Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
Doherty, Private William John (Johnnie), 4452
Private William John (Johnnie) Doherty, 4452, ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action at the Dardanelles on May 23, 1915 (Whit Sunday), aged only 19.
He was the eldest son of John and Sarah Doherty, 3, Ann Street, Lecky Road, Derry. His remains lie interred in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Turkey, and his name is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Johnnie Doherty was a former member of the St Columb’s Guilds and the Owen Roe O’Neill Band, and at a general meeting of the latter, held around June/July 1915, a vote of condolence was passed to Mr John Doherty, Ann Street, in the bereavement caused by the death of his son. At the time twenty-two members of the band were serving with the colours.
Tragedy was to re-visit the Doherty family five years after the death of Johnnie, when his brother, Bernard Doherty, an ex-soldier, was shot in Orchard Street on Sunday, May 16, 1920, and died within half-an-hour of receiving the wound in the chest. It appears that Doherty, who was accompanied by a friend, went up to Orchard Street during a lull in riotous firing that same night. Suddenly shots rang out again, and Doherty was struck in the chest. He turned and ran down the street, and, staggering along New Market Street, fell at Linenhall Street steps. People passing ran to Doherty’s assistance, and carried him down the steps to the house of William Simms. A priest was sent for, and quickly the Reverend L Hegarty arrived and administered last rites. Meantime the city ambulance came with Dr N Craig, and almost immediately Dr JN McLaughlin was on the scene. After an examination of Doherty the medical man declared that there was no hope of his recovery. About ten minutes after the departure of Father Hegarty, Doherty expired. Afterwards the body was removed in the ambulance to the residence of a relative, it being decided not to acquaint his mother of the tragedy, owing to the delicate state of her health. Bernard Doherty was gassed and wounded during the Great War. He was only twenty-one years of age.
On Tuesday, May 18, 1920, in the County Courthouse, an inquest was held by Mr JP Thompson, JP, deputy-coroner, concerning the death of Bernard Doherty.
Head Constable O’Donohue represented the Crown, and Mr James O’Doherty (for Mr Hugh C O’Doherty, junior), appeared for the next of kin of the deceased.
The first witness was John Doherty, Ann Street, father of the deceased, who gave evidence of identification. He last saw his son alive after tea, about seven o’clock, on the previous Sunday evening. At that time he left the house to go for a walk. He was in good health.
Head Constable O’Donohue – When you next saw him what state was he in?
John Doherty – He was dead.
The Deputy-Coroner – What hour was that?
John Doherty – About ten minutes past twelve. I got word that my son was wounded in the arm or leg, and I went to the Infirmary. He was not there, and hearing that a man answering his description was lying wounded in Linenhall Street, and had been attended by a priest, I went to the Parochial House, where I saw the servant who told me a young man named Doherty had been attended by Father Hegarty and a doctor in a house in Linenhall Street. I went to Linenhall Street, and on my way there met a man, who told me the boy was dead. At Linenhall Street I found him lying dead in the house of William Simms, to whom I am most thankful for everything he did.
John Doherty added that he had his son conveyed to a neighbour’s house, as he was afraid to remove him to his own residence. The deceased’s mother was ill and had been under the care of Doctor Craig for a couple of months, and witness feared the effect of the shock of her son’s death.
Patrick Starrs, 4, Moore Street, stated that on Sunday evening he went with Bernard Doherty for a walk. About 10.30, when they were at Moore Street, Doherty told Starrs he was going to see a lady friend home. They went as far as the Diamond, and stood speaking to two men, who said there was rioting in Carlisle Road.
Deputy-Coroner – Where did you go then?
Starrs – We went along Ferryquay Street to the head of Linenhall Street, where I met a young man named Donohue. Doherty went on down towards Ferryquay Gate. In about five minutes Donohue and I parted. He went by the Diamond. I remained standing with a little lad who was there. Just at that time two women came up Linenhall Street and said, ‘There is a young fellow lying down there wounded.’ I was speaking to a boy at the time, who said he wondered how he could get to Foyle Road. I said it would not be safe to go through Carlisle Road. It was at that time the girls came up, and the little boy and I ran down. We found a boy and girl standing over the man, who was lying on his side. I asked ‘Who is that?’ and when he heard my voice he said, ‘Paddy, I’m shot.’ We then carried him into the house of William Simms, in Linenhall Street. We opened his shirt, and found there was a bullet wound just below the heart. I with a little lad went for Doctor McLaughlin, and two girls went for the priest. We also sent two girls to tell the father.
John Deeny, 25, Lower Linenhall Street, said a few minutes after eleven o’clock on Sunday night he was standing at the head of the steps above his house. He saw a young man running around the corner of Newmarket Street. He fell on his knees, and, scrambling up, ran in the direction of Deeny. Deeny said he was standing with his wife talking to two men when Doherty fell at their feet. They lifted him up, and asked him what was wrong with him. He said, ‘I’m shot,’ and began rubbing his chest.
Doctor JN McLaughlin said he received a phone message after eleven o’clock on Sunday night informing him that a young man was shot and seriously ill at Linenhall Street. He proceeded immediately, and on arrival found that the man was in a very weak state, almost on the point of death. It was impossible to have him removed to the Infirmary, and nothing could be done to save him. Father Hegarty arrived before he died. Doctor McLaughlin added in conjunction with Dr Craig he made a post-mortem examination of the body.
Mr James O’Doherty, addressing the jury, said Doherty had come to Carlisle Road with the object of seeing a girl home, and went casually down in the direction of Ferryquay Gate. There was a crowd in that quarter. Who they were was not known, but they were there rioting and firing revolver shots. He wished to impress upon the jury that these men were armed with deadly weapons, and any man who fired a shot that night was morally, if not actually, guilty of murder. If a man pointed a revolver at another and fired, whether he missed or not, he was a murderer in his heart if not in deed. In this case someone had actually been a murderer. Who it was they did not know, but it was a fact that the shot had been fired to kill someone, and the man who fired it had his victim in front of him. Those who took part in the disturbances, no matter to what side they belonged, were all hooligans of the worst type, out with deadly weapons to kill, and he asked the jury to say that that unfortunate boy, the son of a very decent man, had been murdered – foully murdered – on the street.
Head Constable O’Donohue said he was personally very sorry that such suffering should have been caused to the deceased’s relatives. He had known the deceased’s father for fifteen years, and was always pleased to meet him, as he was a very respectable genial man. It was sad that such a deplorable crime should happen in the city. The police might yet find the guilty one. They had not let the matter drop, and he hoped someone would come forward and give evidence to convict the culprit of the crime.
The Coroner said the evidence was given very straightforwardly by the witnesses, who did not try to colour it in any way. There was a tremendous amount of rowdyism, hooliganism, and blackguardism indulged in for the last few nights in the city. He had expressed his views on the matter fairly plainly at the inquest on a gallant officer of the constabulary on the previous day. If respectable citizens of all creeds and classes would take the matter in hand and make up their minds to stop such conduct it would be stopped. If the authorities could not stamp it out the citizens could.
The jury returned the following verdict – We find that Bernard Doherty was wilfully murdered by some person or persons unknown by a bullet from a revolver, resulting in shock and internal haemorrhage.
A Mr Crossan, on behalf of the jury, expressed deep sympathy with the parents of the deceased. He was sure the father, a hard-working upright man, and the mother and sisters had the sympathy of the citizens.
A Mr Smith, Bishop Street, a Unionist, associated himself with the expressions of sympathy. Deceased’s family were very decent respectable people. He regarded the boy’s father as a personal friend, a man of most exemplary life, of whom he could not speak too highly. Mr Doherty had lost a son in the Dardanelles, and now the only other one was gone in this unfortunate way.
On Wednesday, May 19, 1920, the day following the inquest, the funeral of Bernard Doherty took place, from the residence of his father. The funeral cortege was very large, and along the route to the cemetery the streets were lined with sympathisers. The ex-soldiers, the dock-labourers, and other workers marched in four deep; and the two thousand who took part in the procession made an imposing display. The coffin containing the remains was carried to the cemetery by relays of ex-soldiers. A pitiful scene was witnessed before the start of the funeral procession, the deceased mother, who was ill, being assisted to the door by women to witness the departure of the cortege. She was weeping bitterly, as indeed were hundreds of other women and girls in the vicinity.