Derry Feis founder to be honoured this week

Rose O'Doherty pictured in April 1965.
Rose O'Doherty pictured in April 1965.

The grandson of a founder of Feis Doire Colmcille, will unveil a blue plaque in her honour at her former home in the city later this week.

Cathal McCabe, retired Head of Music at RTE, will join the Ulster History Circle at the unveiling at 29 Francis Street, which was the home of his grandmother, music teacher Mrs. Edward Henry (Rose) O’Doherty.

The unveiling will take place this Friday at 11.30 a.m.

Rose O’Doherty (nee McCormick) was born in Ferryquay Street, in 1879, the daughter of merchant, William Henry McCormick and his second wife, Mary Jane McLaughlin, was a very musical child.

In 1904 Rose McCormick married Derry merchant, Edward Henry O’Doherty and went to live in 6 Upper Magazine Street where, in the drawing room of the house, she coached singers and pianists.

Following Partition in May I921, Rose O’Doherty and the Very Rev. Father McGettigan, decided to form a Feis so that the Gaelic culture would not be lost.

In 1922, the first Feis Doire Colmcille opened. Both the names of Mrs. Edward Henry O’Doherty or ‘Mrs. E.H.’ as she was became known throughout the island, and that of Father McGettigan, loom large in the history of this great Festival of Gaelic culture, which is held every Easter and is to the forefront of Feiseanna and is now in its 94th year.

The contribution made by Rose O’Doherty to the music of the city and its Irish culture, has been described as immeasurable.

She continued her musical involvement in teaching and was resident organist at St. Patrick’s Church, in Pennyburn. Every Easter at the Feis Doire Colmcille, Rose (wearing a new hat) accompanied the Feis participants on piano, and on numerous occasions she could always be found at the piano for recitals, plays and concerts. She remained involved in the Feis until she died in 1969.

Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Chris Spurr said: “Mrs. E.H. O’Doherty made her own unique mark on the musical history of the city when she helped found Feis Doire Colmcille nearly 100 years ago.

“The Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate ‛Mrs E.H.’ with a blue plaque at her home in Francis Street, and the Circle would especially like to thank Derry City and Strabane District Council for its financial support towards the plaque.”

29 Francis Street, is also the home in which Rose’s mother, Mary Jane, also a gifted musician, lived until her death in 1937. For a time Rose’s sister Sarah, who was also a musician, lived at No.27, while James MacCafferty who formed the Little Gaelic Singers and whose son Pat is today the musical secretary of the Feis Doire Colmcille. lived at 25, while Josef Locke lived just around the corner.