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.

1880's to 1890's

A well-known "character" of the 1880’s and 1890’s during the exciting pioneering days in Central and Southern Africa was the explorer and big game hunter, Dennis Doyle. Having grown up in the British Colony of Natal, on the south-east coast of Africa, he was fluent in several of the native African languages.

Map of Mozambique
Mashonaland, Manicaland and Mocambique 1890 -97

In 1888 Lobengula, the king of Matebeleland negotiated a concession to the British South Africa Company for mining and commercial exploitation in Mashonaland. (Mashonaland was to the east of Matebeleland, and Matabele ruled the Mashona natives ... Matabele war parties routinely raiding them to blood their young warriors, and to take women and boys as slaves.) Cecil John Rhodes maintained a representative of the B.S.A. Company at Bulawayo, the village of Lobengula, until the Company could take up the concession in Mashonaland. In the meantime other white adventurers where intriguing with Lobengula to take over this concession. In August 1889 Rhodes received a telegram from Thompson, his representative to Lobengula (at the king’s royal village of Bulawayo), which he had sent from the town of Mafeking (in the north of the Cape Province, which was one of the British colonies in South Africa at that time) saying that he had fled from Bulawayo in danger of his life. Evidently the situation in the north was desperate. Rhodes saw at once that the flight of Thompson could mean only one thing – fear – to the native mind, and that would spell disaster to the Company’s interests; while his absence would give an opportunity to his rivals to gain influence over Logengula. Rhodes dispatched his friend, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, with Denis Doyle, as scout and interpreter, to Bulawayo and Lobengula. They arrived at Logengula’s village (Bulawayo) on 20 October 1889. A deputation from Queen Victoria, composed of a military band and the three tallest of her Life Guards cavalry, also arrived at Bulawayo soon after Dr. Jameson and Doyle, to announce the British South Africa Company’s Charter and to advise the king to put his trust in Rhodes’ new B.S.A. Company.

While in Bulawayo, Dr. Jameson treated Logengula’s many ailments and regained his favour for the interests of the B.S.A. Company, and he also won from the king of the Matabele a promise to agree to the peaceful occupation of Mashonaland by a large force of white men, and Doyle acted as witness to this agreement. Feeling that for the time being he could do no more, and leaving Doyle as his deputy in the place of Thompson, Dr. Jameson then departed south for Kimberley to confer with Rhodes.Following the entry of the British South Africa Company’s Pioneer Column into Mashonaland in 1890, and the arrival of the first white settlers in what was to later become the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia, it was considered to be a matter great urgency to consolidate the authority of the B.S.A. Company over the whole of the Mashonaland plateau. The Portuguese colonial administration in their East African territory of Mocambique believed they had a claim over both Mashonaland and Manicaland as a result of certain alleged "rights" granted to them by Gungunyana, king of Gazaland. (Gazaland being the country lying along the eastern seaboard between the Zambesi and Limpopo rivers.) The Portuguese maintained Gungunyana had sworn obedience to the King of Portugal in 1885. (Like most of the Portuguese claims in this area, their ownership was based on doubtful documentary evidence, and the king later repudiated having accepted Portuguese authority at all.) The most important chief in the Manica country, called Umtasa, was considered by Gungunyana and the Portuguese to be a vassal of the former. Since Gungunyana was considered a vassal of Portugal, the Portuguese reasoned it followed that any rights conferred by the king of Gazaland must also apply to Manicaland. But Rhodes thought differently. Umtasa did not admit being a vassal of Gungunyana, or anyone else, and Rhodes regarded him as a paramount chief, completely independent. No rights could be claimed over Manicaland unless they had been granted by Umtasa himself, and there was no evidence to show he had ever entered directly into an arrangement with the Portuguese. It was therefore important that, to support the B.S.A. Company’s concession over Mashonaland, which had been obtained from Lobengula (chief of Matabeleland, to the west of Mashonaland) ... the rights under which stopped short of Manicaland ... the B.S.A. Company should obtain a concession from Umtasa to consolidate its authority over the whole of the Mashonaland plateau before the Portuguese brought pressure to bear on him. On 14 September 1890, the B.S.A. Company entered into a treaty with Umtasa that granted to the Company all the mineral rights in his country, and agreed that no one could possess land in Manica without the written consent of the Company. In return the Company promised him protection against his enemies, the payment of annual subsidy, and to establish schools for the native people. News of this treaty drew an indignant protest from Baron Rezende, the representative of the Portuguese Mocambique Company. It soon became apparent that Portugal was determined to enforce her "ancient rights" over the territory. Having signed his treaty with the British, Umtasa began to get nervous about possible retaliation on the part of the Portuguese, and he requested protection from the B.S.A. Company. So, a small patrol of the Company’s mounted-troopers under Captain Patrick Forbes set out for Umtasa’s village, with orders to occupy as much territory under Umtasa’s concession as possible, and to try and secure further concessions from other independent chiefs nearer the east coast of Africa. The scout and interpreter for this patrol was Denis Doyle.

When Forbes and Doyle arrived at Umtasa’s mountain-top village on the 5th of November 1890 they found that Colonel Andrade of the Portuguese Mocambique Company had recently been there and had publicly threatened to drive the British out of Mashonaland and to destroy all the B.S.A. Company forts. It also transpired that Umtasa had been playing a double game, and had professed allegiance to both sides ... his intention was to declare himself on the side of the victor in the inevitable conflict. The natives then told Doyle that Colonel Andrade and "General" Gouveia (military governor of the Gorongoza Province) were returning with a force of 300 or 400 native soldiers to attack the B.S.A. Company’s patrol. When the Portuguese and their native soldiers arrived back they occupied Umtasa’s village and prepared to attack the B.S.A. Company mounted-troopers. In order to pre-empt the Portuguese attack, 17 of the B.S.A. Company mounted-troopers mounted an attack on the main body of the Portuguese native soldiers; meanwhile Forbes, Doyle, and 9 other troopers clandestinely infiltrated the native village on foot and captured Baron Rezende, Colonel Andrade, and "General" Gouveia. One of the B.S.A. Company troopers then went up to the flag-staff and pulled down the Portuguese flag. However, a menacing situation had in the meantime arisen that seriously threatened the small B.S.A. Company force. Umtasa’s natives had begun to fear that the troopers had designs on their chief also, and angry shouts rose from them. Gripping their spears and guns, they began to surge towards the little group of B.S.A. Company men. But Denis Doyle got in front of them, and, shouting at the top of his voice, told them that the British were their friends and had come to deliver them from the Portuguese. The mob quietened a little and paused uncertainly. Trooper Morier, in a letter home wrote, "The niggers had flown to arms the moment they recovered from their astonishment and were dancing around us shouting furiously and waving their assegais and brandishing their guns. There must have been over a thousand. I am convinced, had we not got straight away, in another two minutes we would have been massacred. We were only saved by Doyle who has extraordinary power over natives." The small party of troopers then followed Doyle to a small gap in the palisade and made good their escape ... taking their Portuguese prisoners with them. Meanwhile, the 17 B.S.A. Company mounted-troopers had been successful in disarming over 150 Portuguese native soldiers and chasing them away. The Portuguese prisoners were then sent under armed escort to back to Cape Town in South Africa, via the B.S.A. Company fort at Salisbury in Mashonaland. After the departure of the Portuguese prisoners, Doyle gave Umtasa a severe rebuke, and impressed on the chief the importance that they attached to undivided loyalty, and the firmness with which they dealt with acts of treason. Forbe’s and Doyle’s next move was to capture the Portuguese fort at Macequece, for with that in Portuguese hands so close to British territory, Mashonaland could not be considered safe. Three days ride from Umtasa’s village they caught their first glimpse of its mud walls, with the Portuguese flag fluttering over it. As they approached to attack the Portuguese fort, the garrison surrendered to them. Six B.S.A. Company mounted-troopers were then left in charge of Macequece and the surrounding district, and their Portuguese prisoners.

The next morning Forbes and Doyle, accompanied by less than a dozen mounted-troopers, rode off to capture the Indian Ocean port of Portuguese Beira on the east coast of Africa ... which they considered they could reach in two weeks. All the Portuguese forts they encountered on the way surrendered at the first sign of their approach, and their journey seemed to have been in the nature of a triumphal march. (On the march to Beira one of the men was killed by a lion.) Also, small detachments of troopers were left along the way to act as a link back to Macequece. Forbes and Doyle were on the point of embarking in canoes to sail down the Pungwe River to capture Beira when a breathless trooper overtook them with a despatch from Fort Salisbury, on behalf of Rhodes, recalling them immediately. (The events in Manicaland had resulted in a strongly-worded protest by the Portuguese Government to the British Government, who in turn had instructed Rhodes to call his men back until an arrangement could be made between Britain and Portugal.) Had they not been recalled at the critical moment, there is little doubt that Forbes and Doyle and their half-dozen men would have taken Beira, in spite of its armed garrison, for the Portuguese had been thrown into the utmost confusion by the rapid march of events, and were thoroughly alarmed by the exaggerated reports of the British successes emanating from native sources. The Beira garrison, too, would have most probably surrendered on the appearance of the invaders. 

Rhodes recognised the necessity of obtaining for Mashonaland and outlet to the sea over which the B.S.A. Company could have complete control. He decided to make a bold bid to take Gazaland, the country ruled by Gungunyana. Early in October 1890 Gungunyana declared himself willing to grant the B.S.A. Company full mineral and commercial rights over his territory in return for 1,000 rifles, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, and an annual subsidy of £500 – terms almost precisely the same as those given to Lobengula, chief of Matabeleland, for the rights over Mashonaland. However, Gungunyana refused to ratify the agreement until the arms and ammunition and the first instalment of the subsidy had been delivered at his village. So, Denis Doyle’s next episode of "high adventure" began on the 10th of January 1891, when he acted as scout and interpreter for Dr. Jameson (the B.S.A. Company’s Administrator of Mashonaland) and G.B. Dunbar-Moodie, a miner, on a long march from Umtali in Manicaland to the Manhlagazi village of chief Gungunyana, which lies about 100 miles from the mouth of the Limpopo River, in the south east of what was to become the Portugese colony of Mocambique. They started off with two horses, a mule and twenty native carriers. Disaster soon overtook them. Shortly after the start of this long march, in a river crossing, their native carriers were swept off their feet by the strong current and all their supplies were lost. The natives then deserted them. They refused to turn back and decided to depend on the chance of finding corn, pumkins, and wild fruit to keep them going. They continued to push their way through dense jungle and rain forests that shut out the light of the sun. For a period of 11 days it rained continuously; they were drenched by the heavy downpours, they had no shelter at night and slept uncomfortably in sodden clothes. Owing to the lack of proper food, the absence of any shelter or warmth from fires, it was inevitable that malarial fever should soon have them in its grip. Doyle was the first to go down, and the attack was so severe that Dr. Jameson at first despaired of saving his life. Still they struggled on, with Moodie and Jameson both also contracting the fever. The difficulties of travelling through the jungle changed when they confronted a vast swamp, a blanket of reeds concealing its liquid treachery. Fever-stricken as they were, they had to wade through it, and they eventually made the other side in safety. Two months after leaving Fort Salisbury, having endured torrential rain, dense forests and dangerous swamps, they reached the country lying near the Limpopo River. With their clothes in rags, and in the last stages of exhaustion, they arrived at Gungunyana’s village. Their arrival at Gungunyana’s village coincided with the delivery of the rifles and ammunition by a detachment of the B.S.A. Company’s "private army" (the B.S.A. Police). This controversial cargo had been delivered by a small steam ship, the Countess of Carnarvon, up the Limpopo River. (It was a dangerous operation that left the Company open to the charge of gun-running to natives in territory which Britain had for years recognised as belonging to Portugal.) The arrival of the arms and ammunition and the £500 won Gungunya completely over to the side of the British. He denounced the Portuguese and confirmed the agreement with the B.S.A. Company which he had made the previous October. He also decided to send two of his principal indunas (advisors/nobles) to Britain to lay his profession of loyalty at the feet of Queen Victoria and to plead for the protection of Britain. When Dr. Jameson, Doyle, Moodie, and the B.S.A.P. troopers tried to return to Cape Town on the Countess of Carnarvon, they were intercepted and arrested by a Portuguese gunboat (the Marechal MacMahon). They, and the Countess of Carnarvon, were later released by the Portuguese after strong representations were made by the British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury. All their efforts to secure Gazaland (and an outlet to the sea) for the B.S.A. Company were to be in vain. In the final agreement arrived at between Britain and Portugal on the 11th of June 1891, Gazaland was restored to the Portuguese in return for the extension of the British sphere in other parts of Eastern Africa, including the highly mineralised plateau of Manicaland.

BSAP Troopers
BSAP Troop at Umtali in Manicaland

In 1891 Dennis Doyle also accompanied the great man (Cecil John Rhodes) by sea to the Portuguese port of Beira on the east coast of Africa. Dennis Doyle then acted as guide for the overland expedition to take Mr. Rhodes to visit the central African territory that had been claimed by Rhodes the year before, and to see the early capital (the pioneering outpost of "Salisbury") of that new territory that was starting to be called "Rhodesia". He became a confidant of Mr. Rhodes, and did "intelligence" work for him with the native chiefs to the North. All these dangerous adventures during various native uprisings, and on other "special operations", proved to be very important to the successful establishment of white settlements in what did later become known as Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe). Leonard, a well known character in those parts, said, "Doyle, the ubiquitous – here one day, somewhere else the next and God knows where the day after".

Other Doyles that are recorded in the early history of Rhodesia and Central Africa include A.C. Doyle of the Bechuanaland Border Police who fought in both the 1893 and the 1896 Matabeleland native uprisings; I.B. Doyle and Jos Bernard Doyle both served with the British South Africa Police and fought in the 1896 Matabeleland native uprising; and P. Doyle of Robertson’s Cape Corps who also fought in the 1896 campaigns.

During the "Boer War" in South Africa (1899-19020) Corporal P. Doyle of the Royal Irish Regiment was awarded the British Army's Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery in action during 1901 (The widespread gallantry of Irish Soldiers during the Boer War moved Queen Victoria to found the Irish Guards Regiment.)

The best known Doyle outside Ireland was undoubtedly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), born in Edinburgh, and famous as the creator of "Sherlock Holmes". His mother was an Irish-born Catholic. He was educated at Jesuit Catholic Schools in Scotland. He graduated in Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Besides his fame as a detective novelist, he also served as a British Army surgeon during the "Boer War" in South Africa (1899-1902). One of Sir Arthur’s sons served in the First World War and was twice wounded in the neck, and died soon after the war. His other son rose to the rank of Brigadier General, but also died soon after the First World War. Sir Arthur’s grandfather was Dublin born John Doyle (1797-1868), the famous "H.B." of Punch, who resigned his lucrative position on the staff of that well known British weekly publication because of its anti-Catholic bias. Richard Doyle (1824-1883) born in London, brother of Sir Arthur and son of John Doyle, was well known as a painter and illustrator. He also became a contributor to Punch in 1843, and designed the famous cover that was used from 1849 to 1956. In 1850 he left, resenting the journal’s anti-Catholic position, and devoted himself to painting and book illustration.

Richard Doyle was the mind behind the satirical and infamous magazine, Punch. His son Conan Doyle has achieved renown as the creator of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. However, Richard Doyle's brother, Charles, was possibly the most interesting member of the family. Charles had a certain panache for going to dances in madhouses. However, on one occasion he bit off more then he could possibly chew. A young mad woman became taken with Doyle at the dance and tried to convince him that she was as sane as he was. Doyle decided to cut his losses and fled the scene. But the woman suddenly lapsed into dementia upon realising his plan and tore the coat off his back. She was eventually restrained and confined to a padded cell leaving Doyle to breath more easily. Indeed, the famous British Prime Minister, Gladstone, corresponded regularly with a close friend named Francis Doyle.

One of the many who Doyles through the ages who rose to prominence in the Church was

Jeremiah Joseph Doyle, Catholic Bishop, born in 1849 at Kilmurry, County Cork. He was educated in the classics at Mount Melleray College, Waterford, and at All Hallows in Dublin. Ordained in 1874 for the diocese of Armidale in Australia, he set out for Australia. After being shipwrecked in the Bay of Biscay he arrived in Sydney in 1874. He was consecrated first Bishop of Grafton, Australia in 1887. His organising capacity was his strongest characteristic, and his wit often rendered discussions less acrimonious. He gave evidence to Parliament three times on vital Public Works and economic development issues. He was particularly active in furthering the cause of Catholic schools and education standards. He died in 1909.

1880's to 1918 (cont)  

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 Last updated 30 April, 2001