My article this week is inspired by a very different topic to the usual agricultural writings.

As many people in the local area know at this stage, my eight-year-old niece Caitlin Strain was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Caitlin and her mother Eimear attended University Hospital Letterkenny on Thursday 18 February and after an MRI Caitlin, Eimear and her father Thomas were dealt this devastating news. That same evening Caitlin was transferred to Temple Street Children’s hospital where she continues to receive excellent care.

I know people all over the world get this news, all day, every day, but until it happens to your own family one really has no comprehension of how traumatic, overwhelming and devastating it can be.


Caitlin is an absolute dote of a wee girl. A wee doll with a huge personality and just the right amount of attitude. She never fails to bring a smile to my face every time I meet her.

The last time I saw her she was shouting out the door of the house to me saying: “James you’re invited to my birthday party and your whole family is invited.”

She’d had enough of the lockdown and had decided she was having a proper birthday party this year, no matter what.

Her eighth birthday was on Sunday 21 February and Caitlin celebrated it with her family outside Temple Street Hospital, saying later: “I had the best Birthday”.


Caitlin has had two surgeries since which were successful and the surgeons removed as much of the tumour as they could. She continues to make good progress in her recovery, with Eimear almost continually at her bedside and Thomas giving her a break whenever it is possible to do so.

The couple have four other gorgeous children to care for, so to say they have their hands full is a bit of an understatement.

Caitlin’s treatment will be long and difficult and the next step on the road to recovery is for her to travel to Germany to receive radiotherapy. She will spend eight weeks in Germany, of which two are for isolation before undergoing six weeks of treatment. This will be followed by chemotherapy back in Ireland.


Eimear’s brother and Caitlin’s uncle Fabian Gibson, along with Maria Barron (Strain) and Patricia McKinney have set up a GoFundMe page to help Caitlin and her family in her recovery.

The purpose of this page is to help with Caitlin’s medical expenses and help Thomas and Eimear with travel and accommodation cost as well as providing some financial support and security.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the medical team that are providing Caitlin with such excellent care and to thank everyone of their continued love and support towards Caitlin, her family and ourselves, her extended family.

The amount of well wishes, prayers and donations that I have received personally from people in the Inishowen and Donegal communities as well as much further afield is just overwhelming and on behalf of Caitlin and the rest of her family, we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

I would like to ask everyone to continue to support the fund and donate what they can. Every donation is greatly appreciated no matter the size. To donate to Caitlin’s online fundraiser, go to the GoFundMe page here.

Again everyone, heartfelt thanks for the support so far and please keep Caitlin in your prayers. This little girl is strong and a hell of a fighter, all she needs is a little help to get through this.