Doyle & McDowell History


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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 family.


1640's to the 1690's

Oliver Cromwell

The English Civil War kept most of the English busy at home for much of the 1640’s. In Ireland, the native Irish and Old English Catholics, allied under the 1641 Confederation of Kilkenny, supported Charles I against the Protestant parliamentarians in the hope of restoring Catholic power in the country. After Charles’ execution, the victorious Oliver Cromwell, leader of the parliamentarians, decided to go to Ireland and "sort them out".

England responded with great force, despatching an army of English Civil War veterans under the command of Oliver Cromwell.

Cromwellian Soldiers
Cromwell's Soldiers: All ruthless veterans of the English Civil War.
Artist: Angus McBride.


When Oliver Cromwell landed with his zealously Protestant troops at Dublin on 15th August 1649, the fate of the Catholic Irish was sealed. He rampaged through the country, leaving a trail of death behind him and shipping many of the defeated as slaves to the Caribbean. Under the Act of Settlement (1652) others were dispossessed and exiled to the harsh and infertile lands in the west of Ireland, in the province of Connaught. Two million hectares of land were confiscated - more than a quarter of the country - and handed over to Cromwell’s supporters, many of whom remained to settle the land.

This national revolt of the Irish people was brutally crushed by Oliver Cromwell between 1649 and 1650, its people murdered by the tens of thousands, the Catholic religion outlawed, and the rights of its native people reduced to little more than livestock.

By the time the English had completely subjugated the entire island in 1653, the combination of massacres, pestilence, and starvation had killed between half and two-thirds of the Irish people; untold thousands of others were shipped off into slavery in the American colonies and the West Indies. Those who could fled to the Continent, reminiscent of The Flight of the Earls earlier in the century. Cromwell’s tour of Ireland has never been forgotten.

In 1653 Colonel Edward Doyle, an Irish mercenary officer, was granted a licence by the English to recruit and transport 3,000 Irish soldiers to Flanders for service in the Spanish Army. (No doubt this was allowed by the English in order to be rid of another 3,000 Irish fighting men.)

Worse followed when the English Parliament declared that after the 1st of May 1654, under penalty of death, no Irish could live east of the River Shannon and only those who could prove they had not been rebels could own land west of the Shannon. All the lands east of the Shannon were divided among Protestant settlers.

In 1641 when The Rising began, nearly 80% of the land in Ireland belonged to Catholics. By the year 1665 only 20% remained in Catholic hands. By 1703, less than 5% of the land of Ulster was still in the hands of the Catholic Irish.

Map 1700AD


Records from this period show that Denis Doyle was, towards the close of the 16th century, proprietor of Girtin and other estates in the county of Wexford. He died in 1625 and his property devolved on his sister, Grace Doyle, who died in 1627. William Doyle succeeded to her as next of kin and heir-at-law. During the Cromwell times these estates were forfeited. James Doyle, the son of William made an unsuccessful effort to recover them, claiming by "an old though dormant title". He obtained, however, a perpetual lease of the estate of Kilconney from the Bagenals.

Following the massacres and confiscations of property by Cromwell in 1653, the landed gentry of Ireland had rapidly converted from that of the Irish and the Old English (Norman-Irish) to that of the Protestant New English. Lands in the provinces of Leinster, Munster, and Ulster were given to veterans of the Parliamentary Army and adventurers under Cromwell and Ireton. For those who could accept transplantation, Irish lands were reserved in the province of Connacht, excluding coastal lands and most of Counties Sligo and Leitrim.

Peter and Alan Dowell were tituladoes in the parish of Shankill, barony of Roscommon, in the census of 1659. Lismacdowell is in the adjoining parish. Colonel Luke Dowell was one of the county Roscommon Jacobites. His son, Denis, outlawed under William III, was wrongly returned as Donnell.


Following the collapse of the Cromwellian regime in December 1659, Charles II was proclaimed King after the restoration of the Monarchy in England. He kept his Catholic sympathies in check. His policies in Ireland resulted in further land settlement during the 1660’s.

Battle of the Boyne

By 1685 King James II (1633-1700), a Catholic, succeeded his brother Charles II. Under James II a more pro-Catholic policy was enacted in Ireland. His more open Catholicism raised English ire. As a result of Protestant nervousness, the English Parliament removed him from the throne in the bloodless "Glorious Revolution" of 1688. 

William of Orange was a Dutch-speaking Protestant married to King James’s daughter Mary, and he became King of England at the request of the English Parliament.  King James sought refuge with his old ally, King Louis XIV of France, who saw an opportunity to strike at William through Ireland.  He provided French officers and weapons for King James, who landed at Kinsale in March 1689.  The Lord Deputy of Ireland, the Earl of Tyrconnell, was a Catholic loyal to King James, and his Irish army controlled most of the island.  James quickly summoned a parliament, largely Catholic, which proceeded to repeal the legislation under which Protestant settlers had acquired land.

During the rule of Tyrconnell, the first Catholic Viceroy since the Reformation, Protestants had seen their influence eroded in the army, in the courts, and in civil government.  Only in Ulster did they offer effective resistance

In late 1688, with rumours spreading among Irish Protestants that Irish Catholics were about to rise in support of James II, the Protestant citizens of Derry heard that a Catholic regiment was to be stationed in their city. After furious debate among the local worthies, 13 apprentice boys purloined the keys to the city and slammed the gates in the face of James’s soldiers.

The siege of Derry (Londonderry) began in earnest in April, and ended after mass starvation with the arrival of William’s ships in July. The Protestant slogan "No Surrender!" dates from the siege, which acquired mythical status among Irish Protestants over the following centuries.

In April 1689, the city refused to surrender to James’s army, and survived the hardships of a 3 month siege before relief cam by sea.  The Protestants of Enniskillen defended their walled city with equal vigour, and won a number of victories over Catholic troops.  Eventually James withdrew from the northern province.

William could not ignore the threat from Ireland.  In August 1689 Field Marshal Schomberg landed at Bangor with 20,000 troops and, with Ulster secure, pushed south as far as Dundalk.  James’s army blocked further progress towards Dublin, but there was no battle and the two armies withdrew to winter quarters.  In March 1690 the Jacobite army was strengthened by 7,000 French regulars, by King Louis demanded over 5,000 Irish troops in return.  The Williamites were reinforced by Danish mercenaries and by English and Dutch regiments.  When William himself landed at Carrickfergus on 14 June, he was able to muster an army of 36,000 men.  He began the march towards Dublin.  There was some resistance near Newry, but the Jacobites soon withdrew to the south bank of the River Boyne.

In 1690 William landed in Ireland at Carrickfergus, just north of Belfast, with an army of 35,000 men to fight King James.

A great many Doyle men served in the Irish Army of the Catholic King James II during the Jacobite War of 1689, against the forces of William of Orange.

Initial research has so far found a Captain Doyle on the strength of the Westmeath Regiment. And, in Clifford’s Regiment of Dragoons, the Quartermaster and the Catholic Chaplain were both Doyle men.

The Battle of the Boyne was fought on 1 July 1690 at a fordable river bend 4 miles west of Drogheda.  The main body of Williamite infantry was concentrated on fording the river at the village of Oldbridge, which was approached by a deep and sheltering glen.  First, however, a detachment of cavalry and infantry made a flanking attack upstream, which forced James to divert troops to prevent his retreat being cut off.  William’s army was stronger by at least 10,000 men, but after these troops were drawn off he had a 3 to 1 superiority over the Jacobites in the main arena.  By mid-afternoon the Jacobite army was in retreat, outpaced by James himself, who rode to Dublin to warn the city of William’s approach.  James was in France before the month was out.  On 6 July William entered Dublin, where he gave thanks for the victory in Christ Church Cathedral.

The Battle was fought between Irish Catholics (led by James II, a Scot) and English Protestants (lead by William of Orange, a Dutchman). To make things more complicated; James was William’s uncle and his father-in-law. James II’s principal supporter was Louis XIV of France, and fear of growing French power led both the Catholic king of Spain and the Pope himself to back William and the Protestant side! King James’s Irish army of 23,000 were outnumbered and defeated. James II then fled Ireland for exile in Europe.

The Battle of the Boyne is recalled each July in the celebrations of the Orange Order, not on the first day but on “the Twelfth”, for 11 days were lost with the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.  It was not the end of the Williamite campaign, and King William had returned to England before the Dutch general Ginkel’s victory at Aughrim and the formal Irish surrender after the siege of Limerick in 1691.

The war ended with the Catholic leader Patrick Sarsfield signing the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. He and thousands of his troops went into exile in France where they served in the French army. The terms of the Treaty were satisfactory to the Irish, but were subsequently dishonoured and Limerick became known as the city of the violated treaty. The Treaty of Limerick was not ungenerous to the defeated Catholics, but they were soon to suffer from penal laws designed to reinforce Protestant ascendancy throughout Irish life.

Following the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion, during the period 1690 to 1730, it is estimated that as many as 120,000 Irishmen (many of whom were from the "Old Irish" and "Old English" military and gentry families) sailed for the safe haven of mainland Europe. Many of them stowed away on sailing ships that were smuggling wine from France to Ireland, and they became known as "The Wild Geese".

Records show that two of the “Wild Geese” leaving for France to continue the fight against England were Colonel Philip Doyle and Major Alexander Doyle... both of County Roscommon.


The Flag of Dillon's Regiment, Irish Brigade of France.


Irish Soldier
"Wild Geese" Soldier of Dillon's Regiment
in the French Army, 1735.
(All the Irish Regiments in French Service wore Red Coats to symbolize their status as the legitimate Jacobite Army of the Catholic Stuarts, who still claim to the crown of Britain)



In the Catholic countries of France, Spain, Austria, Portugal and Italy they were well received. They took up arms against England as volunteers in the military service of all of these countries. (There were 15 Irish regiments in the French Army alone.) They were natural soldiers, and soon occupied important positions within the armies of Europe. They later put their administrative talents to work in the courts of Europe. A good many of them settled in Europe, never to return to Ireland.

Far from defeating Irish Catholicism, the flight of "The Wild Geese" served to spread Irish influence throughout Europe.

 To send in details and illustrations
of interesting Doyles in these periods of history,
for consideration for inclusion in the Doyle & McDowell History Page.
Please contact us by e-mail

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 Last updated 30 April, 2001