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.
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.
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 finegarment in Donegal tartanor 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.