Corcoran, Doreen (1934–2013), local historian, was born in Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, on 12 July 1934, the eldest child of William Luney and Roberta Luney (née Robinson). Doreen and her two brothers and sister were brought up in Greenisland, Co. Antrim, with visits to grandparents in the Glens of Antrim. She attended the local primary school and in September 1944 went to Methodist College Belfast, where she won prizes in English and history. In 1953 she came top in Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom Civil Service Commission examinations. She worked in London in the civil service for a time, and there met and in 1959 married John Xavier Wellington Patrick Corcoran (1926–75), then an archaeology student. Although born in Cheshire, John Corcoran was proud of his four Irish-born grandparents and of his Irish heritage. He was a Ph.D. student of the Dublin-born archaeologist Thomas G. E. ('Terence') Powell at Manchester (graduating in 1956); like his supervisor, John Corcoran became a specialist on Irish megalithic monuments, especially chambered graves, and on Celtic mythology and belief. In 1961 he took up a lectureship in the University of Glasgow, and subsequently excavated sites all over Britain and Ireland, and published widely. He died, aged forty-eight, in May 1975.
Doreen Corcoran had travelled along with her husband to digs and to conferences, and had developed wide interests in history and archaeology. When as a widow, she returned to live in Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, with their two daughters, she took jobs in the local library and in Hopefield School. She was a founder member of the Carrickfergus and District Historical Society, held all the honorary offices in that group, and was made life president from 1996. Her historical walking tours of Carrickfergus catered for visitors from near and far, and she published a well-reviewed book, A tour of east Antrim (1990), illustrated with historic photographs from the W. A. Green (1870-1958) collection in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
She joined a group of pioneering local historians, some from academia, who had come together in 1974 to establish the Federation for Ulster Local Studies. Co-opted onto the executive committee in 1978, she was secretary for two years and later chairman (1988–90). She researched and compiled twenty-six editions of Local History Link (1987–2000), sharing notifications of events and news with a readership of up to 10,000. Especially enthusiastic about community and cross-community projects, she recognised the importance of knowledge of local history and exposure to different elements of society as a corrective to bigotry. In the dismal years of the Troubles, her wider perspective and knowledge of the rest of the island was unusual and salutary.
It was on her initiative and with her ongoing commitment that links were created and maintained between the Ulster Federation and its counterpart in the Republic of Ireland, the Federation of Local History Societies. At a time when contacts between the two parts of Ireland were minimal at best, the two federations met in joint meetings and conferences, and even participated together in European trips which Corcoran helped plan and in which her expertise and leadership were important. As well as contributing articles on local history to newspapers and journals, she occasionally appeared on radio and television programmes. She was chosen as honorary vice-president of the federation in 2008.
Her most important work in the service of local history began when she was asked by James Hawthorne (qv), former controller of BBC Northern Ireland, to join the Ulster History Circle, which worked to increase public awareness of local historical figures through research and by lobbying for the erection of blue plaques on appropriate buildings. Thanks to newspaper and television coverage, Doreen Corcoran (as chairman, 1998–2009) became well-known throughout Northern Ireland, organising and speaking at scores of unveilings of plaques to many of Ulster's most distinguished figures.
She was a member of the Historic Buildings Council (1994–2000), the Historic Monuments Council (1994–2000) and the Ulster Archaeological Society, and a trustee of the Ulster Historical Foundation and of the Ulster History Trust. In 2009 her contribution to Ulster heritage and to the recording of Ulster's history was recognised when she was awarded the MBE.
Doreen Corcoran died on 3 August 2013; her funeral was to St Nicholas's parish church in Carrickfergus, an ancient church familiar to her over a lifetime of research and historical communication in her local region.