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.


1690's to 1790's

Penal Times

The Treaty of Limerick contained quite generous terms of surrender for the Catholics, but these were largely ignored, and replaced by a harsh regime of penal laws. 1695 marks the beginning of penal legislation against Catholics and Dissenters in Ireland.

Between 1695 and 1728 a series of Acts of Parliament were passed by a Protestant gentry anxious to consolidate their powers and worried that Louis XIV of France might attempt an invasion of Ireland. Also known as a "popery code", these laws forbade Irish Catholics from practicing their faith or bringing their children up in their own religion, and the vast majority of wealthy Catholics were stripped of their wealth, their positions, their estates and their homes, leaving them as paupers. The Penal Acts prevented Catholics from bearing arms and owning horses worth more than 5 Pounds. Their right to education was restricted, they were stopped from buying land, and on death, Catholic property must be divided among all sons. Catholics were banned from serving in the army or the navy, holding public office, entering the legal profession, becoming Members of Parliament or voting. All Irish culture, music and education were banned. There were also lesser restrictions imposed on Presbyterians and other nonconformists. In 1720 an Act declared the right of the British Parliament to pass laws for Ireland.

The Catholics organised open-air Masses at secret locations usually marked by a "Mass Rock", and illegal outdoor schools known as "hedge schools" continued to teach the Irish language and culture. Among the educated classes, many Catholics converted to Protestantism to preserve their careers and wealth.

From around 1715, strict enforcement of the religious sections of the penal laws eased off, although many of the restrictions to do with employment and public office still held. A significant majority of the Catholic population were now tenants living in wretched conditions. By the mid-18th century, Catholics held less than 15% of the land in Ireland, and by 1778 barely 5%. Many middle-class Catholics went into trade.

Irish settlers were amongst the earliest immigrants to the British Colonies in North America, and played their part in the founding of America ... as the entry below confirms.

Alphabetical Rent Roll of Virginia 1704/05 (c) 1994
* indicates not living in County

Below is a section containing the only Doyle in the counties during 1704/05

Name Land held in Year
Doswell Jno.  York County 1704
Douglas Charles Henrico County 1705
Douglas Wm King William County  
Dowing George Prince George County 1704
Dowles Jno  Isle Wighte County 1704
Dowman John Northampton County 1704
Downer John King William County  
Downes Elias King William County  
Downing Jno Northampton County 1704
Dowty Rowland Northampton County 1704
Doyle Cope Warwick County 1704
Draught Richard  Princess Anne County 1704
Drawler Abr Isle Wighte County 1704
Drayton Roger Prince George County 1704
Dresdall Robert Norfolk County 1704
Dressall Timo Essex County 1704
Drew Edward Surry County 1704
Drew Thomas Surry County 1704
Drewet Jno York County 1704
Druer Jno Isle Wighte County 1704
Drument Jno Glocester, Petso Parish  
Drummond Hill  Accomack  
Drummond Jno Accomack  
Drummond Jno James City County 1704
Drummond Stephen Accomack  
Drummond Wm James City County 1704
Drummons Richd Accomack  


Meanwhile back in Ireland, nearly 400,000 people died during the famine of 1739 - 1740..

However,  Dublin thrived, ranking as Europe’s fifth-largest city. The Irish ruling class were members of the established Protestant Episcopalian Church, and were descendants of Cromwellian soldiers, Norman nobles and Elizabethan settlers. They formed a new and prosperous upper class known as the Protestant Ascendancy. There was a Protestant-only parliament, but laws still had to be approved by the British Crown and parliament. It was from these Protestants that pressure first came for Ireland to be treated on an equal footing with Britain.

A strong "Patriot" party calling for independence developed under the leadership of Henry Grattan and Henry Flood. When the American War of Independence broke out in 1776, Britain was in a difficult position. The majority of her forces had to be withdrawn from Ireland to fight in the colonies, leaving security in Ireland largely in the hands of Protestant "volunteer" forces under the control of the landowners and merchant classes. To avoid further clashes with the increasingly independent Irish parliament, the British government in 1782 allowed the Irish what it considered to be complete freedom of legislation. The new Irish governing body was known as Grattan’s parliament. However, London still controlled much of what went on in Ireland through royal patronage and favours and the Crown still had the power of veto.

To achieve prosperity in Ireland, Grattan had espoused improved conditions and rights for Catholics. Henry Flood and the majority of other Protestant members were not as sympathetic, and in the life of the parliament - nearly 20 years - little progress was made.

In 1783 a Captain Doyle is recorded as commanding an infantry company of George Washington’s Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War against the British.

Below is a list of Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants award by State Governments. Reference:  Lloyd DeWitt Bockstrock Genealogical Publication Co. 1996, L.O.C. # 96-75099






Doyle, Charles



200 acres to widow

Doyle, James




50 acres.

Doyle, John



10 Nov 1786

500 acres

Doyle, John



23 Feb 1784

200 acres

Doyle, Morris



19 Nov 1788

200 acres

Doyle, Robert



22 Aug 1783

200 acres

Doyle, Samuel



6 Apr 1787

200 acres

Doyle, Thomas




50 acres

Doyle, Thomas




200 acres

Doyle, Thomas (or Francis)



5 Apr 1787

200 acres


On the opposite side of the world - about as far as you can get from Ireland, the first Doyle to arrive in Australia was probably Michael Doyle. He had been convicted in Middlesex, England and sentenced to serve seven years in the Australian Penal Colony at Botony Bay (near where Sydney is today). The third convict fleet of 11 ships arrived in Australia from England in 1791, with over 2,000 convicts on board, including Michael Doyle. A local Sydney newspaper, the "New Holland Morning Post", published on the 18th of October 1791 records their names and also that 194 male convicts and 4 female convicts died during the voyage ... and that though the conditions on board ship weren’t as "diabolical" as the previous year, they were still outrageous.

On the other side of the law, William Doyle, of Bramblestown, County Kilkenny, is recorded as a Barrister-at-law and King’s Counsel, and became the Master in Chancery. He died in 1792, having married twice. His first wife was from the eminent Vandeleur family of Ireland, while his second wife was the daughter of an Austrian General.

In 1798 tensions in Ireland inevitably came to a head once more, with yet another rebellion against the forces of the England.

Because of their invaluable island situation well out in the Atlantic, with some of the world’s best harbours and oak forests, the people of Ireland were kept in subjugation for the simple reason that London’s vital necessity required that property and power be in hands loyal to London. As earlier Irish history has shown, this was facilitated by the confiscation of Irish lands and properties, the eviction of their owners and the bestowal of those lands, properties and sites on dependable English subjects. The planting of Ireland’s strategic acreage with English colonists in Elizabethan times was accelerated by Oliver Cromwell in the sixteen fifties and by King William of Orange and Queen Anne in the early eighteenth century. It was in this context of great, unrelieved grievance and bitter resentment that armed revolt was resorted to in 1798.

The French Revolution

The American Revolution of 1776 was the first stimulus to revolt, but the French Revolution of 1789 - much more shocking to Britain - and its success anchored the idea of armed insurrection in Irish minds. In Ireland, an organisation known as the United Irishmen had been formed by Belfast Presbyterians in 1791, but its most prominent leader was a young Dublin Protestant and Republican, Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-98). He was invited to Ulster after publishing a pamphlet entitled “An argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland”.  Northern Presbyterians also suffered from religious discrimination, though less severely, and had absorbed republican ideas from the American and French revolutions.  With the formation of a Dublin branch of the society, pressure for reform grew, and Relief Acts were passed through Parliament in 1792 and 1793.  However, Tone sought revolution rather than reform, and hoped for French help in severing the link with Great Britain.  

After Britain and France went to war in 1793, the United Irishmen came under increasing pressure from the English Government.  Tone was implicated in the mission of a French agent and, thanks to friends in high places, he escaped the courts but agreed to choose exile in America in preference to being prosecuted for treason, and the United Irishmen evolved into a secret society bound by revolutionary oaths. The aristocracy and entrenched politicians could no longer be complacent about the poverty-stricken masses. However, the new ideas of equality of man, of liberty, equality and fraternity were allied to another wonderful idea in Ireland. It was given expression by that Protestant Irishman, Wolfe Tone, who urged the substitution of the sectarian terms of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter with the brotherly and better definition "Irish". The United Irishmen started out with high ideals of bringing together men of all creeds to reform and reduce England’s power in Ireland. Their attempts at gaining power through straightforward politics were fruitless, and when war broke out between Britain and France the United Irishmen found they were no longer being tolerated by the establishment. When full civil liberties were denied to the "old Irish" by Parliament, Wolfe Tone’s Society of the United Irishmen veered sharply from being a reform movement to being a revolutionary movement, and they were determined to break the connection with England. They reformed themselves as an underground organisation committed to bringing change by any means, violent or otherwise.

In 1796 Wolfe Tone returned to Europe, he sought and obtained the active help and alliance of revolutionary France, who fresh from their European victories, were easily persuaded.

In 1796, a French invasion Fleet with thousands of troops approached Bantry Bay in County Cork. On shore the local militia were ill-equipped to repel them. On board one of the French ships was Wolfe Tone, decked out in a French uniform and itching to get into action. However, a strong offshore wind repelled every attempt by the fleet to sail up the bay to a safe landing spot. A few attempted to drop anchor, but as the wind strengthened into a full gale, the ships were forced to head for the open Atlantic and back to France. A disappointed Wolfe Tone went back with them.

Despite this setback, the United Irishmen continued to recruit members, particularly among disaffected Catholic peasants.  Meanwhile, the government had passed an Act of Parliament providing for harsh measures against those who held illegal weapons or administered illegal oaths.  An army under General Lake conducted an oppressive campaign to disarm Ulster, seen as the most dangerous province

Saved from the French invasion by only the bad weather, the government in Ireland woke up to the serious threat posed by the United Irishmen and similar groups. A nationwide campaign got underway to hunt them out and it proved extremely effective. Meanwhile another group of United Irishmen led by Lord Edward FitzGerald tried to mount a rebellion, which also failed because of informers and poor communications between the rebels. In March 1798 most of the Leinster leaders were arrested in Dublin. Lord FitzGerald, the only leader of The United Irishmen with military experience was captured on 19 May four days before the date fixed for the rising.  After uncovering this attempted rebellion, the government and the army really got stuck into the population in search of arms and rebels. Floggings and indiscriminate torture sent a wave of panic through the country and sparked off the 1798 Rising.

That alliance with the United Irishmen continued even as the situation of the war against England deteriorated for France.

At the same time, loyalist Protestants were worried by the turn of events and prepared for possible conflict by forming the Protestant Orange Society, which later became known as the Orange Order.

In 1798 the tensions, cruelties, atrocities and intolerable provocation in County Wexford (a county not noted for its rebellious tendencies) produced an atmosphere of violence, which it seemed only open war could extirpate.

The United Irishmen had their organisation ready all over Ireland, in both the north and the south. In County Wexford it was well organised but primitively armed, with a leadership corps of both Protestants and Catholics.

The agreed date of the uprising in Ireland was the third week of May 1798.

That week was rendered awful as war fever resulted in mass executions and tortures of suspects by the forces of the English Crown. Furthermore, the United Irish leadership itself was betrayed on the eve of combat. This resulted in most of the effective leaders in County Wexford being arrested by forces of the Crown. Just the same, County Wexford was still to see the fiercest of the 1798 fighting.

Apart from some short-lived but bloody skirmishes in towns and villages west of Dublin; the rising was mostly confined to the northern counties of Antrim and Down, and to County Wexford.  The Wexford rising, which began on 26 May, was a spontaneous and frightened response to the cruel measures of British Magistrates searching for arms and conspirators, but the rebels in turn committed acts of great savagery.

In the resulting confusion, indecision and immobility a skirmish occurred near The Harrow village. United Irish vigilantes confronted the local armed Camolin Yeomanry cavalry. A Yeoman officer and trooper were killed. The local Catholic priest, Fr. John Murphy of Boolavogue, was amongst the rebel group and became irretrievably embroiled. (Before this incident Fr. Murphy, like all Catholic Church leaders, had preached against the United Irishmen and the French Revolutionary movement.)

Within hours the revolt fanned out, the disunited United Irishmen were revitalised and the movement consolidated.

They found a remarkable leader in Father John Murphy of Boolavogue, who quickly assembled an army of Catholic peasants equipped with muskets and pikes.  The few local British troops were outnumbered and poorly led, and the rebels soon commanded most of County Wexford.  The English Government was slow to react, but the rebels’ attempts to spread the rising to neighbouring Counties were halted by defeats at Arklow and New Ross.  On 21 June, General Lake stormed the rebel headquarters at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy, and resistance soon ended.

Cheering fighting men marching with astonishing speed and skill swept across County Wexford, towns and countryside, like a mighty wave.

Within ten days their united forces in a series of rapid victories had swept the southeast clear of the forces of the Crown, from Wicklow to Tullow, and from Tullow to Waterford Harbour. The southeast was free and clear for an expected French landing.

In Ulster, where the rebels were mainly Presbyterians, the rising began later and was soon over.  On 7 June, some 3,000 Protestant rebels attacked the British garrison in Antrim town.  An informer had revealed their plans, however, and British Army reinforcements soon arrived to scatter the rebels, who fled to their homes.  The leader of these rebels, Henry Joy McCracken, was captured and hanged.  In County Down the rising came to an end on 13 June, when the United Irishmen of Ulster were defeated at Ballynahinch.  Their leader, Henry Monroe, was also hanged.

The 1798 Rebellion against the English Crown was fought over exceptionally high stakes, which were clearly appreciated by the combatants on both sides. As in awful war and in the terrible hatreds that were unleashed, atrocities were perpetrated by both sides. The most infamous atrocities were practised on prisoners. The burning of the barn holding Protestant and Catholic loyalist prisoners at Scullabogue was given precedence by the burning of United Irish wounded in emergency hospitals at Ross and later at Enniscorthy and Wexford. (Sad days for Ireland.)

In the absence of French help, the United Irish army, which though untrained, performed heroically. However, it was overwhelmed by the professional English forces that were led by eight British generals at the last great field battle in Irish history; at Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy, on 21 June 1798. Thereafter the surviving United Irish strove to retain cohesion, and fought with great persistence. This was demonstrated with some remarkable successes, such as at the capture of Castlecomer, County Kilkenny on Sunday, 24 June 1798.

In Ulster, where the rebels were mainly Presbyterians, the rising began later and was soon over.  On 7 June, some 3,000 Protestant rebels attacked the British garrison in Antrim town.  An informer had revealed their plans, however, and British Army reinforcements soon arrived to scatter the rebels, who fled to their homes.  The leader of these rebels, Henry Joy McCracken, was captured and hanged.  In County Down the rising came to an end on 13 June, when the United Irishmen of Ulster were defeated at Ballynahinch.  Their leader, Henry Monroe, was also hanged. The great enterprise that was the Rebellion of 1798 was over.

Many Doyles are mentioned in various accounts of the 1798 Rebellion against the English occupation forces in Ireland.

Joseph Holt’s second-in-command was a Matthew Doyle of Woodenbridge.

There is also mention of a Captain Doyle planning an attack on New Ross.

Charles Doyle of Wicklow was tried by the English for treason on 22nd of March 1799.

Captain Denis Doyle was a rebel leader from Gorey.

However, Edward Doyle, a loyalist land owner, was held prisoner by the rebels in Wexford Gaol (Jail).

There are numerous references to the Doyle family in Richard Musgrave’s account of the rebellion. (This polemic was published in 1801 and went into three editions.)

Initial research about Doyles who became casualties of the 1798 Rebellion has found records of 20 who were arrested, tried, and transported to Australia between 1800 and 1806, for their part in that Rebellion. Other records show dozens of Doyles who were killed in action, died of wounds, and executed during and after the fighting. Irish Prison records from 1798 & 1799 also record that many dozens of other Doyles were rotting in prison hulks for crimes such as "being a United Irishman", "treasonable practices", "having made pikes", "suspicion of being a rebel", "maiming a Yeoman", "high treason, possessing arms and ammunition", "murder in rebellion", "acts of insurgency", and "being a leader of rebel gang in Rebellion".

Another soldier named Doyle, a captured rebel of the 1798 rebellion, was pressed into service by the British with the Prussian Army. However, he was captured by the French in October 1806 during the battle of Jena. He then volunteered to serve in Napoleon’s Irish Legion, and again fought against the British Army. (The English Army of the day also contained very large numbers of Irishmen, and was in fact commanded by a great Irishman .... Arthur Wellesey, the Duke of Wellington.)

Wolfe Tone himself arrived later in the year with another French fleet, which was defeated at sea. Wolfe Tone was captured in October onboard a French ship in Lough Swilly he was brought to Dublin where he was court marshalled. He pleaded for a soldiers death before a firing squad, but was sentenced to be hanged. He committed suicide in his prison cell. It was the end for the United Irishmen and ironically led to the demise of the independent Irish parliament.

The failure of the rebellion of the United Irishmen against the English Crown in 1798 decided the fates of many Irishmen, both loyalist and United Irishman. As we have learned, several Doyles were involved in this war on both sides. Most prominent were the government commander, Sir John Doyle, and Michael Dwyer's trusty lieutenant, Matthew Doyle of Polahoney. Incidentally, Theobald Wolfe Tone, while in the French service, admired Sir John Doyle and wished that he could be someday as good a soldier as he. Tone wrote in 1796: 'I will make, I hope, as a good a colonel as John Doyle, he is a brave man and a tolerable officer'. 
A young Miles Byrne of Monaseed (near Gorey in the north of County Wexford), later a Napoleonic soldier and subsequently a holder of the Legion of Honour, recalled his youth in Wexford before the troubles of 1798 ... 

Byrne, a cousin of Wicklow's famous United Irishmen commanders Billy and Garret Byrne of Ballymanus, recalled how his family held their lands at Monaseed from the local landlord, John Doyle of Ballylusk. In 1796 Thomas Knox Grogan of Castletown (north Wexford) was commissioned to raise a corps of yeomanry calvary. Catholic farmers and freeholders were actively encouraged to enlist and take George III's shilling and many did. Byrne in his memoirs alludes to the growing anger towards the yeomanry within Wexford as result of several atrocities committed upon United Irish sympathisers. This, however, did not stop some of his friends from enlisting and donning the red coat. These included Laurence Doyle, who was commisioned a second lieutenant and was a first cousin of Sir Thomas Esmond of Ballinastra. Two brothers, John and James Doyle of Knock, were also fresh faced recruits to Grogan's horse. On seeing his friends join up, Byrne was too eager to enter the service. Upon hearing her son's wish, Mrs Byrne severely chastised him and would not suffer him to wear the red coat under any circumstances. The enlistment of these Doyles does show that despite the penal times they had maintained some of their former social position and some may have actually improved it.

Kevin Whelan (a contemporary Irish academic) in his article examining the roles played by Catholic priests during 1798, has uncovered some otherwise forgotten Doyles. When the fighting erupted in Wexford during the summer of 1798, a Father James Doyle, parish priest of Sutton (Whitechurch), immediately gave succour to the local Protestants of Fethard from sectarian attacks by disgruntled Catholics. He advised them to attend Catholic masses while the fighting raged as a means of preserving their lives. On the 14 June Father Philip Roche, a prominent United Irish leader, summoned Doyle and his parishioners to his camp at Lacken hill with threats. After the rout at Vinegar Hill Doyle brought his parishioners to New Ross and was received into protection. Generous terms were granted to him as he 'acted with humanity towards them' (i.e. the Protestants of Fethard ). One Thomas Hanock said of Doyle. 'The simple loyalty and good conduct their priest, Reverand James Doyle, gave them example by which they profited'. Another Father James Doyle, this time of Davidstown, also protected Protestant refugees that summer and assured them 'that this beautiful island will not long remain in the hands of the rebels, King George will soon send over an army to defeat the rebels'. Like his namesake and fellow priest, Father Doyle was richly praised by those whom he extended his protection to after the end of the fighting. Mrs Lett of Killalign 'I should not omit to mention the kind and humane conduct of Father Doyle'.

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 Last updated 30 April, 2001