The O’Doherty Family

O'Doherty Family crest

(Crest No. 158. Plate 62.)

BY the Spanish plum’d hat, and the costly attire,

And the dark eye that’s blended of midnight and fire,

And the bearing and stature so princely and tall,

Sir Cahir you’ll know in the midst of them all.

Like an oak on the land, like a ship on the sea,

Like the eagle above, strong and haughty is he,

In the greenness of youth—yet he’s crowned as his due,

With the fear of the false, and the love of the true.

Right fiercely he swoops on their plundering hordes,

Right proudly he dares them, the proud English lords!

And darkly you’ll trace him by many a trail,

From the hills of the North to the heart of the Pale!

By red field, ruined keep, and fire-shrouded hall,

By the tramp of the charger o’er buttress and wall;

By the courage that springs in the breach of despair,

Like the bound of the lion erect from his lair!

O’Neill and O’Donnell, Maguire and the rest,

Have sheathed their saber, and lowered the crest;

O’Cahan is crushed, and McMahon is bound,

And Magennis slinks after the foe like his hound.

But high and untrimmed, o’er the valley and height,

Soars the proud sweeping pinion so young in its flight;

The toil and the danger are brav’d all alone,

By the fierce-taloned falcon of old Innishowen!

And thus runs the story—he fought and he fell,

Young, honor’d and brave—so the Seanachies tell;

The foremost of those who have guarded the “green,”

When men wrote their names with the sword and the skian!

Mary Eva Kelly.

THE O’Doherty family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the branch of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The O’Dochartaigh, or O’Dohertys, were a powerful sept, a branch of the O’Donnells, and became chiefs of Innishowen. The founder of the family was Conal Gulban, ancestor of the Northern Hy Nials, and son of Nial of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland, A. D. 379.

The ancient name was O’Donnell, and signifies “Grandson of the Destroyer.” The possessions of the sept were in the present Counties of Donegal and Mayo. O’Doherty, chief of Ard Miodhair, is mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, at A. D. 1197, as being chief of all Tirconnell.

The O’Dohertys were prominent in resisting the encroachments of the English and succeeded in maintaining their position as chiefs of Innishowen, and retaining possession of their estates, until the reign of James the First of England, when their lands were included in the six Ulster counties which that monarch confiscated from their owners, to bestow them on his indigent court favorites. By a sort of retributive justice many of the recipients of these stolen lands turned to be inveterate enemies of his family.

After the power of the chieftains of the North had been finally broken, and the Earls of Tyrone and Tirconnel had fled to the Continent the standard of resistance was once more raised by Cahir O’Doherty, a young chieftain of this family. He had suffered the spoliation of a part of his lands, and had been charged with rebellion by Sir George Paulett, the Governor of Derry, who publicly insulted him, and struck him in the face. O’Doherty at once raised the standard of rebellion, and took fearful and summary vengeance on his enemies. He proceeded by night to Culmore Fort, which he captured by stratagem. Having killed the garrison, he proceeded to Derry, which he also captured, where he slew his enemy, Paulett, and other English notables. He then sacked and burned the town. Being joined by some others of the Northern chieftains, he withstood the armies of England for five months, and was finally killed by a random shot, under the Rock of Doom near Kilmacrenan. His lands were given to Sir Arthur Chichester, the Lord Deputy, and other English adventurers. A contemporary writer describes this last of the O’Doherty chieftains as “a man to be marked among a thousand, a man of the loftiest and proudest bearing in Ulster; his Spanish hat with the heron’s plume was too often the terror of his enemies, and the rallying point of his friends, not to bespeak the O’Doherty. He was brave and chivalrous, faithful in his engagements, firm and prompt in the execution of his designs, but implacable in his resentments.”

Thomas Doherty, born about the middle of the last century, was one of the most distinguished special pleaders of his day, and was the author of many valuable legal works.

John Doherty, born in 1783, entered Parliament at the solicitation of Canning, where he soon won distinction through his ability and eloquence. He was subsequently appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.

A distinguished representative of this family is Dr. Kevin Izod O’Dougherty, now of Australia. He was one of the forty-eight men who, with O’Brien, Meagher, Mitchel, and others, were convicted of the crime of patriotism, and transported to Van Dieman’s land. After serving five years of degrading bondage among felons, he was “pardoned,” and remained in Australia, where he acquired fortune and professional and political honors.

The late Hon. Daniel Dougherty, of New York, one of the most eminent lawyers and eloquent orators of the day, was a descendant of this Irish family.

The MacDevitts, a numerous clan in the barony of Innishowen, in the County of Donegal, were a branch of the O’Dohertys. The ancestor of the McDevitt family was David O’Dogherty, who was slain in the year 1208, in a battle between O’Donnell More, chief of the Kinel-Connell, and Hugh O’Neil, chief of the Kinel-Owen.

Felim Reagh MacDevitt, the head of the MacDevitts of Innishowen, was a noted chieftain, under Hugh Roe O’Donnell, when the latter joined Hugh O’Neill, in his rebellion in 1595. O’Donnell, on one occasion, in the above mentioned year, laid an ambuscade near Sligo, for a troop of English horse, commanded by Captain Martin, a haughty young Englishman, and nephew of Sir Richard Bingham, the English Governor of Connaught. Having sent out a small squadron of horse to decoy the English, the latter pursued them. McDevitt having fallen behind, owing to the accidental laming of his horse, was compelled to disobey O’Donnell’s orders, namely, not to fight the English before reaching the ambuscade. Turning on his pursuers, the first he encountered was Captain Martin, who raised his arm to strike. McDevitt, by a chance shot, hit his antagonist with his javelin in the arm-pit, mortally wounding him. The Captain was covered with mail, except in the spot where he was wounded. The English, seeing their commander fall, ceased the pursuit, and returned with him. “O’Donnell,” says the chronicler, “on considering that the laming of McDevitt’s horse was accidental, and that it could not have been prevented by any precaution, suppressed his anger for the failure of the ambuscade; and his mind was much consoled on hearing of the death of the haughty young Englishman.”

This Felim Reagh McDevitt was the man who afterward burned the town of Derry, from which circumstance the McDevitts are to this day called “Burnderrys,” by their Presbyterian neighbors. They are still very numerous throughout the barony of lnnishowen, especially in the neighborhood of Londonderry.