Clan Macdowall

Clan Macdowall
Clan Macdowall
Crest badge
Clan member crest badge - Clan Macdowall.svg

Arms of Macdowall of Garthland.svg
Fergus Day Hort Macdowall of Garthland
The Chief of the Name and Arms of Macdowall
Seat Barr Castle, Garthland, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire[1]

Clan Macdowall is a Scottish clan. The clan claims to descend from the senior descendants in the male line of the princely house of Fergus, first of the ancient Lords of Galloway. The main branches of the family include the MacDowalls of Garthland, the Makdougals of Makerston, the MacDoualls of Logan, the MacDoualls of Freugh, and the MacDowalls of Machrimore.



Origins of the clan

The name MacDowall is a name connected with the ancient history of Galloway, a district in the south west of Scotland which took its name from the Gall-Gaidhel settlers of the seventh and eighth centuries. The area was settled by the Scotti or Irish Gaels during the invasions of the fourth century (Scotus was the Roman word for Irishman) pushing the native Picts further East. The area was then settled by Norwegian Vikings in the seventh century who merged with the Irish Gaelic Clans. Many legends exist in Galloway including the legend that Dovall of Galloway killed Nothatus the Tyrant in 230 BC. It is also said that the Royal House of Galloway resisted the Romans. The name MacDowall is generally accepted to mean "Son of Dougal" due to the transliteration of the "ug" in Dougall to "w" in Dowall, introduced under Edward I of England because of the difficulty incurred by the English in pronouncing the Gaelic version. MacDowall was later referred to as MacDowell, with the introduction of the Irish spelled "e".[2] Related family names are MacDougall, Doyle, O'Doyle, O'Doill and O' Dubhghaill.

The Lords of Galloway were very powerful. They scattered their ancient princedom with well endowed abbeys and priories.[3] The last of the native Lords of Galloway, Allen died in 1234. His daughter Dervorguilla married John Balliol, 5th Baron de Balliol, a member of the Balliol family who were lords of Barnard Castle. Their son, John, claimed Galloway through the right of his mother. He also claimed the throne of Scotland.

Balliol, Lord of Galloway had granted lands in Garthland to 'Dougal', a descendant of King Somerled and Fergus MacDoual, Balliol's own relation.[citation needed] These two men both appear on the Ragman Rolls of Scottish nobles who swore fealty to king Edward I of England. Dougals's grandson Fergus, third of Garthland was sheriff depute for Kirkcudbright during the reign of King David II of Scotland.

14th century

The Clan MacDowall, like their Clan MacDougall neighbours and allies, supported the Clan Comyn who were once the most powerful clan in Scotland and rivals to the Scottish throne of Robert the Bruce. Once Robert the Bruce had killed John the Red Comyn, chief of Comyns, the MacDowalls became mortal foes of the Bruces. The MacDowalls followed the MacDougalls into several battles against the Bruces until Sir Dougal was killed and dispossessed by the Bruces. The next generation of MacDowalls and MacDougalls changed sides many times but eventually became defenders of Scotland, loyal to the Bruces.

15th century

Fergus III of Garthland's grandson was Sir Fergus MacDowall, fifth Lord of Garthland who led the Clan MacDowall against the English at the Battle of Humbleton Hill where he was captured in 1402. This was also known as the Battle of Homildon.

16th century & Anglo-Scottish Wars

Uchtred MacDowall the 9th of Garthland married Isabel Gordon. During the Anglo-Scottish Wars Uchtred Macdowall led the Clan MacDowall at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513 against the English where both he and his son Thomas MacDowall were killed.[4]

John MacDowall the 11th of Garthland led the Clan MacDowall against the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.[5]

Uchtred MacDowall the 12th of Garthland was among those who were involved in the "Ruthern Raid" in 1582 led by the Clan Ruthven in which the young King James IV of Scotland was kidnapped and held at Ruthven Castle and later Edinburgh Castle.

The main migrations of the family name were to Ireland during the Plantations of Ulster, and then to America during the Irish potato famine as a result of which most members of the family now live in the United States.

The MacDowalls today

Today, Fergus MacDowall of Garthland is the Chief of the Name and Arms. The caput baroniae is at Garthland Mains on the Rhinns of Galloway. The present seat is at Barr Castle, Garthland, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire.[6]

Clan profile

Macdowall Tartan (STA Ref: 7260)
  • Clan chief: The current chief of the clan is Fergus Day Hort Macdowall of Garthland, Chief of the Name and Arms of Macdowall.[7]
  • Chiefly arms: The current chief's coat of arms is blazoned: azure, a lion rampant argent crowned of a ducal coronet Or; Supporters: (on a compartment consisting of rocks with plant badge, issuing from the sea proper) two lions rampant, each gorged of an antique crown Or; Crest: (issuant from a crest coronet Or) a lion's paw erased and erected proper holding a dagger point upwards proper, hilted and pommelled Or; Motto: vincere vel mori. The motto translates from Latin as "to conquer or die". The chief's heraldic standard is blazoned: azure, a St Andrew's Cross argent in the hoist and of two tracts azure and argent, upon which is depicted the badge three times along with the motto "vincere vel mori" in letters azure upon two transverse bands Or.[8]
  • Clan member's crest badge: The crest badge suitable for members of the clan contains the chief's heraldic crest and motto. The crest is: (issuant from a crest coronet Or) A lion's paw erased and erected proper holding a dagger point upwards proper, hilted and pommelled Or.[8] The motto is: vincere vel mori ("victory or death").[9]
  • Origin of the surname: The surname Macdowall and its variations are Anglicised forms of the Gaelic Mac Dubhghaill, meaning "son of Dubhghall". The Gaelic personal name Dubhghall means "dark stranger".[10]
  • Branch Families, Spets and other spellings connected to Macdowall: Coyle, Dole, Dougal, Dougall, Doyle, Dow, Dowdle, Dowall, Dowell, Dowler, Dowling, Dugle, Duvall, Duwall, Kyle, MacDewell, MacDill, MacDole, MacDool, MacDougall, McDougal, MacDouyl, M'Douwille, Macduoel, Mcdoual, Mcdoll, MacDowall, MacDowal, McDowall, McDowal, MacDowell, McDowell, MacDowile, MacDowile, MacDowile, MacDowilt, MacDuael, MacDuel, McDuhile, MacDull, Macduuyl, Macduyl, Makdougall, Makdull, Mcduwell, M'Gowall, Mactheuel (Reference: "The MacDowalls" by Fergus D.H. Macdowall and William L. MacDougall, 2009, Page 160)

See also

  • Clan MacDougall, a separate clan which also derives its name from the Gaelic Mac Dubhghaill


  1. ^ "MacDowalls of Galloway". Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  2. ^ The MacDowall Name in History published by
  3. ^ The Copper Inheritance: A History of the Kindred of McDowall of Scotland by Michael G. McDowall
  4. ^ Kightly, C., Flodden-the Anglo-Scots War of 1513, 1975
  5. ^ Famous Scottish battles, Philip Warner, Leo Cooper, London, 1975, ISBN 0-85052-487-3
  6. ^ Our Heritage | Clan MacDougall Society of North America
  7. ^ "Macdowall of Garthland, Chief of Macdowall". Burke's Peerage and Gentry. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "MacDowall". Archived from the original on 22 May 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  9. ^ "Clan Macdowall". Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs ( Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  10. ^ "McDowell Name Meaning and History". Retrieved 18 July 2009. 

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