‘Who so ever asks me of my birth – I will tell them l am born of Irish Princes who ruled in Donegal a thousand years ago; that l am descended from the High Kings of Ireland, and my name is from the Clan ÓDochartaigh!’

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More then 30 centuries ago, the Celts ventured westward.  Myths and history have traced them from the borderlands of Europe, through the Alps and Pyrenees to those offshore islands, of which Ireland is the most distant.   The westernmost of the Celtic peoples, the Gaels, called their new "Eiriu" or "Eire".  The Gaels were not the first inhabitants of Ireland, but it was the Gaels who shaped Ireland and were shaped by it, and in Ireland they became Irish.

An island ringed by mountains and cliffs, Ireland's people were encouraged  to think of themselves as a distinct people.  The Irish social and political system, based upon kinship, kept the country divided among its many clans, each under its own chief.  These tribal territories gradually grew into larger kingdoms, Ulster in the north, Munster in the south, Leinster in the east and Connacht in the west.  The high kingship of all of Ireland remained an elusive prize, held only intermittently.

The Inishowen Peninsula is triangular in shape, flanked on the east by Lough Foyle and on the west by Lough Swilly; projecting from the north coast into the Atlantic ocean is Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland. The landscape is composed of rugged mountains covered in blanket bog, terminating along the coast in steep cliffs or broad sweeps of sand. Flocks of sheep graze the stoney ground. In the fishing villages the traditional cabins are roofed with thatch, tied down with ropes against the wind.

The peninsula is named after a son of Niall of the nine hostages, Eoghain, who was a contemporary of St. Patrick in the fifth century. The Vikings made several raids but were expelled. By the fifteenth century the last ruling chieftain of Inishowen, Sir Cahir O’Doherty, was killed at Kilmacrennan  in 1608, opening the way to Sir Arthur Chichester, Englands Lord Deputy in Ireland.

In the north end of Buncrana (Bun Crannacha), a seaside resort in Donegal,  an old six-arched bridge spanning the Cranna River leads to the O’Doherty’s Keep.   Around 1410, castles were built at Burt, Inch, Elagh, Culmacatraine and Buncrana. In 1601 the O’Doherty’s Keep was described as being a small, two story castle, inhabited by Conor McGarret O’Doherty. In 1602 it was upgraded by Hugh Boy O’Doherty as an intended base for Spanish military aid that hoped to land at Inch. In 1608, after being insulted by the Governor of Derry, Sir Cahir O’Doherty, (the last Gaelic Chieften of Inis Eoghain), rallied his troops here as it was more secluded than his at Burt. He then marched south, captured Culmore Fort, and sacked Derry; the Governor of Derry paid with his life. Cahir was forced to withdraw and some months later he was killed. As a reprisal the Keep was burned, but the walls stood, and the interior was rebuilt soon after. The confiscated lands went to Sir Arthur Chichester who leased them to Sir Henry Vaughan. He modified the Keep and his family lived on here until the new castle was built in 1718.

In 1718, Buncrana Castle was built by George Vaughan, it was the earliest of the big houses in Inis Eoghain. The word ‘castle’ was used in this period for any large, non-ecclesiastical, stone building. Using stone from the old surrounding ‘bawn’ wall of O’Doherty’s Keep for its construction. It was erected on the original site of Buncrana, which had grown up in the shadow of the keep, Vaughan moved the town to its present location, where he laid out the main street and built Castle Bridge (a six-arched stone single lane bridge) in 1718. Wolfe Tone was held there when captured after the British/French naval battle off Donegal, before being taken to Derry (Londonderry) then on to Dublin. The castle is still a private house today. In the forecourt there is a gravestone in honor of Sir Cahir O’Doherty, and a plaque to Wolfe Tone.

There are many spellings of the surname DOUGHERTY. Regardless of which one you use there are at least a dozen versions apart from with or without the ‘O’. All of these, however, have their roots in the Finn River Valley, in Inishowen, in the beautiful county of Donegal. It is it is believed to be one of the oldest hereditary surnames, and translated from the Irish Gaelic it is commonly accepted to mean obstructive. There are some who claim that it means ‘The People of the Oak Houses’, but this is a rather recent development, and rejected by most Gaelic scholars with whom our editor has consulted. It is the most common name in Derry City and Co. Donegal, Ranking fifteenth in the list of 100 most common Irish surnames. The motto of our coat of arms is Ar nDuthchas (for my heritage). There is much evidence at hand show that this coat of arms can also be linked to the MacDevitt, McDaids, McDades and the Bradleys, to name a few.

The Ó Dochartaigh Clan originated in Inishowen and got their name from Dochartach, son and heir of Maongal, the grandson of Fianan, Lord of Inishowen, was the third son of Ceannfaola, prince of Tir Conaill, and the twelfth in lineal descent from Conall Gulban.

Early Chieftains of Inishowen
References to O' Doherty in the Annal of the Fours Masters
Irish History (an excellent site for the Irish History Buff)
Clan Links