Doyle & McDowell History
"Famous & Infamous Doyles"
A very brief look at the history of
Ireland and the Irish diaspora, with references from
historical records about some of the parts played
by members of the Doyle families.
1100's to 1640'S
Arms of The MacDowell's
An Irish Sept in Ulster
(Registered in Ulster Office BGA)
The McDowells arrive
The MeicDuibhghaill or the Macdougalls were descended from
their great ancestor, Somerled of Argyll in Scotland (died
1164). While there is considerable debate surrounding his
origins it is accepted that he was probably of Gaelo-Scandinavian
stock. The name Somerled itself is Scandinavian, meaning
'summer warrior'. By 1140 he was master of Arygll
and his wife was the daughter of King Olaf of Man.
Throughout his lifetime Somerled was at odds with the
expanding powers of the Scottish throne. In 1164 he fell
in battle and the annals record that his army had troops
from Ireland. It would seem the later MeicDuibhghaill were
descended from Somerled's son, Dugall. This Dugall is a
shadowy feature, however, the annals record him fighting
two battles in the Isle of Man in 1156 and 1158. Dugall
seemingly became king of Man while his father lived. Other
sons of Somerled were ancestors of the later MacRory's and
the MacDonalds. The descendants of Dugall continued
to rule their lands into the fourteenth-century. However,
they were increasingly being pressurised by the king of
Scots. It was not until Norway ceded Arygll and the
Western Isles to Scotland in 1266 did Dugall's descendants
fall fully within the ambit of the Scottish crown.
However, in the early fourteenth-century they
unsuccessfully opposed the rise of Robert Bruce, the
future king of Scotland. Most of their Scottish lands were
lost to Bruce's attacks. John Macdougal of Argyll sought
service with Edward II afterwards. Edward II made him an
admiral and ordered him to patrol the seas between Ulster
and Argyll. This John died penniless about 1318.
Subsequently the family was written out of Scottish
history or cast as traitors.
However, a branch of the family did settle in Ireland.
From the 1240s there was a substantial influx of hired
mercenary troops into Ireland from Scotland, who became
known as galloglass. Most of these MeicDuibhghaill took
service with the feuding O'Connor families in Connacht. A
MacDubhgaill fell in Ruaidhri O'Connor's victory over
MacWilliam Burke at Roscommon in 1377. More of this family
appear in William O'Kelly's retinue in 1419. A Turlough
MacDubhgall entered the service of Donal Reagh Kavanagh of
Ui Cheinnselaig in 1445. However, upon his return to
Connacht he was kidnapped and held for ransom by the
O'Farrells. The same Turlough seems to have been in
service to the MacReynolds of Longford in 1462-3, and his
sons were also in 1473. Turlough's son Donnogh was
captured in O'Connor Roe's defeat of 1520 and the Fiants
record his descendants living in O'Connor Roe's in
1592-93. The Fiants generally describe them as MacDowells
rather then O'Doyles and confirms their professional
soldier status within Gaelic society.
Between 1315 and 1318, the Scottish war in Great
Britain spilled into Ireland as Edward Bruce, in alliance
with Domhnall O Neil, King of Tir Eoghain, carried on a
three year campaign before Edward Bruce was defeated at
the Battle of Faughart in Louth. At the Battle of Athenry
in 1316, five Irish Kings were slain along with many Irish
Chieftains. In conjunction with the Famine of 1315-1317,
the Bruce campaigns devastated much of the land.
also show that in 1311 John O’Doyle was charged in
Waterford with way-laying John Christopher, a servant of
the Bishop of Lismore.
O’Doyle beat him up and robbed his purse.
O’Doyle was fined one Mark and released into the
custody of his Norman lord, Adarne son of Martin le Peur.
In 1313 Hercule Doyle of Cork was tried for
burning the Manor of Raymond son of Herbert in Fermoy.
The Jury found him guilty of this and other
misdeeds and sentenced him to be hanged
Over the next two hundred years integration between the
Anglo-Normans and native Irish was so successful that in
1336 the English Crown introduced the Statues of
Kilkenny which made intermarriage and the use of Irish
language and customs illegal. But it was too late, and
assimilation had gone too far. The Statues of Kilkenny
were passed in an unsuccessful attempt to stem the
increasing cooperation between the "Gaelicised"
Normans and the Irish Chiefs. The most significant gain
for the native rulers was not territory, but freedom.
In Leinster the leaders of Clans (including the Doyles)
had freedom of action as the Royal Government inadequately
filled the gap left by the former Lords of Leinster.
Ultimately, the winners in later medieval Ireland were
neither the English Crown nor the native Irish rulers, but
the Norman-Irish Lords and Earls. During the 15th Century
the area controlled by the English King shrank to an area
around Dublin, which was fortified, by an earthen
rampart, known as "The Pale". (Hence the
expression that something wild or uncivilised or beyond
control is "beyond the pale".) However,
intra-rivalries between the various Irish rulers diffused
much of their overall power.
In the 16th century, Henry VIII moved to reinforce
English control over his unruly neighbour. He was
particularly worried that France or Spain might use
Ireland as a base from which to attack England.
In 1534, Henry VIII tried to regain England’s
influence in Ireland. The principal power brokers in
Ireland, the Anglo-Norman FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare,
and nominally the representatives of the English Crown in
Ireland, were in open rebellion. Henry sought their
The Irish Countryside In Rebellion
He took all power away from the Earls of Kildare,
Norman noblemen who had long controlled English interests
in Ireland, and set up more direct control.
In 1534 the incumbent Earl of Kildare, "Silken
Thomas" FitzGerald, led a rebellion against Henry.
(His ancestor, John FitzThomas, Lord of Offaly, had been
created Earl of Kildare in 1316, and had at that time
received a grant of land from the English king. From this
beginning, the FitzGeralds had during the following two
hundred years built a sovereignty of great wealth and
power in Ireland.)
The story goes that in 1534, Garret Og, the father of
Silken Thomas, was meeting with Henry VIII in London. His
27-year-old son heard rumours that his father had been
executed. Silken Thomas gathered his father’s forces and
attacked Dublin and the English garrisons.
This rebellion ended tragically with Thomas, together
with five of his uncles, being executed in London at
Tyburn Hill in 1537. The FitzGerald estates were divided
among English settlers, and an English viceroy was also
appointed. Thus ended the House of Kildare, which was
never again to recover its former eminence and influence.
In 1541, Henry succeeded in having Ireland’s
Parliament declare him King of Ireland.
He established English laws in Ireland and tried, with
little success, to introduce Protestantism into the
country. When Henry broke with the Catholic Church, he
instigated the Protestant Reformation, which would
eventually set the deeply Catholic Irish on a collision
course with the zealously Protestant English.
From 1553 to 1558, the plantation of English and
Scottish settlers began in Northern Ireland, which is
"McDowell Country". Plantations were also
started closer to "Doyle Country" in western
Waterford and in sections of Counties Cork and Tipperary.
An Irish Gallowglass Swordsman attacks an English Light
When Henry’s daughter Elizabeth became Queen in 1558,
England’s control over Ireland was at a low ebb. Just
the year before, the first in a long series of rebellions
against English rule had broken out in Ulster. Although
not successful, this rebellion confirmed for Elizabeth
that more stringent measures would have to be taken to
stabilise English domination once and for all. English
jurisdiction was established in Connaught and Munster
despite a number of rebellions by the local ruling
families. The forests of Ireland were proving invaluable
as a source of wood for shipbuilding, and oak was turned
into charcoal for smelting ores. Strategically, too,
Ireland was important as a possible back door for an
invasion from England’s enemies in mainland Europe.
First she imposed the Anglican faith upon the hostile
Catholic population and then she began steadily expanding
the previously unsuccessful plantation system.
In 1571, another of the FitzGerald nobles led a further
revolt against English rule. The uprising sparked off a
savage war in Munster, during which the Province was laid
waste. It ended with further destruction of the FitzGerald
dynasty and the confiscation of what remained of their
The success of Elizabeth’s policies was borne out
when the survivors of the 1588 Spanish Armada were washed
up on the west coast of Ireland and were mostly massacred
by the local Irish sheriffs and their forces.
The thorn in Elizabeth’s side was Ulster, the last
outpost of the Irish Chiefs. Hugh O’Neill, Earl of
Tyrone, was the prime mover in the last serious assault on
English power in Ireland. As
a boy, Hugh O’Neill had been taken into the care of
Elizabeth’s viceroy, Sir Henry Sidney, and raised as an
English nobleman. After
returning to his native County Tyrone, he had shown his
loyalty by helping to suppress the Desmond rebellion in
1587 he was recognised as Earl of Tyrone, and was granted
extensive territory under the English Crown.
A year later, however, he ignored a government
order to execute survivors of the Spanish armada who
landed in Ireland, and in Dublin there were increasing
doubts about O’Neill’s loyalty.
The doubts were justified.
O’Neill was allowed to keep 600 men in arms at
the Queen’s expense, and by regularly changing them he
was able to train a substantial army.
A story is told of O’Neill ordering lead from
England to roof his new castle at Dungannon;
in reality it was for making bullets.
in Ireland, English government was tightening its grip.
In Connacht, the Gaelic lords had submitted to the
English Crown. In
Munster, following the defeat of the second Desmond
rebellion in 1583, English settlers had acquired
confiscated land. In
Ulster, though, there were no English settlers or
garrisons west of Lough Neagh.
With its mountains, lakes and forests, the region
was eminently defensible, and O’Neill found a vigorous
ally in Red Hugh O’Donnell of Tyrconnell, who had
escaped from imprisonment in Dublin.
In 1593, O’Neill took the now illegal Gaelic
title of “The O'Neill” and prepared to lead the Ulster
chiefs in defence of territory and religion.
From 1594, O’Neill moved into open conflict
with the English and thus began the Nine Years War
(1594-1603). He proved a courageous and crafty foe, and
the English forces stepped up their campaign against him,
but met with little success until 1601.
was a skilful commander, and his troops exploited the
difficult terrain to harry the English columns.
In 1595, he won a handsome victory at Clontibret,
near Monahan, over an army commanded by his
brother-in-law, Sir Henry Bagenal.
Bagenal was to lose his life during the Battle of
the Yellow Ford, on the River Blackwater, in 1598.
This was O’Neill’s greatest triumph.
The Irish rose up in rebellion in 1594 and defeated an
English army at the "Ford of Biscuits". However,
with the arrival from England in 1600 of the very capable
Lord Mountjoy as the new governor, the Irish rebellion
appeared to be undermined.
The Battle of Yellow Ford
In 1601 a Spanish fleet, backed by King Philip III,
landed in Ireland to assist the Irish rebellion with a
reinforcement of 3,800 Spanish troops. Unfortunately, the
Spanish anchored at Kinsale in County Cork, almost 480
kilometres from O’Neill’s territory. O’Neill was
forced to march south to join them, and after an
exhausting journey ended up fighting just outside Kinsale
in unfamiliar country. The rebellion suffered a crushing
blow when the Irish were defeated by the English forces
under Lord Mountjoy, and the Spanish army surrendered
following a siege at the Battle of Kinsale in December
The Battle of Kinsale was the end for O’Neill and for
Ulster. O'Donnell fled to Spain, but O'Neill returned to
Ireland. Although O’Neill and his forces made it back to
Ulster, their power was broken, and 15 months later in
1603 he surrendered to Lord Mountjoy and signed the Treaty
of Mellifont, handing over power and authority to the
English Crown. O’Neill was allowed to stay on in Ulster
on condition that he pledge allegiance to the English
Crown, which he did. However, despite a generous settlement in which
he retained his earldom, O’Neill found English rule
When JamesI succeeded Queen Elizabeth the First in
1603, he resumed the plantation of English and Scottish
settlers with a vengeance, especially in Northern Ireland.
in September 1607 a French ship sailed from the northern
harbour of Rathmullan in Lough Swilly.
On board were Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and
Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell, together with more
than 90 of their family and followers. This
was the "Flight of the Earls", and it left
Ulster leaderless and open to English rule. (These Irish
noblemen had been very prominent among the leaders of the
a number of frustrating years of subjugation and
harassment the Chiefs and Chieftains of Ulster left
Ireland forever. The ship was bound for Spain, but fierce storms forced them
to disembark in France in early October.
Thereafter they made their way to Rome, where they
remained in voluntary exile, and where O’Neill died in
“The Flight of the Earls” denuded Ulster of its Gaelic
aristocracy in 1607, the government took the opportunity
to confiscate 6 of the 9 Ulster counties.
The subsequent “plantation” of Ulster,
introducing Protestant settlers from England and Scotland,
laid the foundation of today’s divided island.
This English policy of colonialisation, known as
"plantation", was an organised and ambitious
expropriation of land, which sowed the seeds for the
division of Ulster that we see today. Huge swathes of land
were confiscated from the Irish and large numbers of new
settlers came from Scotland and England. They brought a
new way of life and a different religion. Unlike most
previous invaders, they didn’t intermarry with the
native Irish, and kept their culture and religion very
much to themselves. And so, living among these new
Protestant landowners was an impoverished and very angry
population of native Irish and "old English"
In 1610, the settlement in County Coleraine (Derry) by
a group of London livery companies caused the name of the
county to be changed by the English to
By 1622, more than 13,000 Protestants lived in Ulster.
By 1641 their population was over 100,000. Within 30 years
of the arrival of James’ first settlers, only slightly
more than 10% of Ulster still belonged to the Catholic
During Plantation most of the Irish remained on their
lands because the planters needed their labour, but they
remained as tenants rather than owners of their own land.
By 1641, the Irish revolted again, worried by
developments in England and Ireland and believing Charles
I to be pro-Catholic, these Irish and "old
English" Catholics took up arms. They established a
national parliament in Kilkenny, which stood not only for
independence but also for full liberty of religion and
A considerable number of new settlers were killed, and
many Catholics were also killed, in revenge.
the 1640’s James Doyle of Grange in County Meath was
accused of High Treason.
On the 7th of November 1642 Warrant was
issued for the arrest James by a military court in
Gormonstown in County Meath.
And, it was not just the men who did the fighting
... Elizabeth Doyle of Glassnevin in County Dublin was
outlawed at Killmain in County Dublin on the 18th
of November 1643.
Stories of the 1641 atrocities have been used in
anti-Catholic propaganda ever since.