Cathleen Ni Houlihan

The Cocktail: Irish Trashcan 

This week’s cocktail is a college favorite. Named for its color, and the load of crap that goes into it, it’s a guaranteed good time! I chose an Irish theme this week because tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day! And I love all things Irish, especially the men! I mean….the literature. 


  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz rum
  • 1 oz gin
  • 2 oz triple sec
  • 8 oz Red Bull
  • dash of blue curacao 

Directions: Fill a highball glass with ice. Add your vodka, rum, gin, and triple sec. Give it a little stir then add the Red Bull until the glass is nearly full. Add your dash of blue curacao and stir! Hold up your finished product and admire the lovely green color. 

I urge you to make this drink with the cheapest alcohol you can get your hands on. This is no time to reach for the good stuff. You’re mixing it with with Red Bull, and you will have a headache in the morning!

The Book: Catheen Ni Houlihan

This week’s selection is quite possibly the most Irish piece of literature, and one of my all time favorite little plays. Cathleen Ni Houlihan by William Butler Yeats is a one act play written to inspire Irish Nationalism. I was introduced to this play and Yeats while I studied abroad in England. I should clear that up, I did not meet William Butler Yeats, though, had I, I would have fainted. No, sadly he died he in 1939 and is no longer able to bless us with his strange and intriguing words. 

This week y’all get a little somethin extra. An Irish history lesson!! Don’t roll your eyes just yet, Irish history is really quite interesting and key to understanding Cathleen Ni Houlihan. The most important thing to know about our Celtic friends is that history and myth are one in the same for them. Magic was a very real part of their pagan belief system and those images of a mystical Ireland were squashed by the Catholic church; bIMG_0751ig surprise there. I point this out because Yeats was part of a movement called The Celtic Revival, a cause dedicated to bringing back the old world Ireland. In fact, most of Yeats’ early works were written to stir the political pot. So how does our play fit in to all of this? 

Well, the Norman Invasion of Britain and the surrounding isles started the whole damn thing. 1066 a Frenchman invaded what we know today as Great Britain and they set up camp there for quite some time. Of course, GB wasn’t enough, England wanted Ireland, so they took it. Cathleen Ni Houlihan takes place right in the middle of the The Irish Rebellion of 1798. This rebellion was inspired by the French and American Revolutions. The Irish wanted their country back from the oppressive hand of the British Monarchy. They tried for years and years, developing groups like the IRA to fight back. Actually, the arguments are still going on. That’s why Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and The Republic of Ireland is not. So Yeats and his friends didn’t really win, in fact, they lost big time. But c’est la vie. All their turmoil has translated to some of the most culturally rich literature in the world. 

So finally! We get to the play! We open in the house of a modest Irish family on the western coast near Killala. Peter and his wife Bridget are marveling over the fine suite their son will wear on his upcoming wedding day. It’s a typical family interaction two parents happy for their son Michael, an excited younger brother Patrick, and a blushing bride Delia. It’s an exciting day, Michael has just returned from speaking with the priest, everything was in order and everyone was happy. 

All of a sudden a lowly old woman comes hobbling toward the house. She knocks on the door and Michael lets her in. They ask what’s troubling her and she introduces herself as Cathleen, daughter of Houlihan (That’s what the “Ni” means apparently).  Any way, she begins to sing an eerie tune about a man who died for her. Michael becomes mesmerized by her story. They offer her food, and money, she wants neither. She needs a man to give himself to her wholly, to care for her. With each word she speaks, Michael becomes more and more entranced. She explains that her land has been taken from her; four beautiful fields. She has friends coming to help her get it back but she needs more help. By the time Cathleen Ni Houlihan is ready to leave, Michael has forgotten all about his bride, who shows up at the last moment as Michael runs after Cathleen toward the cheering battle cries in Killala. Michael’s family chases after him, but it’s no good. He has gone. Peter asks Patrick if he has seen a little old lady. Patrick replies with a no, but he did a beautiful young woman go by, and she had the walk of a queen. 

That’s where the play ends. Michael leaves everything behind for a little old lady. Though it will seem less random when we pick the play apart. Michael did not leave his family behind for a little old lady, he left his life for Ireland. In this play, Cathleen Ni Houlihan is Ireland, an old and tired lady whose land was stolen from her! Her four fields are the four Provinces of Ireland: Connacht, Leinster,Munster, and Ulster. And who has stolen her land? The British of course! She gathers young men from around the country to fight for her. Once men sacrifice their lives for Ireland, she will emerge lovely and new again, which is why Patrick doesn’t see an old woman at the end of the play, but a young woman with the walk of the queen.

Here’s to a happy and safe St. Patrick’s day!


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