The Exceptional John Doherty

Among the billions of ordinary souls, the world has had many exceptional people: people of great beauty, strength, intelligence, artistic talent, empathy, skill, etc. When telling a story and making a character sketch, the more unique qualities one ascribes to a real or fictional character, the more you are asking listeners to suspend their disbelief that such a rare person not only existed, but was a central figure in the events being retold.

Consider what Martin told us about John Doherty:

  • “…elegant, fine proportioned, between thirty and forty years of age, about six foot and an inch in height, with an uncommon appearance of muscle and strength…”. According to Martin, Doherty could be easily identified in a crowd from descriptions given in reward advertisements.
  • He was well-versed in many disciplines, except religion
  • Doherty was masterful at disguises: he could transform himself in an Anglican priest; a plain Quaker; a beggar; a servant; a soldier; an officer; a doctor; or a huntsman.
  • He lived by a moral code, taking from the rich and not molesting the poor; and would not kill or maim a man
  • He had been married five times under different names, and had acquired money through these unions
  • He had been a highwayman in Ireland, Scotland, and England for many years, but had never been captured; yet even when with Martin, he had to elude dragoons many times
  • He carried medicine with him him that allowed him to recover from a musket ball being removed from his calf with loss of blood; and knew what other medicines to get from an apothecary to treat the wound. While disguised as a doctor, he treated patients successfully.
  • He eluded imprisonment during his criminal career despite having one of the richest rewards on his head, retired on his own terms, and used his loot to assume a new life as a gentleman somewhere in the West Indies.

Pointing out all these unique aspects to John Doherty’s character is not intended to question whether such a person could have existed in real life.

But why is it that only Michael Martin related anything about him?

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