O'Doherty Clan History
Clann Ó Dochartaigh is an ancient Donegal family descended from the legendary kings and princes of Ireland. Our Irish Ó Dochartaigh ancestors were a tight knit community who farmed and fished, fiddled and danced, prayed and fought, and lived and died—together—for generations upon generations across the centuries in their cottages and castles nestled amongst the fertile glens and rugged mountains of their Donegal homeland.
An understanding of the Ó Dochartaigh Clann of yore is truly an understanding our own ancestors who were an integral part of that proud group descended from the legendary princes and kings of Ireland.
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Discover and celebrate your heritage—the name, heraldry, castles, homeland, and history of Clann Ó Dochartaigh! Clann Ó Dochartaigh is an ancient Donegal family descended from the legendary kings and princes of Ireland. Our Irish Ó Dochartaigh ancestors were a tight knit community who farmed and fished, fiddled and danced, prayed and fought, and lived and died—together—for generations upon generations across the centuries in their cottages and castles nestled amongst the fertile glens and rugged mountains of their homeland in County Donegal.
The name Ó Dochartaigh means "descendant of Dochartach". Dochartach was the circa 9th century legendary progenitor of our clann, whose name, meaning "hurtful", was likely given as an epithet or title of honor for his exploits in battle alongside his fellow clansmen. While Ó Dochartaigh is anglicized as O'Doherty today, ancient genealogies and modern genetics indicate other Donegal families—the McDevitt or McDaid, the McBride, the McMonagle, and perhaps even others are also closely related or even at one time bore the Ó Dochartaigh name!
Clann Ó Dochartaigh, known as an "ancient and valiant family", was a member of the powerful Uí Néill dynasty, descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, the semi-legendary 5th century high king of Ireland who captured the boy later known as Patrick on a raid. Legend has it that our ancestor Conall Gulban, Niall's son, was the first Irish ruler to be baptized when St. Patrick later returned to Ireland. The descendants of the warrior Dochartach, and likely those of his kinsmen also, adopted the surname Ó Dochartaigh within a number of generations after him, beginning one of the earliest existing hereditary surnames in history.
During the medieval period, the Ó Dochartaighs assumed lordship over the territory of Kinel-Enda (later known as the barony of Raphoe) and Ardmire (further west near Lough Finn) in Donegal. Near the dawn of the 13th century two notable Ó Dochartaighs ruled as kings of all Donegal. Soon after this, the Ó Dochartaighs, increasing in both power and numbers, moved their power base northward, where the family ruled as lords of Inishowen over the surrounding tribes for a number of centuries. During this time, a network of castles and keeps were built to defend the territory.
Sword reputed to
have been Sir Cahir
Ó Dogherty's, Tower Museum, Derry, N.I.
During the English conquest of Ireland in the 16th century, the Northern Uí Néill, among whom were the Ó Dochartaigh, were the last to submit. When they finally did, it was often used as a tool against opposing clans or to buy time to prepare for another rebellion. Near 1600 A.D., the Ó Dogherty and their comrades-in-arms the McDevitt were strengthening their fortresses, secretly making arms deals to import modern weaponry, and preparing to receive thousands of Spanish soldiers to assist with their rebellion against the English, but the Spanish didn't deliver. To protect his clansmen and their lands, with help of the McDevitts, the teenaged chieftain, Cahir Ó Dogherty, was allied to Sir Henry Docwra the English governor of Derry, who saw him as a son. After Cahir saved Docwra's life in battle, he was knighted and found incredible favor with the English both in Derry as well as in the royal court at London.
However, a new governor, Sir George Paulet, a politically incompetent man who coveted the Ó Dochartaigh lands, provoked the Clann into rebellion. Sir Cahir Ó Dogherty and his men burned the English fortification of Derry to the ground on the 19th of April 1608 and then fought bravely against the powerful English forces. Sadly, after 77 days, Sir Cahir was shot, drawn and quartered, and his head displayed on a pike by the English at Dublin Castle. The heroic Sir Cahir Ó Dogherty was the last remaining Gaelic chieftain of Ireland. With the last stronghold of ancient Gaelic society fallen in Ireland, this paved the way for the Ulster Plantation and subsequent conquest, though his sister Rosa returned from Spain to plan another rebellion in 1641. Despite hundreds of years having passed, our ancestral homeland is still as stunningly beautiful as in centuries bygone and the Gaelic culture has been revived in many areas of Donegal.
Our clann motto, "Ár nDúchas" (pronounced Arr NOO-hus, as the 'n' eclipses the 'D'), is oft translated "Our heritage". Thus we celebrate our rich heritage and memorialize the past glories of our ancestral kin. Perhaps you think of the Ó Dochartaigh heritage as our history; our homeland; the food, music, and stories we share when we're together; the love that connects us while we're apart; or maybe our resilient spirit. Conversely, our clann motto may also be translated as "Our inheritance", which is future oriented. Thus, we continue to preserve, protect, and pass on the strong spirit of family unity and resilience which has been cultivated since the days of yore amongst most our sept.
While we happily reminisce of our clann's former glory days, Clann Ó Dochartaigh stands resolute today at well over a quarter of a million strong. Working with the Association of Ó Dochartaighs, we seek to curate and bring the history of Clann Ó Dochartaigh to life, hoping to unite us in a deeper understanding and appreciation of our rich and truly amazing heritage and look toward an even brighter tomorrow where we honor the memories of those long gone by living the best that we can today.