Doherty: What’s in a name?

If you’re a Doherty, you could have a link to great sculptors or even Riverdance.

Variants: O’Doherty, Ó Dochartaigh

This common Irish surname originates in north of country, from County Donegal, where it is still most prevalent and holds a strong connection. Today, however, this widespread family name now has an estimated 140 different variations in spelling, and can be found all across globe.

As direct descendants of Cennfaeladgh, Prince of Tryconnell around 800 AD, it’s thought surname Dochartaigh was bestowed upon his great-grandson, christened Donal. The name is generally regarded to mean The Destroyer or Obstructive, and Donal is said to have earned moniker for his bravery in battle.

Quite apart from his talents on battlefield, Donal was first in his family to take a surname, and his own grandson, Donach, was in turn first to have taken Ó to his name (as was customary). Over years, variations in original spelling have seen a Scots version of Docherty, and an Irish version O’Dogherty, which is seen first in around 1600.

Variations found in U.S. include Daugherty, Daugheetee (found in West Virginia Mountains), and Daughtry, as used in Deep South and Western parts. Today most common spelling is anglicised Doherty in Ireland, and name is still most commonly found on Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal.

Dohertys of note in modern times include former World Champion snooker player Ken Doherty, or ‘Crafty Ken’ as he is known for his cautious tactics during play, and renowned sculptor Eamonn O’Doherty. His most famous public works have included Anna Livia Fountain (a.ka. Floozy in Jacuzzi) formerly on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, Emigrants on Waterloo Place, Derry, and Crann an Oirr (Tree of Gold) outside Dublin’s Central Bank.

It is also surname of co-founder of Irish danceshow phenomenon Riverdance, Moya Doherty. A former RTE (Irish television) producer, and with her husband John director of leading television production company Tyrone, Moya produced original television and theatrical production, and is now said to be one of Ireland’s richest businesswomen. Across Atlantic, Shannen Doherty of Beverly Hills 90210 fame was back on American television screens in 2010, in latest series of reality show Dancing With Stars.

– Shauna O’Halloran

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