The Gaelic "dubh gall" means "dark stranger" and it may have distinguished the darker Danes from the fair-haired Norwegians.
The first Dougall (or more correctly Dugall) was descended from Somerled, Lord of the Isles, at a time when the Western Isles were part of Norway. He was given the islands of Mull, Jura, Tiree, Coll, Kerrara and parts of Argyll and Lorn. At that time the islands were part of Norway and the mainland was ruled by the king of Scots.
Dugall's sons accompanied King Haakon of Norway when he attacked the island of Bute in the Firth of Clyde. One of the sons, Duncan, was appointed by Haakon to govern all the islands stretching from the Isle of Man to Lewis. Duncan was the first to adopt the name MacDugall.
In 1263, when Haakon's fleet arrived on the west coast heading to attack Scotland further south, the MacDugalls declined to join them and later attacked part of the Norse fleet near Mull. Haakon was defeated at the Battle of Largs and the Western Isles were ceded to Scotland by the Treaty of Perth in 1266.
The MacDougalls were kinsmen of the Comyns (the 4th chief had married John Comyn's sister) who were the rivals of Robert the Bruce>. The MacDugalls fought against Bruce and Alastair MacDugall defeated him at a skirmish near Tyndrum. A reliquary brooch was ripped from Bruce as he made off - the Celtic "Brooch of Lorne" is still in the possession of the family. Alastair MacDugall later paid homage to Bruce but his son John supported King Edward of England. When Bruce became more established, he defeated the MacDugalls at Brander Pass and part of their territory was given to the Campbells. Later, when Robert the Steward became king, the MacDugalls came back in favour again and King David II> restored their mainland estates.
The MacDougalls built Ardchattan Priory and the clan chiefs were buried there until 1737. In the 15th century the MacDugalls were established around Oban and the coast south from there. The main castles of the MacDougalls were Dunstaffnage> (captured by Robert the Bruce and made a royal castle with the Campbells as keepers) and latterly Dunollie, near Oban (pictured here). John MacDougall of that Ilk, the 22nd chief, raised 500 men and fought at the Battle of Sheriffmuir> in the 1715 Jacobite Uprising. He narrowly escaped transportation. His son, Alexander, wisely refrained from joining the 1745 Uprising (as did the Campbells). In 1746 the MacDougalls abandoned Dunollie Castle and built nearby Dunollie House.
MacDougalls also became established in Galloway and in the 15th century a number of clan members moved to Ireland as soldiers and settled there. Their name changed to MacDowell while in Ireland.
The MacDougall clan motto is "Buaidh no bas" which means "To conquer or die".
Surnames regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the MacDougall clan include Conacher, Cowan, MacConacher, MacCoull, MacCowan, MacDulothe, MacHowell, MacLintock, MacLucas and Macoull.
There is a MacDougall clan Web site here> and here.
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