A day out in Donegal

October 6 2018

We had a really busy day collecting the stories on the 6th.

Starting at Doon Rock early in the morning, with the clear morning air and the stunning autumn colours meant we began on a high note.

One of the things that I love the most about being in Ireland is walking in the footsteps of our ancestors – whether it’s the generation above me or hundreds of years previous. I feel their presence in my bone marrow, I guess you could say in my DNA.

The water in the Holy Wells is imbued with the same wairua, the same spirit – connecting me to them through the life force, the mauri.

Highlights this day included walking some of Saint Colmcille’s journey, his birthplace at Gartan and his place of learning at Kilmacrennan.

Doherty Keep and the Grianán both make my heart beat faster.

In the strange times of 2020, it is a deep and abiding comfort to recall these ancestral places.


Back home in Dublin – a quick walk around the block

Bachelors Walk signWhen the bus stopped outside the chapel on Bachelors Walk we paused to ‘pay a visit’, lighting a candle for blessings on us and our friends and families back in Aotearoa-New Zealand, the two entwined as always. A quick walk around the block and the sights and sounds of Dublin come tumbling back.

The tide was out on the Liffey, the thick lime green slime beckoning for a strong bleach! A young woman carrying a baby asks Jack for some euros and we crane necks peering up at our old shoe box apartment.

There’s time for a quick catch up with the ‘hags with the bags’ and we bustle alongside the lunch time walkers on the Ha’penny Bridge.

Hags with the Bags

A loud ‘eruption’ of inimitable Dublin street shouting comes from three women and yer man ‘giving out’ to each other, while the banner on the Liffey River wall asks us a pertinent question, ‘What would you ask yourself?’.

The river Liffey

I smile at the complexity and craic of Dublin, and love reliving it.

 Ring a ring a rosie, as the light declines,
I remember Dublin city in those rare auld times.

 There are changes too – the roadworks and excavations we lived through have borne fruit and the Luas is working up and down Henry Street. The ‘Hop On – Hop Off’ buses are now bright green and the faces rushing past me represent multiple ethnicities.
As we wait to catch the bus to Sandymount I say out loud several times ‘I would so love to come back and live here!’ while whispering quickly to my children and grandchildren in case they are listening ‘but I probably won’t!’

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.

We are walking to Donegal … again!

9 September 2018

Our bags were packed and waiting as we stood on the edge of Sunshine Bay at 3am on the first day of spring in Aotearoa – New Zealand. Stopping on the Gold Coast in Australia for two weeks on the way, means the canvas will change from blue to green when we arrive to an Irish autumn next Sunday.

I have found myself walking to Donegal several times in my life. The longest and most memorable walk was in 2001 with Jack and our daughter, Alice when we lived in Clachan Mor, Letterkenny for eight weeks. We were looking for work and while we waited for applications to be processed or overlooked, we explored Donegal. Our steps walked the hills of Donegal, including the top of Errigal. We have returned several times since, to places we love that have grown in significance for our Doherty family, and introduced them to our children, our nieces and our friends.

Carrickabraghy Castle
Carrickabraghy Castle

Bridge over the River Crana
Bridge over the River Crana

Mount Errigal
Mount Errigal


Inishowen holds the treasures we love – the ancient ring fort of Grianán of Aileach, the magnificent arched bridge over the River Crana that we walk across to the Doherty Keep, the winding road uphill to the Gap of Mamore, the stunning scenery of Malin head and the glimpses of the clan’s castle remnants at Inch, Greencastle, Burt and a family favourite, Carrickabraghy.

In Continuum
In Continuum by Stephen King, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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:



‘Because we are Dohertys!’

7 December 2017

It’s December 2017 and Sarah and Jack have excitedly landed on ‘Walking to Donegal’ as the right name for this significant Doherty project.

I sat ready with a pen and paper and listened to these proud clan members share their dreams and realities about being Doherty, about why they needed to share this treasure and about who with. I remember thinking ‘these talkers need a writer, so it’s just as well I am here!’

I glanced at the headlines I had scribbled on my paper – goals, objectives, milestones, risks, communications – the why, what, who, and how of project management. However, their talk was typical Doherty speak. It was punctuated with frequent new ideas, loud hoots of laughter and words like ‘why not? who else? or what else?’ Their risk strategy included phrases like ‘ of course we can’ or the simple explanation that covered everything else:

‘ because we are Dohertys!’

I had heard the vision being espoused by Jack since his life-changing trip to Ireland in 1993 so I was more than familiar with the content and purpose. Our time in Ireland with Sarah in 2012 meant the two of them were now fully engaged so where they would land was wildly unpredictable.

On the same afternoon, thinking of other types of yarns in our lives, Sarah and I wondered about whether ‘Walking to Donegal’ could literally, as well as figuratively, become  ‘weaving a Donegal tweed, stitching a fine garment in Donegal tartan or knitting a jersey in Doherty cables’

As the afternoon ended, a glass of wine was poured to toast the official ‘Walking to Donegal’ title. Jack knocked his glass over on the floor mat and grabbed a kitchen towel to march on and soak up the liquid. When we noticed the towel was a map of Ireland, we shrieked with laughter realising he was indeed ‘walking to Donegal’. It was a symbolic and memorable beginning.

In Continuum
In Continuum by Stephen King, Aotearoa/New Zealand

About Jewarne

Joanne pink jersey
Joanne Doherty

I was born Joanne Mary McPadden, a kiwi with several Irish great grandparents. My ancestors left the Counties of Leitrim, Donegal and Clare and arrived in Aotearoa-New Zealand, settling on the West Coast of the South Island. Their Irish cultural, spiritual and historical influences linger for many generations.

I first lived in New Plymouth by Mt Taranaki, probably travelling on the same train as Jack to Stratford for the St Patrick’s Day athletics. But it was when I was sixteen and a student at St Mary’s College in Wellington that I first knew I was Irish. I read Leon Uris’ ‘Trinity’ and knew deep within that this was so.

Marrying this Doherty man, Jack, 45 years ago remains one of the best decisions of my life.  We live and thrive in an ongoing adventure of five adult children, 12 grand children, wonderful families and friends and belonging to Te Wakaiti marae.

We shared Walking to Donegal after Jack’s first steps there. Being alongside him for the multiple steps since, and those about to be taken, is symbolic of our rich life together.

Being from Aotearoa-New Zealand provides me with a unique Pacific and cultural view of this walk to Donegal. Working and living with Māori who are steeped in their culture and know their whakapapa or clan genealogy, has led me to discover my own identity and going ‘home’ to Ireland has enormous momentum because I live here.

I have been known affectionately as Jewarne since writing about living in Donegal and Dublin, in ‘Mind y’self now, Jewarne’, published in 2005.  My reflections about this particular Walking to Donegal experience in 2018 will be recorded as Jewarne.

In Continuum
In Continuum by Stephen King, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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)

Becoming and Being Irish O’Dochartaigh in Aotearoa – New Zealand

Jack Doherty laughing

Born 1950 in New Plymouth under the gaze of Taranaki, my strongest early influence was Irish Catholicism. The Catholic theme dominated my upbringing and education, more than being Irish.  Even the annual St Patrick’s Day athletics in Stratford was all about the free train ride, the picnic lunch and the events with all the Catholic primary schools – and nothing to do with being Irish. Many of the teachers and priests were Irish born and on a missionary zeal in the South Pacific

The first time I realised I was Irish was on a St Patrick’s Day in New Plymouth. My father went off to work as a civil servant, proudly wearing a bright green ribbon on his jacket lapel. This was a profound statement linking him to a message his father, Barney, had passed on about being proud of who he was.

I completed my Catholic education as the Catholic Church was seeking to reform after the Vatican Council. I left with basic secondary school qualifications and a yearning to find out about what the world around me could teach me – things my teachers hadn’t.

Australia provided an environment that encouraged my development into manhood. The experiences were enjoyable as I began to learn I was a Kiwi. Old Australian First- and Second World War soldiers told me Kiwis had saved their lives and how honoured they were to be seen as their mates. My sense of being a Kiwi has always been enhanced by my overseas experiences more than at home.

When I first arrived in Australia, en route to Kings Cross, I dined with an expat uncle and aunty living at Bondi Beach. I remember his welcome and warning in a serious tone, ‘Enjoy yourself, son. There are many opportunities in this land. Just a word of warning, don’t go near the Aboriginals.’

Three weeks later I was farming on a large outback station and living with three Aboriginal brothers. My contact with these three men taught a naïve New Zealand boy that Australia had a deep secret. White Australia had a distrust and dislike of the indigenous Aboriginal people and I had my first experience of racism.

My parents, my Church, my schools and my community in New Zealand had never taught me about this topic. My life has never been the same, after this real life lesson.

Returning to New Zealand two years later, I lived with Hemi Baxter at Hiruharama, and eventually with a group of others, established Te Wakaiti in the South Wairarapa. My work with indigenous tangata whenua (the people of the land) was often preceded with two most significant questions,

Kō wai koe, Haki? Nō hea koe?’

‘Who are you, Jack? Where are you from?’

No one asked me this question more than Aunty Kahumanu Walker, a Tainui kuia (elderly woman) from Waahi Marae in Huntly who came to work at Te Wakaiti with the rangatahi (youth).

One day in 1993, I knew the answer to these two questions, in my heart and in every cell of my body. I was 43 years of age and part of a Commonwealth scholarship group being welcomed in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Paddy ‘Bogside’ Doherty, stood in front of us and called out, ‘Which one of you is the Doherty boy?’ I missed his call, not understanding his broad northern accent, and one of the Kiwis in our group nudged me saying, ‘Isn’t that you he is talking about?’

When he repeated his call, I stumbled to my feet nervously saying, ‘That’s me’.

Paddy looked across the room at me simply announcing, ‘Welcome home, boy.’

 He explained how Derry was the city of the Doherty’s and began to talk of his involvement in rebuilding Derry after The Troubles.

I was emotional and still cry 25 years later, at this man welcoming me home and telling me, once and for all, who I was and where I was from. I visited Paddy ‘Bogside’ whenever I was home in Ireland and now pay my respects at his grave in Derry.

In 2001, while living in Ireland, I was invited to summarise the presentations at a conference for 400 Irish nurses. I was introduced as ‘Jack Doherty from New Zealand, however, we all know that with a name like that, he is really a Donegal boy.’

Once again, I was claimed. I knew I was home, who I was and where I was from.

The conference was on empowerment so I shared my own personal ‘empowerment’ story as a patient in New Zealand. I was reeling with the side effects of my cancer treatment when the nurse asked if my surname Doherty was Irish or English? When I weakly whispered, ‘Irish’ she cheerily replied ‘Oh well, English – Irish, all the same.’ I sat up in bed, for the first time in three weeks, gasping, ‘No! It’s bloody not!’ I turned a corner in my recovery that day, realising my work was not complete, and once I recovered, decided to go and live in Ireland, rather than just be a tourist.

For two months I lived in Donegal – home!

On the surface it was hearing the pronunciation of my name, seeing the many different spellings, and the daily surprises noticing the numerous shop frontages owned by Doherty’s and reading the high percentage of people bearing this name in the local school roll or parish newsletters.

At a much deeper level it was learning the painful history of the Doherty clan in Inishowen in Donegal, visiting the castle ruins at Burt, Inch Island, Malin Head and Greencastle. Hours were spent and tears were shed wondering and wandering about the Grianan of Aileach, the Doherty Keep in Buncrana, knowing and feeling Sir Cahir O’Doherty’s clan defense at Doon Rock and coming to know significant tūpuna or ancestors like Columbcille.

Jack Doherty
Jack Doherty

I traced, followed and lived my own Doherty family history, meeting cousins whose grandparents were siblings to my own grandparents, reading old family letters written from New Zealand to Ireland and back again, and walking across the same field my grandfather had walked across as he left for New Zealand.

I cried for months and months. I know who I am and where I am from.

My answer to Aunty Kahumanu, and to my Māori whanau, friends and colleagues is simply this.

Kō Slieve Snaght te maunga 

 (Slieve Snaght is my mountain)

Kō Lough Swilly te moana

(Lough Swilly is my sea)

Nō Inishowen te whenua

(Inishowen is the land)

Nō Donegal tōku rohe

(Donegal is my region)

Kō O’Dochartaigh tōku iwi

(O’Dochartaigh is my clan)

Kō Columbcille me Sir Cahir O’Doherty ōku tūpuna

(Columcille and Sir Cahir O’Doherty are my ancestors)

Kō Doherty Aotearoa tōku whanau

(The New Zealand Dohertys are my family)

Kō Kevin Bernard Doherty tōku ingoa

(Kevin Bernard Doherty is my name)

Kō Jack Doherty āhau

(I am Jack)