A unique O’Doherty clan gathering at Ardmore

It never happened, no-one knows why and at this stage no-one ever will. But it was all put to right last weekend over 115 years later at Ardmore cemetery. A unique gathering of the descendants of an old Derry family came together to have a memorial dedicated to the memory of Charles O’Doherty and his wife Mary Ann and their eight children.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 4:00 pm
Members of the O'Doherty Clan pictured in Ardmore Cemetery, during a visit to the grave of their ancestor Charles ODoherty, who died in 1915. The visit to the cemetery was part of the O'Doherty Clan Reunion events held in the Beech Hill Hotel last weekend. DER4119GS  061

Joe Cauley, a great-grandson and one of Derry’s much loved entertainers, says that judging from the last will and testament of Charles, the family was comfortably well off.

“For whatever reason no-one managed to mark their final resting place and it has taken a long time for us to identify the grave, made all the more difficult because some of the church records were burned in a fire many years ago. We decided it would be right and fitting that we, their descendants, got together and had a gravestone erected in their memory. It was dedicated by their great, great grandson Fr Paul O’Boyle from Carlow.”

Charles O’Doherty was a well-known craftsman who fashioned Irish fiddles. Indeed, one he made has remained in the family which Joe brought along on Saturday. Mickey Joe Harte, of Eurovision fame and a great, great grandson of Charles and Mary Ann sang ‘The Mountains of Mourne,’ the words written by Percy French in 1896, contemporary to the couple.

Louis ODoherty, from Derry, pictured at the grave of his ancestor Charles ODoherty, who died in 1915, holds a violin that was made in 1870 by Charlas ODoherty The visit to the cemetery was part of the Doherty Clan Reunion events held in the Beech Hill Hotel last weekend. DER4119GS  062

This isn’t the first O’Doherty family gathering. In 1988 the Derry Journal reported ‘The biggest family gathering in Derry’ when over 200 direct descendants of Charles and Mary Ann gathered at St. Columb’s on Chapel Road in the Waterside.

At the gathering Fr John Doherty, a great grandson celebrated Mass and baby Pauric Gallen, a three times great grandson was baptised.

On that occasion, Joe Cauley and the late Paddy Harte, the Donegal TD, together managed to bring their relations from across the world before mobile phones were around or the internet .

Mary Harte, Paddy’s daughter, former Radio Foyle journalist, helped with last weekend’s event, which was attended by 80 descendants of the couple, including a namesake , seven-year-old Louis Charles O’Doherty.

According to Mary: “It was such a special occasion for everyone to be part of, in a happy way, to celebrate the sense of family, a sense of belonging and to remember those who have left us and to introduce new cousins to their roots in Derry - it’s important to know where you came from.”

Last weekend the cousins travelled from London, Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, and Donegal, everyone able to trace their family tree back to Charles and Mary Ann (nee Steen) . The couple married in 1864, most likely in Scotland where, according to the 1901 census, their first two children were born. They moved back to Derry and lived in Fountain Street in the Waterside. Their daughters, according to the 1901 census were all seamstresses, each married a local man: a Mailey, a Fitzpatrick, an O’Boyle, a Cauley, a Bradley, and a Morgan, while their sons Charles and Edward carried on the O’Doherty family name.

Most of the couple’s children remained in Derry with the O’Boyles moving to Dublin in the 1920s and the Morgan’s to England.

According to Mary Harte, “We know they are spread across the world today. A great excuse to send out the call for another big O’Doherty Clan gathering next year...”