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Index of All Children's Stories

Kids' Ireland Library

The Countess Kathleen O'Shea
Edited and adapted by Bridget Haggerty*

NOTE: Not recommended for very young children

A very long time ago, there suddenly appeared in old Ireland two unknown merchants of whom nobody had ever heard, and who nevertheless spoke the language of the country with the greatest perfection.

At the inn where they stayed, an effort was made to discover what they were about, but it was in vain; they led a silent and retired life. And whilst they stayed there, they did nothing but count over and over again out of their money-bags pieces of gold, whose yellow brightness could be seen through the windows of their lodging.

"Gentlemen," said the landlady one day, "how is it that you are so rich and could help the poor hungry people and yet you do nothing.

"Fair hostess," replied one of them, "we didn't like to give money to the honest poor, in dread we might be deceived by make-believe paupers. Let want knock at our door, we shall open it."

The following day, when the rumour spread that two rich strangers had come, ready to give out their gold; a crowd besieged their dwelling; but the faces of those who came out were widely different. Some looked piously sad, others looked terribly ashamed; more than a few looked very frightened.

Here was the truth of it - the merchants traded in souls for the devil. A soul of an old wan was worth twenty pieces of gold, not a penny more; for the devil had had time to make his valuation. The soul of a matron was valued at fifty, when she was handsome, and a hundred when she was ugly. The soul of a young maiden fetched an extravagant sum; the freshest and purest flowers are the dearest.

At that time there lived in the city, a beautiful countess by the name of Kathleen O'Shea. She was the idol of the people and and an angel to the poor. As soon as she learned what these terrible merchants were doing, she called to her butler.

"Patrick," said she to him, "how many pieces of gold in my coffers?"

"A hundred thousand."

"How many jewels?"

"The money's worth of gold."

"How much property in castles, forests, and lands?"

"Double the rest."

"Very well, Patrick; sell all that is not gold; and bring me the account. I only wish to keep this mansion and the land that surrounds it."

Two days afterwards the orders of the pious Kathleen were carried out and the treasure was distributed to the poor in proportion to their wants. This, says the tradition, did not suit the purposes of the evil merchants , who found no more souls to purchase. Aided by a vile servant, they broke into the mansion of the noble lady and stole from her the rest of her treasure. In vain she struggled with all her strength to save the contents of her coffers; but the diabolical thieves were the stronger. If Kathleen had been able to make the sign of the Cross, adds the legend, she would have put them to flight, but her hands were tied. The theft was successfully completed.

Now, when the famished poor called on the plundered Kathleen to help them; alas, to no good: she was unable to relieve their misery and she had to abandon them to the temptation offered by the evil traders.

Meanwhile, but eight days had to pass before grain for the bread and hay for the cows and pigs would arrive in abundance from the western lands. Eight days was a long, long time, when there was such a terrible shortage of food in the city. Eight days required an immense sum to buy what little food there was; the poor should either perish in the agonies of hunger, or, denying their faith, sell for mere money, their immortal souls, the richest gift from the bounteous hand of Almighty God. And Kathleen had nothing left to give. She passed many hours in tears and mourning, but then she stood up, determined to carry out an idea that had come into her head. She went to the merchants who traded in souls. "What do you want?" they said.
"You buy souls?" "Yes, a few still, in spite of you. Isn't that so, angel - or is it saint , with the eyes of sapphire?"

"Today I am come to offer you a bargain," replied she.


"I have a soul to sell, but it is costly."

"What makes it so precious? The soul, like the diamond, is appraised by its transparency."

"It is mine."

The two emissaries of the devil were startled. Their fingers clutched like claws under their gloves of leather; their black eyes sparkled; the soul, pure, spotless, angelic soul l of the Countess Kathleen O'Shea - it was a priceless acquisition!

"Beauteous lady, how much do you ask?"

"A hundred and fifty thousand pieces of gold."

"Sign this paper and it's yours" replied the traders, and they gave Kathleen a parchment sealed with black, which she signed with a shudder.

The sum was counted out to her.

As soon as she got home she said to the butler, "Here, distribute this; with this money that I give you the poor can tide over the eight days that remain, and not one of their souls will be sold."

Afterwards she shut herself up in her room, and gave orders that none should disturb her.

Three days passed; she called nobody, she did not come out.

When the door was opened, they found her cold and stiff; she was dead of grief.

But the sale of this soul, so noble in its charity, was declared null and void by the Lord; for she had saved her fellow-citizens from hunger on earth and the eternal fires of hell.

After the eight days had passed, numerous vessels brought into famished Ireland immense provisions. Hunger was no longer possible. As to the two traders, they disappeared from the inn without a trace and no-one knew what became of them. But the fishermen of the Blackwater pretend that they are chained together in a prison under the sea by order of the devil, until they shall be able to render up the soul of Countess Kathleen O'Shea, which escaped from them.

* NOTE: This story first appeared in an Irish newspaper many, many years ago. No-one seems to know who wrote it or when.

Countess: Shauna, Princess of Blarney Castle From the Franklin Mint

Kids Reading - from All Posters
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Wed, Jan 3, 2018

FOTA Wildlife Park

Only 10,000 cheetahs remain in their natural habitat and Fota Wildlife Park in Co. Cork, Ireland, is the world's leading breeder of this endangered species. Fota is among the most modern wildlife parks in Europe. It was opened in 1983 and has more than 70 species living in natural open surroundings with no obvious barriers. Only the cheetahs are behind fences.
Another species which is being saved from extinction at Fota is the white tailed sea eagle. It disappeared from Ireland in the early 1900's, but is now being bred at the park and re-introduced to the wild in Co. Kerry.
Fota is open to the public in the summer and is very popular with Irish families, as well as tourists.

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"No man ever wore a cravat as nice, as his own child's arm around his neck."
- Irish Proverb

The Last Wolf in Ireland
by Elona Malterre

In Ireland in the 1780s, a young boy and girl who find a wolf's den in the forest vow to protect the animals from the superstitious townspeople and the greed of the hunters. Rave reviews including this one from Booklist:
"Convincing characters, tense action, and powerful conflicts makethis book an outstanding choice."
To learn more or to purchase, please click The Last Wolf in ireland.

Children's Irish Dictionary
by Hippocrene Books

As a total beginner in Irish, this has taught me quite a few words. The illustrations are beautifully done, and best of all, each word is given a rough English spelling of its pronunciation. Edited from an amazon review.
Click here for Kid's Irish Dictionary.

A lovely collection of well known Irish songs from the turn of the twentieth century. This album was created as a gift to MaryLee's Nana, Rose Burke Duval. The first half are songs well known to grandparents and the second half are original and traditional songs for children.

Click here for Irish Songs.


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March 4, 2011
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