Caitlin Ni Ullachain (Kathleen Ni Houlihan)

Caitlin Ni Ullachain (Kathleen Ni Houlihan)

A Chapter by Brette Medb

     Oft it seems man is selfish and self-serving and though more often than not this is the case there are always the few who give everything to their fellow men. Kings, knights, soldiers and priests, all portrayed at one time or another in a holy, self-sacrificing manner, but few remember the woman who gave her life and her love to save not only her family but her country from destruction.


    Caitlin Ni Uallachain was the daughter of a wise woman or as she was known then, a healer and a poor potato farmer. Today many know her as the mythical Kathleen Ni Houlihan, the symbolic woman of Ireland, but once she was as real as you or I. Caitlin grew up in a small farm house with her twelve brothers and sisters in the outskirts of Leitrim in Connachta. It was here Caitlin learned from her mother the power of the land and the healing properties of herbs. As Caitlin aged her beauty became renowned and many suitors, both young and old travelled for many miles seeking her hand in marriage. Her father, Breasal Ullachain, drove the suitors away with fury claiming his favorite child would only wed for love. The custom of love matches was not often seen nor practiced but Breasal loved his Caitlin more than all his other children.


    It was one foggy day in the early autumn when Caitlin meant to travel to the market in Leitrim to purchase a rare spice for her mother. She began her journey in the wake of the early morning light and walked down the worn path quietly humming to herself careful of the nature around her. The fog began to burn away as the sun rose higher in the sky leaving the path before her visable for many miles. Soon Caitlin grew weary and found a shady spot in which to rest her tired feet. Not many minutes had passed before Caitlin spotted an old woman ambling up the path with nothing but a shabby dress upon her thin frame and a walking stick supporting her haggard body.


    The old woman soon made her way to where Caitlin sat resting. The sun was now behind the woman and Caitlin had to squint to better see the woman's features, yet no matter how she tried she could not focus on any one part of her face. "Excuse me miss, have you some water to spare? My throat is parched from this unusual heat and my bones ache from this weary path on which I travel." Caitlin reached for her sheepskin water pouch handing it to the woman and beckoned her to sit beside her.


    "Why is it you travel alone on this road? Have you no family? No Home?" The old woman stared into the distance slowly sipping the water as if choosing her next words ever so carefully.


    "I had a home and a family once but those days have long since passed. I once battled for the very soil upon which you sit. There are few left on this sacred Island who would be so kind to a Sean-Bhean Bhocht such as myself. Many fear wandering women as being Bean-Sidhe but I am not, they no longer roam this land freely as they once did. But because of your kindness I shall grant you the remaining powers of which I have left and I shall tell you of your future." Caitlin stared into the old woman's shapeless and colorless eyes spell bound by her melodious yet strong voice. "My dear Caitlin you shall be the savior of Eire and unite the four kingdoms. A time of great war and sadness shall soon befall my precious Emerald Isle and many good men shall be sent to the land of the gods. When the time comes you shall know what to do. If ever you fear you have not enough strength or courage to continue on your journey remember the power of the blessed Morrigan and you shall find her strength and light that dwells deep within your soul." The old woman stood brushing dirt off her thin brown dress and continued up the path until soon she was out of sight.


    Caitlin awoke to the hushed tone of the forest and the setting of the evening sun. Her mother would be furious of course but she would have to travel home and go to the market in the following morning as the sun would soon set and the path would become treacherous. Caitlin turned to return home but something inside her told her to go foreward and continue on her journey to Leitrim.




    The shadows grew long and the path narrowed but Caitlin continued on her way to Leitrim humming a tune she received from the forest. She felt a new sense of direction and her feet led her where the gods wished, her mind following far behind her soul. The trees called to her swaying in the wind and the animals gathered around her skirts. Her soul sang of freedom, freedom to roam the lands more wild than mustangs and fly as high as the strongest bird. A new song beat within her heart and she noticed not the setting of the sun for the moon soon began to light her path. The road narrowed until the darkness consumed her and finally her mind caught her feet and she realized she no longer walked the true path. Surrounded by the great oaks and fierce shadows fear caught in her throat as she sought the light of the moon, but no light dwelt within the great forest. If she attempted to find the path she risked travelling further into the growth and stumbling upon many a wild animal.


     Pounding reached her ears distracting her from her thoughts. At first Caitlin believed it to be the fear beating within her heart but soon she realized it came from within the trees themselves. The ancient trees beat with the blood of the earth and they were trying to tell her someone was nearing. A twig snapped behind Caitlin and she whirled around ready to scream and fight off her attacker. Hands grasped her arms holding her steady as she lashed out. "Please be still! I mean you no harm!" Caitlin squinted into the darkness barely discerning the shape of a large man.


    "Leave off of me! Let me go I say or I shall scream." Even without light she could feel the man smile and his chest began to rumble with laughter.


    "I begin' your pardon miss. I meant neither to frighten nor to harm. I merely stumbled upon you in the darkness. I have been separated from my men and the sun set leaving me helpless without light or steed. Have you any idea where we are?" Caitlin shrugged off the man's hands trying to place his aristocratic accent.


    "Where is it you hail from sir? Your accent is neither one I recognize nor one of any lowely country folk such as myself." She could feel the man stir uncomfortably and she wondered for a moment how even without the sense of sight she seemed to know exactly what the man was doing and feeling.


    "I mistress, am the ruler of these lands. King of Connachta, and descendant of Finn mac Cumhaill himself. I am Liam mac Cumhaill." As the man spoke these words the light of the full moon filtered through the trees and their branches seemed to bow in reverance and for the first time in Caitlin's life she felt as if she was led to this moment. Her dream from earlier that day came to her in clear focus and words brushed across her mind He is the one, the one who will lead you to your destiny.

© 2008 Brette Medb

Author's Note

Brette Medb
Caitlin Ni Uallachain is the Irish form of Kathleen Ni Houlihan who is represented in works by James Joyce, WB Yeats and many other Irish Nationalist writers as Ireland herself. She inspires men to fight for her and support her and she is sometimes called Sean-Bhean Bhocht which means Poor Old Woman. In this story I use Sean-Bhean Bhocht to actually represent an old woman but in this story she too fought for her country. The old woman I use was once apart of the Fianna, a mythical band of warriors for Ireland. And a Bean-Sidhe is a form of fairy that was and is thought in Ireland to roam the lands and take part in acts of mischief that also involve stealing children and men who stray off the path.

My Review

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Excellent tale, one I've never heard of before. You did a wonderful job of weaving a tale full of vivid imagery.
Again... excellent and well done. I'm glad I read this today.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

You, my dear, are brilliant. You have so much knowlege it always astounds me to come to your page and read your work.

This story is vibrant and descriptive and I really hope that you continue it.

Posted 10 Years Ago

We English have a history with the Irish as they say. :)) But we do love each other really, and where would English literature be without the great Irish writers. Your story drills right into the heart of Irishness. Ach, Ireland and Irishness will always be a mystery to me. But then it is a most enjoyable mystery. And I was out on the road with the old lady. I once had an Irish girlfriend from Tipperary who used to call me 'creature' pronouncing it 'craither'. Ach, happy days! Your story makes me want to be sipping a pint of Guinness in Killarny.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Your writing here is superb, transcending time through your lyrical prose. Just an awesome beginning for the depth of your story! Very well done! Look forward to reading more!

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Very enjoyable read and a wonderful story. You always write with such detail and passion it is always such a pleasure to be able to read your words. I like the Character you have chosen to write about. Such a mystical story that lies with in this piece.

Can't wait for more of it to unfold.

Great Job!!!!!

Posted 10 Years Ago

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5 Reviews
Added on April 11, 2008
Last Updated on April 11, 2008


Brette Medb
Brette Medb


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