Call to move the Doherty stone

Grianan of Aileach at Burt. 3003JM65
Grianan of Aileach at Burt. 3003JM65

A leading Derry historian and campaigner has called for the inauguration stone of the Doherty Clan to be moved to Grianan Fort.

Fionnbarra O’Dochartaigh, who has previously written a history of the clan, made the call ahead of the City of Culture celebrations next year.

The stone is currently in the grounds of Belmont House school, which will soon undergo a major re-development. Mr O’Dochartaigh said the re-development provides an excellent opportunity to move the stone.

The Bogside-born author said: “At the Grianan Fort this great block of gneiss, about six foot square at the top, marked with the sculptured prints of two feet, each about ten inches long, is recorded as being blessed by St. Patrick. In the 5th century the saint converted the local pagan rulers and baptised them at the well, which remains outside its walls. Upon it once stood the chieftains of the Cineal-Owen (Tribe of Owen), including the O’Neill, O’Donnell, McLaughlin and O’Doherty dynasties.”

He continued: “Gaelic scribes write of it as the ‘Inauguration Stone’ which was moved from its original location at the Royal Palace, which was destroyed by the O’Briens in 1101. In those days its removal must have been a major task for the stone weighs some seven tons.”

Mr O’Dochartaigh expressed concerns that the historic stone could be unwittingly damaged during the redevelopment at Belmont and should be moved to Grianan.

“There it belongs, rather than remain isolated, unmarked and removed from view by the general public.

“It would undoubtedly become a major attraction for countless tourists and visitors to the pre-Christian temple, Grianan of Aileach, which when translated means “the stone temple of the Sun.”

The civil rights veteran also said it would be timely to move the stone now ahead of the inauguration of the next Doherty chieftain, which is expected to take place next year.