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Kathleen: The Celtic Knot

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Kathleen: The Celtic Knot is a book in the Girls of Many Lands series relating to Kathleen Murphy. It was released in 2003 and available with the doll and separately, but retired with the collection in 2005.


  • Kathleen Murphy
  • Tom Murphy
  • Alice Murphy
  • Patsy Murphy
  • Madge Murphy
  • Lily Murphy
  • Eddy Murphy
  • Mr. de Valera (Mentioned Only)
  • Polly
  • Sister Eucharia
  • Mother Rosario
  • Annie Ruane
  • Brigid Mullane
  • Tess O'Hara
  • Angela Doyle
  • Nell Carty
  • Shamy Macnamara
  • Mrs. Maguire
  • Mr. Frawley
  • Mrs. O'Brien

Chapter by Chapter Summary

Chapter 1: Late!

Kathleen is dreaming she is on the sea in a boat, when a voice wakes her up. She opens her eyes to see her mother, or Mam, quietly explaining she had to leave. Liz O'Brien needs Mam, who is an unofficial midwife for Dublin, where Kathleen lives. Mam has attended more births than anyone in the Liberties, which was a part of Dublin. Kathleen wonders why Mam would have to help Liz, who was a young, unmarried girl. Kathleen protests, but Mam wins with the saying "Children should be seen, and not heard." Kathleen says this was "the sentence [she] hated most in the world. [She] likes to be heard." Kathleen is simply brimming with curiosity, and has tons of questions she'd like to ask, like:

  • Where do stars go in the daytime?
  • Why does a woman's name change from Miss to Mrs. when she marries, but a man's doesn't?
  • Do nuns wear shoes?
  • If not, why not?
  • How come they make no sound when they walk?
  • If Mr. de Valera (Dev) was against the government in our Civil War and his side lost, then why was he in charge of the government?
  • If St. Patrick was a Catholic, how come the Protestants called their cathedral after him?

However, her biggest question was regarding Liz O'Brian and her baby. But Mam leaves, leaving Kathleen in charge of getting everyone ready for school. Kathleen can sleep for a few more hours, but has to get up at seven. However, Kathleen doesn't sleep. She gets up several times, and is surprised how slowly the time goes by. Eventually, she gets up, though. She throws open the blinds, and, with her sisters' protests, gives them a half hour more to sleep. Kathleen starts fixing up some porridge to eat, and wonders if she's cooking it right, as hers doesn't look anything like Mam's.

Kathleen goes back to her bedroom to dress, and Patsy, her younger sister asks where Mam is. Kathleen just says she's "out." Madge, another of Kathleen's sisters, comments on how she hates Monday's. Patsy agrees then asks what the strange smell is. To Kathleen's dismay, the porridge is completely ruined and the entire apartment smells horrible. Kathleen can't open the window, since it's broken and the family can't afford to pay for it, so she opens the door, though the neighbors will complain. Da comes in, trying to help Kathleen, and quickly forgives his daughter. Kathleen and Da joke around a little bit, but it's apparent the girls will have to go to school without breakfast. However, Da finds a small amount of bread, and, cut thin, everyone manages. Kathleen decides to try to fry it, though her father jokes it must be her birthday or something to have fried bread.

Kathleen races upstairs to check on her sisters. Patsy and Madge were almost done, but Lily, another of Kathleen's little sisters can't do her buttons and has her shoes on the wrong foot. Kathleen then tries to brush her sisters' hair, and puts in the ribbons, despite they're crying. At breakfast, Patsy spills grease all over her blouse, and Kathleen tries to find a new one. She can't, so Patsy must wear one of Kathleen's. She protests, saying she looks like a tinker, which is kind of like a hobo. After a stern lecture from her father, Patsy becomes even crankier. Later, Kathleen does find Patsy a blouse, which needs a quick washing.

Almost late for school, the dishes aren't done, but Da generously offers to do that for Kathleen. However, Kathleen decides to ask Da a questions that's been bothering her. Kathleen asks about where the stars go in daytime. In response, Da pulls out a candle and lights it in the middle of the room, with all the lights on. Da explains how the light from the sun makes it so the light from the stars isn't visible in comparison. Satisfied, Kathleen races out the door with Lily, Madge, and Patsy.

In the rush, Madge falls and cuts her knee. Despite the wails of Madge, Kathleen tries to clean it. The school bell gives its final clang as a nun walks towards the gates to lock it. Kathleen pushes Lily, Madge, and Patsy into the gate, but isn't able to get in herself. Kathleen protests that it isn't really not nine o' clock. Sister Eucharia, the nun, shows Kathleen her watch, which reads a few minutes after nine. The church tower, however, reads differently. Sister Eucharia is firm, and Kathleen realizes that this is her third time being late, which means she'd used up all her chances.

Chapter 2: Mother Rosario

Sister Eucharia immediately sends Kathleen to Mother Rosario's office. Mother Rosario asks Kathleen what she has to say for herself, and Kathleen apologizes. However, Mother Rosario asks if she has a good excuse. Kathleen struggles with whether or not to tell Mother Rosario. She feels that the Mother can't relate to her, with since they never had to deal with fussy, little sisters and little money, where every bit of food is precious. So, Kathleen gives the excuse that Madge fell and hurt her knee, which Kathleen was obliged to clean. Mother Rosario correctly guesses that this was because they were running late. Kathleen then tries to explain how all the little details added up to make her late - Patsy getting grease on her blouse, burning the porridge, her lack of sleep, etc. Mother Rosario promptly commands Kathleen to stop, and proceeds to say, "It seems to me, Kathleen, that you are blaming everyone but yourself here. Madge fell. Patsy tore her blouse. Your father-" She tries to continue, but is interrupted by Kathleen trying to explain that Patsy got grease on her blouse, as opposed to her tearing it. Mother Rosario becomes very angry, and again accuses Kathleeen of blaming everyone else. Kathleen tries to protest, which irritates Mother Rosario further, and eventually ends up crying. Kathleen understands that had she not asked Da about the stars, then they would have been on time. She expects her hands to be slapped with a belt, but is surprised when nothing happens. Mother Rosario kindly explains the slapping is unnecessary, but instead asks to speak to Kathleen's mother. She also comments on Kathleen's grooming. Since Kathleen spent her time brushing her sisters' hair, she had completely forgotten her own. Kathleen panics, and pleads for her mother to not be involved in the matter, and starts crying again. Mother Rosario gives Kathleen a tissue, and explains that she doesn't want to fuss at her mother, but just see if everything is alright at home. Kathleen keeps trying to talk the mother out of it, further deepening herself into trouble, but the nun has the last say and gives Kathleen a piece of candy. Mother Rosario assures Kathleen she won't upset her mother, but make sure everything is alright, and sends Kathleen on her way. However, Kathleen turns around and asks, "Mother, was Saint Patrick a Catholic? Only how come the Protestant cathedral is called after him?" Mother Rosario says that is too complicated for today. "She wasn't as bad as my mother, evading questions. At least she hadn't said, 'It's a mystery,' which is what nuns usually said when you asked them something about religion that they couldn't answer." Kathleen gives a sigh, but continues without complaining outwardly. She sucks on the candy as hard as she can, to shrink it so she can talk clearly to her teacher - Miss Glynn.

Chapter 3: Brown Bread

Chapter 4: Polly

Chapter 5: Flying

Chapter 6: The Letter

Chapter 7: A Plan

Chapter 8: The Conversion of Russia

Chapter 9: Miracles

Chapter 10: Bad News

Chapter 11: Scarlett O'Hara

Chapter 12: Cottage Industry

Chapter 13: Celtic Knots

Chapter 14: Curtains

Chapter 15: The Cake From Jacob's

Then and Now: Ireland

Discuses a girl's life in 1937 Ireland. Topics include:

  • The Celtic Revival
  • Ireland's Independence
  • Irish Civil War
  • Eamon de Valera ("Dev")
  • The Great Depression in Ireland
  • "The Liberties"
  • Feiseanna
  • Dancing Costumes
  • Ireland Today


In the back of Kathleen: The Celtic Knot, there are several pages that list all the Irish, or Gaelic, words used throughout the book. The pronunciations and words are only approximate, as some have a double meaning, and there are some Gaelic sounds that do not exist in the English language.

Items Associated With Kathleen: The Celtic Knot

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