Business in Dublin

It’s two years almost to the day since I was last in Dublin Town. I love the feeling of knowing my way around a little bit, at least once I’m at Bachelor’s Walk or O’Connell Street. Being back with Jack and Joanne is fun, their love of this city is infectious, and they show me how to see it and feel it below the surface of the ‘dirty ole town’.

Joanne is away to her dear friend Helen, soaking up her company. Meanwhile Jack and I have business to attend to. Tuesday is our first work day here and we have important people to see.

Claire Doohan is an Archivist at the Irish Folklore centre at University College Dublin, she is a Donegal native and could not have been more delightful. From one random email sent across the world we have connected over our shared passion for saving the heritage for those to come.

Claire had laid out lots of archive materials for us to enjoy; some with Donegal connections, others to do specifically with Dohertys. We spent a wonderful two hours together, talking about Walking to Donegal and archives and Co Donegal and all sorts of stories and storytelling.

I gave her a couple of our business cards, and then handed her the whole pile when she said she knows lots of Dohertys, thinking to myself “Of course you do!” We exchanged gifts, it was really touching and then we were off out to the sunshine.

The weather was beautiful, and Jack and I picnicked by the lake among the sculptures with the new students in week two of their academic year. A fossick about the bookshop yielded plenty, that will be my hardest discipline while we are here in Ireland. I love to see and touch the books that aren’t easily available in NZ, if at all.

I met with another colleague/friend who is a professor at UCD and Jack read the Irish Times and caught up on Brexit.

All day everything went smoothly and exactly to time. The public transport system of Dublin City was our best friend as we went about our adventures.

It’s exciting and heartening to see others get as excited about Walking to Donegal as we are.

We had a good and productive day, there are doors open and imaginations sparked, and we feel pleased and supported. No blisters or trip-ups to report to date as we press on with the Walk.

If you are interested to know more about Irish Folklore check out the National Folklore Collection; Claire co-hosts a really great podcast called Blúríní Béaloidis.

The stories are listening in …

Tuesday 28 August 2018

I woke up today after another night of dreams with a common theme of confusion, mischief, chaos, unpredictable and disconnected people, places and events.

It’s a quite uncomfortable, if somewhat exhausting, way to wake.

That’s two nights in a row.

Something’s up. But how to locate that “something”?

While I was out walking this morning, it came to me: “It’s the stories.”


Sometimes my intuition speaks loud and clear – if you spend any time with us on this journey you’ll get used to that.


It made perfect sense.

The mischief, the mix-ups, the confusion. Like little hot-spots of chaos.

This past week I’ve heard myself saying: “We’re not going on a trip … it’s a story-harvesting-mission”.

We’ve also been talking about how we can pinpoint the stories on a map.


What if those very same stories don’t want to be “harvested” or “pin-pointed”?


What if they have an energy and a life of their own?

Who are we to step boldly and stir up these stories that have laid quietly in their place?

It’s got me thinking.

About the ethics of story finding, story collecting, storytelling.


Just because the people in the story are long-dead doesn’t mean we can do whatever we will with the stories.
Even if our motivation is good.


Story telling is not a benign activity.

I’ve understood this in the context of the people in the story being alive. But what about times long past and people long ago laid to rest?


Jack and I have talked about The Ancestors and their interest in what we are attempting to do.

So, this week we are off to have a cuppa with Barney & Lizzie at their grave.

We started this project with a visit to them back in February 2018.

It’s time for an update chit-chat and seek their protection for this next leg of the journey.

Celtic ways of knowing.

I’ve been thinking about the TEDx talk our cousin Pip Desmond gave about Ethical Storytelling. You might like to check it out:



Kō Sarah Doherty ahau

In 2010 my uncle Jack and I were having lunch in the sun on the Nelson waterfront. My parents had not long died and Jack had been abruptly and prematurely thrust into the role of kaumātua (elder male) in our family. I asked Jack to take me to Ireland and show me where I come from; in 2012 we took that trip together with Jack’s wife, and my aunty, Joanne.

Only it wasn’t really a trip. It was a Pilgrimage to the Homeland.

I was so curious to know what was it like there? Which direction did the wind come from? What did the earth smell like in my hands? Where did the moon rise? Where were my maunga (mountain) and my awa (river)? What would it feel like?

Doherty Girls
Sarah, Kathy, Liz, Claire

I was born the third of four little blonde girls.  I grew up in New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s – a seminal period in the history of New Zealand. Car-less days, Spring Bok Tour, Nuclear Free NZ, Rogernomics, Homosexual Law Reform, Mother-of-all-Budgets. Politics were always part of any family gathering. My world view was formed through Catholic social teaching and I loved our school and parish and the sense of connection and belonging in our community.

I also had some sense of being ‘other’ – we were the kids that wore a uniform to school. We were picked on by the bullies on the corner; my mother’s mother armed us with taunts of our own and sent us out to stand up for ourselves and our Catholic heritage.

It was heritage, it still is heritage. Much more than religion or mass-going.

My first recollection of being Irish was around age 10 or so. I remember Dad and Jack telling us we were descended from High Kings of Ireland. Kind of an over-reach but I loved feeling royal and noble and it helped make sense of the very high standards of integrity and behaviour that we were raised with.

In 1988, as a young woman, I had my first encounter with not being ‘of this land’. I was at a large gathering for a few days, “Hui Whanau”, where we were exploring biculturalism and the pākehā (European New Zealander) response to tangata whenua (indigenous Māori) with the approaching 150-year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. I recall a confusing sense of being a refugee. I became very curious to understand, if I’m not indigenous here in New Zealand then where am I from? Where on Earth was I from? The land I was from.

At about this time I began to identify strongly as Irish Catholic. This is very different than being Roman Catholic and is as much a statement of ethnic identity as it is of religion, or spirituality.

There are lots of cultural similarities between tangata whenua (the Māori people in Aotearoa-New Zealand) and Ngāti Irish (ngāti is the prefix for a tribal group). I noticed more and more resonance with Māori culture as I began working in the community sector, in Education and ultimately in Government.

Māori people whakapapa (recite genealogy) back to a mountain and a river, always they identify to their place, the land, the whenua.

Increasingly I needed to know the mountain and the river.

When I got to Donegal I can’t explain how “at home” I felt. I can only say it was a DNA thing.

The deepest feeling in me was that I made sense. In Donegal I don’t laugh too loud, my temper is not too fiery, I am not too emotional or too philosophical, my skin is not too sun-sensitive. In Donegal I am not too much. Loving the wind and stones, needing privacy and connection at the same time, my deep love for family, for clann. In Donegal I make sense to me.

During that first visit I made sense to me in a most profound way that will never leave me.

Sarah & Jack hi res
Sarah at Te Wakaiti marae, supported by Jack, greeting with her pepeha. (Photo: Chris Hawker)

In 2012 I had the amazing privilege of travelling with Jack, our Chief Storyteller. I began to think of my sons and nephews and cousins, the young ones and the ones yet to be born. I want them to feel that sense of belonging, identity, connection, sense making.

I see the cost when people are adrift to themselves. This sense-making is about coming home to self.

We are Clann O’Dochartaigh and we are Walking to Donegal.

Now when I introduce myself I say:

Kō Slieve Snaght tōku maunga

(Slieve Snaght is my mountain)

Kō Crana tōku awa

(Crana is my river)

Nō te rohe o Inishowen ahau

(I am from the place of Inishowen)

Kō Clann O’Dochartaigh nō Arihi tōku Iwi

(The O’Dochartaigh Clann from Ireland are my people)

Kō Jennifer Hatchard me Paul Doherty tōku mātua

(Jennifer Hatchard and Paul Doherty are my parents)

Kō Sarah Doherty ahau

(I am Sarah Doherty)