Ultán mac hUa Conchobair (d. 657), bishop at Ard Breccáin (Ardbraccan, Co. Meath) and to the Dál Conchobair branch of the Déisi in Mide, was the son of Rónán, son of Fintan. He is said to have been the uncle of St Brigit (qv), but that is hardly chronologically possible. He has been confused with Ultán son of Erc, a disciple of Declan (qv) of Ardmore, and with Ultán the scribe and illuminator of Lindisfarne, commemorated in a poem by Aethelwold.
Tírechán (qv), in his memorandum on Patrick (qv), states that he was a ‘fosterling and pupil’ of Ultán (§ III.i ) and obtained both written and oral information about Patrick from him (§§18.1, I, 6). In a quatrain on the saint, ‘Ultan loved his children, a prison round his thin side, and bathing in cold water in the cruel wind he loved’ – Cuimín of Connor seems to refer to his charity toward orphan children (who resulted from the great plague known as Buidhe Chonaill) and his propensity for bathing in cold water, so beloved of Irish ascetics.
He collected the miracles of Brigit into one book, and gave them to Broccán Clóen (qv), his disciple, telling him to turn them into verse. The poem attributed thus to Broccán is ‘Ní car Brigit’. The hymn ‘Brigit bé bithmaith’ is also attributed to Ultán, as is the Latin hymn ‘Christus in nostra insula’. But more notably all of Brigit's extant Lives may ultimately derive from Ultán's collection of her miracles (McCone).
He is commemorated in the martyrologies on 4 September. Among the saints linked to Ultán are Mochtae (Mauchteus (qv)) of Louth, whom he is supposed to have succeeded as abbot, and Mo-ninne (qv) of Killevy, the alleged author of a quatrain in his praise. The biographer of Berach (qv) presented Ultán, together with Finnian (qv) of Clonard, as an arbiter of disputes. The spread of his cult is likely to have reached north Co. Dublin, where an Ultán son of Bruidhghe is attested among the Tuath Tuirbhe, whence Turvey in the parishes of Lusk and Donabate.