The names Doyle (and in days gone by, O’Doyle)
stand high in the list of Irish surnames arranged in order of
numerical strength, holding twelfth place in Ireland. Though now
widely distributed it was always most closely associated with
the counties of southeast Leinster (Wicklow, Wexford, and
Carlow) in which it is chiefly found today. Of course, the
Doyles and O’Doyles are also prominent in and around other
Viking settlements in Ireland such as Dublin, Waterford, Cork,
Limerick, Galway, and Donegal. In the records of the fifteenth,
sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries this name also appears
prominently in these same areas. However, the Dowells &
McDowells are most common in Roscommon and Ulster, where they
first settled in the AD1200's.
The Doyle's are descendants of the Vikings, who
settled along the seacoast in pre-Norman times; and in fact the Doyle's
are and where always more numerous in areas adjacent to the sea
coast, which tends to confirm this view. DubhGall, it may
be mentioned, is the word used in early times to denote a
Norseman or a Scandinavian. One authority, however, Rev. John
Francis Shearman, asserts that the eponymous ancestor of the
east Leinster Doyles was DubhGilla (a Norseman),
son of Bruadar, King of Idrone (county Carlow), in the year 851AD. DubhGhall son of Amhlaibh (=Olaf), Prince of Leinster, was slain
at the Battle of Clontarf,
and Eoghan O DubhGaill is recorded in Waterford in 1291AD.
As DubhGhaill the name appears in the 'Annals of
the Four Masters' at various dates between
AD 978 and 1013.
However, it does not appear in works concerned with Irish
Genealogy, since the founder of the family is thought to be
descended from a Norseman who came to Ireland raiding and then
settled, before the Anglo-Norman invasions.
The Doyles organised themselves exactly like the other Irish
clans. Their war-cry 'Killole Abu', refers to a hill
of that name, near the present town of Arklow, where they
assembled for war.
It is sometimes also claimed that the Doyles are an
offshoot of the great Decies sept of O’Phelan.
McDowell family in Ireland are our “cousins”, and are
descended from the Danish Vikings who settled in Argyll and the
Western Islands of Scotland.
Their great ancestor was Somerled (a Viking word meaning
“summer warrior”) , he was the master of Argyll (on the west
coast of Scotland) and he was killed in battle against the Scots
in 1164AD. (Argyll
and the Western Isles were not ceeded to Scotland by the King of
Norway until 1266AD.) A
branch of this family settled in Ireland in the
Initially they served as “galloglass” (professional
mercenary soldiers) for the O’Conor Clans in the Province of
Connacht. For the
next 300 years or so, the McDowells are recorded in various
ancient Irish records as professional soldiers, serving a number
of different Irish Warlords in various parts of Ireland.
Following the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1690AD
many Doyles fled into exile with the 'Wild Geese', and
took up arms against England in the service of France, Spain,
and Austria. (There were 15 Irish regiments in the French Army
The Doyles have a long and illustrious history from medieval
times to the present day; they have been prominent in the
military*, the church, commerce, agriculture, engineering works,
arts, and sport.
*from the 17th century AD on they were numerous in the armies of
Europe and later Britain, where at one time there were six Doyles from Kilkenny all with the rank of Major General.
The stag’s head portrayed on the shields of those Doyle men
who have been granted heraldic Arms is regarded as a symbol of
Valour, Keenness, Permanence and Endurance. Despite the ravages
of man and time, this prince of animals is still a strong force
in the mountains of Wicklow.
(A history book on the Doyle Clan is currently being prepared
for future publication.)