Blue plaque honour for Derry Féis founder

image sourceDerry Journal
image captionMrs. Edward Henry (Rose) O'Doherty's contribution to cultural life in Derry has been described as "immeasurable"

The woman who founded one of Ireland's most noted celebrations of Gaelic culture has been honoured with a blue plaque outside her former home.

Mrs Edward Henry (Rose) O'Doherty was born in Derry in 1879.

With local clergyman Fr John Logue McGettigan, she founded Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle in 1922, just a year after Ireland's partition.

The Ulster History Circle plaque was unveiled at her former home in Francis Street.

image sourceUlster History Circle
image captionThe blue plaque was unveiled on Friday

Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Chris Spurr, said her contribution to the city's cultural history was "immeasurable."

"Mrs E.H. O'Doherty made her own unique mark on the musical history of the City when she helped found Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle nearly 100 years ago," he said.

The 'Derry Féis' was established with the aim of preserving the Irish traditions of music and dance in post partition Northern Ireland.

image sourceUlster History Circle
image captionThe plaque was unveiled in Francis Street

Thousands of children and young people have competed on the Féis stage over the last nine decades including many of the city's most famous sons and daughters.

Hollywood actress Roma Downey, Eurovision winner Dana, Nadine Coyle, Phil Coulter and Undertones' frontman Feargal Sharkey are among noted alumni.

image captionNadine Coyle is counted among the thousands of competitors to have taken part in the Derry Féis

Taught the piano at an early age by her mother, Rose had her formal music education at Boscombe College in Bournemouth, before returning to Derry in 1890.

In 1904, she married Edward Henry O'Doherty, a wealthy merchant, and would coach singers and pianists in the drawing room of their Derry home.

As the Féis became established as one of the most noted cultural celebrations on the island, 'Mrs. E.H.', as she was known, became a highly regarded and well-known name across Ireland.

Each year, she accompanied Féis participants on piano, always wearing a new hat especially to mark the annual occasion.

image sourceDerry Journal
image captionMrs EH (Rose) O'Doherty with Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle prizewinners, including her grand-daughter, Ursula (centre)

Current Féis musical secretary Pat MacCafferty - whose father James, is also synonymous with the Derry Féis- said Mrs E.H. was "the driving force of the Féis".

"She was a wonderful lady, without her the Féis just wouldn't have happened.

"It was a very troubled time. Fr McGettigan and Mrs O'Doherty felt they needed to preserve the culture, the song, the dance and the music of Ireland - that's why Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle was founded.

"They wanted to keep that part of our culture and they did it very successfully."

Mrs O'Doherty's grandson Cathal McCabe, a former head of music at Irish broadcaster RTÉ, unveilled the plaque at 29 Francis Street, on Friday.

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