Neil Doherty (b. ca.1881)

Dúbinn is a townland located high in the southern hills of Inishkeel parish in the shadow Carnaween mountain and it was here, in the early 1880s that Neil Doherty was born and raised, the youngest in family of three. We do not know if his parents, Thomas and Annie played music, though fiddlers in the Kilraine area included Frank McDyer, Neil Furey, while Paddy Gallagher (the Tae) was from Taobh Fhluich. It is likely that Paddy passed the tune ‘Neil Doherty’s jig’ to his son, John the Tae who recorded it for the series ‘Our Musical Heritage’ released by RTÉ in 1962. Neil was married to Mary Anne and their first child, Annie was born in Dúbinn in 1910. He and his family emigrated to Philadelphia sometime after 1911 and there he met players from his native county including Frank Meehan of Mountcharles, Charlie McDevitt and later a young Eugene O’Donnell, originally from Co. Derry. It is likely that Neil also came into contact with Glenties native and fiddler John Roarty, who had also emigrated to Philadelphia in the early years of the 20th century. Neil was highly regarded by the Cavan fiddler and composer Ed Reavy who described him as a ‘great Donegal fiddle player’, a ‘little known master of his trade’ and a ‘superb player of highlands’. Reavy formed a close friendship with Neil and visited his home every Saturday night for a period. Indeed, Neil was the inspiration for several Reavy compositions including the highland ‘Neil of the Glenties’ and the reel ‘The Letterkenny Blacksmith’. Neil’s son, John was also a fine fiddle player.

Neil Doherty playing a jig