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.

1850's   to the 1880's

In Canada Doyles were also prominent. Laurence O'Connor Doyle (1804-64) was a prominent lawyer, editor and politician in Nova Scotia. Patrick Doyle (1777-1857) had several careers, such as being ship's captain, before becoming a politician and a judge in Newfoundland. In 1837 he was elected to the Newfoundland house of Assembly as a liberal, however, he did not stand again in 1842. Doyle was strongly involved in the work of the Benevolent Irish Society, which did much to alleviate the plight of poor Irish Catholic immigrants. After 1842 he was appointed police magistrate for St Johns and was promoted to stipendary magistrate for the Court of Sessions, a position he retained until his death in 1857.

Patrick MacDowell (1799-1870) a sculptor of note, was born in Belfast. Benjamin MacDowell (1821-1855) of Trinity College, Dublin, was a famous "character" who might be regarded as the prototype of the "absent-minded" professor. 

A great many Irishmen also made very successful military careers in British service, including some notable Doyles.

Sir John Doyle - Baronet
Sir John Doyle - Baronet

General Sir John Doyle Bt GCB KCH, raised the 87th Regiment (The Royal Irish Fusiliers) and served at one time as Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales (who was later to be crowned as George IV of England). General Doyle’s war service included the Revolutionary War in America, Flanders, and Egypt. On 17 May 1801, while commanding the 12th Light Dragoons, he captured the French Dromedary Corps in the Libyan Desert. He was created a Baronet in 1805. King George III wrote of him to the Earl Marshall as follows, "that his (Doyle’s) zeal and exertions in our service may be known to posterity". General Doyle served as Governor of Guernsey from 1802 to 1813.

In 1824 a Sir John Doyle assisted the South American liberator Bernado O’Higgins.

Sir Francis Doyle, Baronet born in England in 1810. Educated at Eton and Christchurch, Oxford. He was called to the bar and held offices in the Customs Service. From 1867 to 1877 he was Professor of poetry at Oxford. His best known ballads are "The Loss of the Birkenhead" and "The Private in the Buffs".

Lt. General Sir Charles Doyle KCB GCH KC RCS, served with the British army in numerous wars; including the Netherlands, the West Indies, in the Mediterranean, in Egypt, and in Spain. He was honoured with the Order of Charles III of Spain and with the French Legion of Honour. He died in 1842.

Major General Welbore Doyle, Colonel of the 53rd Regiment in the British Army (The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry) served throughout the American War; in Flanders he led the 14th Regiment (The Prince of Wales’ Own West Yorkshire) at Famars; he also led the Stormers at Valenciennes; and he commanded the Expedition to the Isle d’Yeo. He also served as Commander-in-Chief and Acting-Governor of the British Colony of Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) He died in 1897.

Order of The Bath
The Order of The Bath, awarded to several Doyles Generals in the British Army.

Major-General Carlo Doyle was born in Warsaw in 1787 (his Godfather was the Emperor). He joined the British Army’s Coldstream Guards in 1803. He saw war service in the Peninsula War against Napoleon, and was present at critical battles for Corunna, Talavera, and other actions. In 1809 he was mentioned in dispatches to the Military Secretary of the Commander in Chief in London, by the Honorable Sir Arthur Wellesley KB (later to be the Duke of Wellington) who was writing from Castello Branco. In 1813 he was Military Secretary to Lord Hastings, the Governor-General of India. He also served in the campaigns against the Pindaries and Mahrattas in India, 1817-8.

British  Government records show that in 1815 Lt. Colonel Sir John Milley Doyle was granted a "Coat of Arms" which include representations of  the gold cross with two clasps that was presented to him by the King in testimony of the royal approbation of his distinguished military services in Spain and Portugal. His "Coat of Arms" also includes representations of the Turkish Order of the Crescent and that of a Knight Commander of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword. 

While the Great Famine was laying waste to Ireland, many Doyle men continued the in the Doyle tradition of military service, and escaped its effects while soldiering outside Ireland.

Another Doyle who appears in military records of the period was Vice Admiral Sir Bentinck Doyle of the British Royal Navy (died 1843), and he was the father of the

Rev. Bentinck Doyle BA, Rector of Chipping Warden (1864-77).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, in 1867, the Mayor of Munroe in the American State of Michigan was Thomas Doyle.

About the same time Julia Doyle was killed along with her husband, Richard Leahy, a active Union and Labour leader, in Rockfall in Quebec during the 1880s. 

In America Sarah Doyle (1830-1922) is best remembered as a feminist and an educator. Her most notable achievement was to help fund Brown University's new Women's college in the 1880s.

Yet another prominent military man of the period was General Sir Charles Doyle KCMG, was Colonel of the 87th Regiment (The Royal Irish Fusiliers) and finally commanded the Southern Military District of England as well holding the post of Lt. Governor of Portsmouth. He was for sometime also Commander of the forces in Nova Scotia, and afterwards Lt. Governor of the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia … as well as Commander of British military forces in British North America. He had previously distinguished himself as an officer during war service in the East and West Indies, and as Assistant Adjutant-General of the 3rd Division of the British Army during the Crimea War. He had also served as Assistant Adjutant-General in Ireland, and was Inspector-General of Militia there. He died in 1883.

Records in London show that Major-General Sir Francis Doyle was created a Baronet in 1828. His war service included Flanders and the Battle of Copenhagen. He also served as the Deputy Lieutenant of the Tower of London, and as Chairman of the Board of Excise.

His son, Sir Francis Hastings Charles Doyle, Baronet, was a well-known Barrister-at-Law, and served as Commissioner of the Customs from 1869 to 1883. He was also a Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, and is best remembered as the author of "The Private of the Buffs" and other poems. His son, Captain Francis Doyle, of the 2nd Dragoon Guards, served in the Zulu War of 1879-80. Captain Doyle also served in the Egyptian War of 1882, but died of his wounds on the 2nd of December.

The records of Britain's York and Lancaster  Regiment show that Sergeant J. Doyle was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (Britain's second highest bravery award) for gallantry in action during the "Battle at El Teb in 1884 during the Egypt and Sudan War of 1882 - 1889.

From the London Gazette, Tuesday, May 6, 1884:-

 Despatches received by the British Secretary of State for War from the General Officer Commanding in Egypt included the following passage:

 The 1st York and Lancaster Regiment, a fine battalion of seasoned soldiers only landed on the evening of our march to Fort Baker, on the 28th February.  During the action on the 29th February, in which they took a prominent share, being in the fighting line, the 1st York and Lancaster gave me great satisfaction by their steadiness, and by the firmness with which they met and replulsed the charges of the enemy.  When advancing on the first enemy battery captured, hand-to-hand fighting ensured.  The battalion was engaged in difficult fighting at El-Teb and at Tamai, and heavy casualties were suffered by this battalion.  It is on occasions of repulse and retreat, such as that which temporarily befell this battalion at Tamai, that the individual efforts of Officers and men show most clearly and are of greatest value. One Officer and 15 men where killed at the right front corner of the battalion’s “square”. However, they “stood their ground and would not be forced back.” It is on this account that Sergeant Doyle was mentioned by his Commanding Officer as being distinguished for gallantry, and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.


An old edition of "Who’s Who" records that Percy Doyle CB, at one time the British Minister-Plenipotentiary in Mexico, died in 1887.

Another old edition of "Who’s Who" records the death of The Right Honourable John Sidney North Doyle who had been Colonel of the 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry, and who had also been a Member of Parliament for Oxfordshire from 1852 to 1885. His widow was the Baroness of North, daughter of the Earl of Guilford.




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 Last updated 30 April, 2001