Sir Nicholas Malby (1530?–1584) was an English soldier active in Ireland, Lord President of Connaught from 1579 to 1581.
He was born probably about 1530. In 1556 his name appears in a list of persons willing to take part in the plantation of Leix in Ireland. On 6 August 1562 he was found guilty of coining, and, with three of his associates, was condemned to death; he was, however, reprieved on consenting to serve under Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick, in France. A man of education, in April 1563 he is described as Warwick’s secretary. In 1565 he was sent to Spain, where he was commended for his judicious conduct by Phayre, the English minister at Madrid. On his return to England he was sent to Ireland, and was shortly afterwards appointed sergeant-major of the army by Sir Henry Sidney. After the death of Shane O’Neill in 1567 he was stationed at Carrickfergus in order to assist Captain Piers in keeping the Scots of the Glynns in check. He was reproved by the lords justices for distraining Brian MacPhelim O’Neill‘s and other Irishmen’s cattle for cess, but his conduct was justified by Sir Henry Sidney. His position was a difficult one, and he complained that he had to feed his men at his own cost, but he displayed tact in his management of Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and Sidney, on visiting the north in October 1568, found the charge committed to him in very good state. In July 1569 he was sent to the assistance of Sir Peter Carew against the Butlers, and in a skirmish near Carlow he was hurt by a fall from his horse. He was warmly commended by Sir William Fitzwilliam and Sir Edward Fitton, and on 22 March 1571 he obtained a grant of the office of collector of the customs of Strangford, Ardglass, and Dundrum.
In the spring of 1571 he visited England, where he advocated colonising the north of Ireland with Englishmen to prevent the growth of a Scottish power. On 5 October 1571 he obtained a grant of MacCartan’s country, corresponding to the barony of Kinelarty in County Down, on condition that he planted it with civil and loyal subjects before 28 March 1579. On his way back to Ireland in February 1572 he captured a Spanish ship in the English Channel. On 10 April he received a commission to execute martial law in MacCartan’s country, but the indiscretion of Thomas Smith in publishing his scheme for the plantation of the Ardes and Upper Clandeboye, by putting the Irish on their guard, placed obstacles in the way of realising his plan. He succeeded in reducing Sir Brian O’Neill to temporary submission in October 1572, and in the following month captured O’Neill’s youngest daughter; but, despite efforts with Smith, and at a later period with Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, he failed to establish himself permanently. Essex chose Malby report to the privy council on the situation of affairs in the north in December 1574. He returned to Ireland on 5 May 1575 with special instructions for the Earl of Essex, and with an order for his own admission to the privy council. He had made a good impression on Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and Francis Walsingham, who recommended him to the queen for the government of Connacht, but several months elapsed before their recommendation took effect. During the summer of that year he took part in Essex’s expedition against Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and may have assisted at the massacre of the MacDonnells on the island of Rathlin.