and avoid a renewal of the Spanish civil war. Her independent-mindedness did not always sit well with the party line; on two occasions she was expelled, but then invited to rejoin. She was detained several times by the police for her political activities and served two jail sentences; while imprisoned in the Carabanchel prison for possession and distribution of communist propaganda, she taught fellow inmates to read and write. The military judge who sentenced her to six months' imprisonment is said to have told the British School to be sure to re-employ O'Malley on her release because she was the best teacher his daughters had ever had; when the judge was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA after the return of democracy, O'Malley was one of the first to visit his family to offer condolences. His death (and the subsequent assassination of his son by ETA) reinforced her belief that violence was futile and national reconciliation was required.
After the end of the dictatorship O'Malley remained active in radical and feminist politics, frequently participating in street protests on such issues as the harsh restrictions imposed on women by the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In 1982 she was one of the Eurocommunist activists expelled from the hardline Spanish communist party who later formed the Izquierda Unida (United Left); her sympathies shifted towards the Spanish socialist party, though she never became a member.
On retirement from the British School O'Malley was awarded the gold medal of the Spanish Ministry of Labour for her contribution to Spanish education; the Spanish Ministry of Education awarded her the Alfonso X el Sabio prize. She wrote a doctoral thesis on educational movements under Franco and edited (with Oliver Boyd Barrett) the book Education reform in democratic Spain (1995). She spent her retirement working for the Assembly for Cooperation and Peace, a Spanish non-governmental organisation promoting racial harmony between children of different backgrounds and building schools in developing countries; in 2004 she became its president, retaining office until her death. The group was particularly active in the Palestinian territories, which she regarded with special interest and often visited.
While living with Crist she developed an interest in bullfighting; she remained a lifelong aficionada and always reserved a ticket at the Madrid bullring for the San Isidro festival. Despite her differences with her parents O'Malley retained close contact with her family, visiting them at least twice every year; she also visited her many friends in Dublin and Limerick, holidayed annually in Achill, and was a regular attendee at the Merriman summer school in Co. Clare and the Kate O'Brien weekend in Limerick. Having remained active to the last day of her life, she died suddenly of a stroke in Madrid on 12 February 2006. A humanist memorial service was held in Dublin on 2 April 2006 in the Irish Labour History Museum, at which Manus O'Riordan spoke and a tribute by Seamus Heaney was read out.