Clan/Family Histories
- MacDowall of Galloway

[Note: this history of the MacDowalls of Galloway has been kindly provided by Scott MacDougald, a Vice President of Clan MacDougall Society of North America. You can find more on the MacDougalls and MacDowalls on the Clan MacDougall Society of North America Web site.]

The Macdowall name

Fergus D. H. Macdowall of Garthland is Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall and the MacDowalls are recognized as a clan by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.  Professor Fergus Macdowall is an Honorary President of the Clan MacDougall Society of North America.  Their Society has a strong membership of MacDowalls (often spelled in name variations such as McDowell as discussed below) who are anciently connected through "Prince" Fergus, Lord of Galloway, a contemporary ally, and grandfather-in-law of King Somerled of Argyll and the Isles.

The proper spelling of the clan name is MacDowall with the letter "D" capitalized.  The family originated in Galloway in what is now south west Scotland as descendants of Duegald who was a grandson of Prince Fergus of Galloway and the second son of Uchtred Lord of Galloway.  Duegald the eponymous founder of the family is mentioned in the Melrose Chronicle as having been killed in a battle in 1185 while supporting his older brother. 

For the next century Duegald's family were known as the Macdougalls in Galloway with their name spelt with a small letter "d".  They have no proven relation to the MacDougalls of Argyll though their shared original Gaelic name of "Mac Dou gall" meaning "son of the black stranger" suggests that both have a Norse heritage.  The name "Black Foreigner" or "Black Stranger" was the early Gaelic term or nickname for a Dane, later extended to other Norsemen and by Duegald's time it applied more generally to persons of Norse descent.  Duegald's descendants' family name of "Macdougall" came from adding the Gaelic prefix "Mac" meaning "son of" in front of his name.

On 7 July 1292 the family name spelling of Macdougall in Galloway was written in modified form to distinguish it from the Highland clan MacDougall of Argyll at a time when leaders of both were signing the oath of fealty known as the Ragman Roll as required of the Scottish nobility by King Edward I of England.  The Macdougall in Galloway family name spelling was modified when the letters "ug" were changed to "w" (i.e. "uu" pronounced "oo") in a Norman transliteration introduced under King Edward I of England.  However the Makerston branch of the family founded circa 1370 on the Borders in south east Scotland carried on for centuries using the original name of "Macdougal" or "Makdougal" always using the small letter "d'.

In later centuries the spellings of Macdowall with a capital "D" and also with the letter "e" as in "MacDowell" became common especially after some emigrated from Galloway across to nearby Ireland during the Plantations of Ulster in the early 1600's, and then later from Ireland on to North America.  As a result most of the members of the family now live in the United States where the "e" spelling is most commonly found but many other variant spellings of the name exist as well as discussed below.

Nowadays the names and spellings with or without the Mac, Mc, or M’ prefix within the Macdowall Kindred include many spelling variations of the surname including McDowell, MacDowel, Macdowal, MacDowyl, McDuyl, Macdoual, McDouall, M’Douall, MacDool, McDoll, Makdougal, Macdougall (the original ancient name of the MacDowalls) etc.  Other names within the MacDowalls include Dowall, Dugal, Dugle, Duwall, Duvall, M’Gowall, Wall, Wahl, etc.  and also Doyle, and O’Dowill.  The Britonic Kyles with Coull, McCoul, Coyle, Cole, and Dole are accepted territorially.  However these and many other variant name spellings are all considered part of the Kindred of MacDowall.  

History of the Clan

History indicates that Gille, the native Dalriadic Governor of the Western Isles under Norse suzerainty about the year 1000, was the great grandfather in the male line of Fergus Lord of Galloway.  Gille was also the ancestor on the distaff line of the Norse king Somerled of Argyll the father of Dougall the patronymic ancestor of the MacDougalls of Argyll.

Fergus of Galloway (1096-1161) was placed in training in the feudal court of England for the purpose of replacing the competing clan system of governance then in use for Gaels in southwestern Scotland. Implicit in this was the use of only the territorial name “de Gallouyia”, Galloway. In this context, however, he could have used the surname “MacGille”, and even the surname “MacDubh Gall” the “dark stranger” name which had been applied to the first Gaels under Norse influence settled on the Galloway coast.

About 1124 Fergus married Elizabeth, a daughter of HENRY I of England and he assumed the powerful Lordship of Galloway ruling a land coveted by both Scotland and England.  "Prince" Fergus was made the first feudal Lord of Galloway under King David I of Scotland. Their elder son Uchtred became the second feudal Lord of Galloway.  It was Uchtred’s second son Duegald (k. 1185) after whom the cadet branch of the House of ancient Galloway was patronymically written as Macdougall until 1292-6, after which time it appeared as “Macdowall” and was pronounced “Macdouall”.  In 1987, however, the Chief designated the spelling of the clan name as “Clan MacDowall” in honour of the style most clansmen today.

In the change of spelling of 1292 Duegald’s lineal successor Dougal Macdougall of Gairachloyne and his younger brother Fergus affixed their seals to the “Ragman Roll” of fealty to their fifth cousin King Edward I of England , who later knighted Dougal, and their names were inscribed on the Roll as Macdowyl and Macdowald.  In 1295 Dougal was granted a confirmatory charter to the lands of Gairachloyne / Garochloyne, Lougan / Logan and Eldrig / Elrig by his Baliol / Balliol fourth cousin King John I as Lord of Galloway.

This Sir Dougal and his heirs of two more generations led the defending forces of Galloway in the name of the Baliol Crown of Scotland for fifty years after King Robert I (Bruce) invaded Galloway in 1306. They were, however, comrades in battle and English captivity with King Robert I’s heir king David II in 1347.  Sir Dougal’s fourth grandson, Sir Fergus Macdowell of Makerstoun and of Garthland, also fought, was wounded, captured and ransomed in 1402 at the battle of Homildon Hill.  In 1414 he helped his nephew Thomas Macdowall, the previous Chief’s son and heir to receive a charter renewing to him the family’s old feudal baronies of Garochloyne, and Logan-Elrig, with Garthland as well. 

Original family archives were taken by EDWARD I of England, others were destroyed by ROBERT I and Edward Bruce, and everything left was eliminated by Sir Archibald Douglas as successive new Lords of Galloway.  Further losses of records occurred in the burning of Balzieland Tower of Patrick M'Douall of Logan in 1500, the pillage of Freugh in 1679 and in the fire at Preston Hall destroying Garthland records in 1686. Cognate sources, however, have helped to sketch the lineages with some highlights.

Uchtred Macdowall of Garthland and his heir Thomas, together with Charles McDouall of Logan, Gilbert Macdowall of Freugh and most male relations, were killed with JAMES IV of Scotland at the battle of Flodden in 1513.  John Macdowall of Garthland and Corswall and Fergus McDouall of Freugh were killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547.  The widely reputed Chief Uchtred Macdowall of Garthland and Uchtred the younger, defended cadet stirps in a feud with cousins, the Gordons of Lochinvar, and they were drawn into the Gowrie conspiracy of 1582 against JAMES VI who later made warrant to delete their summons.  The younger Uchtred then married Janet Gordon of Lochinvar and in 1598 he besieged the Kennedy Earl of Cassilis to obtain legal terms on feud properties the Earl had claimed by force of arms.

In 1613 Sir John Macdowall of Garthland was in the court of JAMES VI and petitioned for the restoration of the Lordship of Galloway that had been dormant in the Crown since the Douglas attainder in 1455. It was then achieved by his first cousin, Sir Alexander Stewart Lord Garlies as Earl of Galloway.  Sir John's son Sir James, a Commissioner of the Estates and an M.P. in 1644, raised men to suppress the Irish rebellion as did Alexander McDouall of Logan and Uchtred McDouall of Freugh and he took a force of the Scots army to relieve CHARLES I outside Newark where he was knighted in 1647.  John McDouall of Freugh was a high Royalist in support of CHARLES I and escaped from capture but his house "Balgreggan" and his fortalice "Castle MacDougall" were burnt with their records.  His grandson Patrick McDouall lost the Barony to John Graham of Claverhouse ("Bonnie Dundee") under protest to his martial law, but it was recovered by his son Patrick with a charter to the "Barony of McDougall alias Freugh" in 1707.

William Macdowall of Garthland, M.P. under WILLIAM and MARY, lost his family archives when lent to Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh whose house Preston Hall and all in it were destroyed by fire in 1686.  In 1725 Patrick McDouall of Freugh married the Crichton heiress, the Countess of Dumfries, which led to the listing of Freugh McDoualls as collaterals of the Stuart Marquess of Bute.  Similarly, the Macdowells or Makdougalls of Makerstoun became latent in 1722 when the heiress married Sir George Hay (Hay-Makdougal) whose heiress-granddaughter married Lieut. Gen. Sir Thomas Brisbane of that Ilk (Brisbane-Makdougal), 6th Governor of New South Wales, followed by their Aunt Ann Makdougal who married John Scott of Gala, and in 1920 the Barony of Makerstoun was sold to the progenitor of the Rt. Hon. Mary Lady Biddulph who restored the House in 1974.  

Col. William Macdowall of Castlesemple, brother of Patrick in the Garthland family who died at the battle of Ramilies after taking supplies to relieve the Darien Expedition, brought the West Indian sugar trade to Scotland in 1725.  His seven grandsons included William Macdowall of Garthland and Castlesemple, M.P. in five Reform Parliaments and King's Lieut. of Renfrewshire (1793-1810); James, Provost of Glasgow; Gen. Hay Macdowall, co-conqueror of Ceylon and Commander-in-Chief of the army in Madras, India; and Col. Day Hort Macdowall whose son, Lieut. Gen. Day Hort Macdowall of Garthland and Castlesemple, Col. of 'The Buffs', was followed by his nephew Capt. Day Hort Macdowall, M.P. for Prince Albert, Sask., Canada, who helped to subdue the Riel Rebellion; he died in 1927 not long before the McDoualls of Logan, Andrew and Nigel, who developed the Logan Botanical Garden but left that feudal barony without a McDouall heir.  His grandson, Professor Fergus Day Hort Macdowall, a Research Scientist for the Government of Canada, in Ottawa, re-matriculated Arms at the Lyon Court in 1987 as the Laird and Baron of the feudal baronies of Garthland and Castlesemple, Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall.  He was born in and retired to Victoria, B.C., Canada but retained the site of Garthland Castle (1211) at Garthland Mains near Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Scotland and the substitute estate of Garthland with seat at Barr Castle near Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

Names and Spellings

The migrations of the family to Ireland, North America and elsewhere led to many spellings and variations of the ancient family name Macdowall.  Nowadays the names and spellings with or without the Mac, Mc, or M' prefix within the MacDowall Kindred include McDowell, MacDowel, Macdowal, MacDowyl, McDuyl, Macdoual, McDouall, M'Douall, MacDool, McDoll, Makdougal, Macdougall, (the ancient name of the MacDowalls) etc. Other names within the MacDowalls include Dowall, Dugal, Dugle, Duwall, Duvall, M'Gowall, Wall, Wahl etc. and also Doyle, and O'Dowill. The Britonic Kyles with Coull, McCoul, Coyle, Cole, Dole are accepted territorially. However these and many other name spellings are all considered part of the Kindred of MacDowall.


Return to Index of Clans/Family Histories.

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line