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.

1916  to 1940's

The Anglo-Irish War

The day the Dail convened in Dublin in January 1919, two Irish policemen were shot dead by the I.R.A. in County Tipperary. This was the beginning of the bitter Anglo-Irish war, which lasted from 1919 to the middle of 1921. This was the period when Michael Collins came to the fore, a charismatic and ruthless leader who masterminded the campaign of violence against the British while at the same time serving as Minister of Finance in the new Dail.

The war quickly became entrenched and bloody. On the Irish side was the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.), successor to the Irish Volunteers, and on the other a coalition of the Royal Irish Constabulary, regular British-army soldiers and two groups of quasi-military status who rapidly gained a vicious reputation: the Auxiliaries and the Black & Tans. Their use of violence crystallised resentment against the British and support for the nationalist cause. The death from hunger strike of Terrance MacSwiney, the Mayor of Cork, further crystallised Irish opinion. The I.R.A. created ‘flying columns’, small groups of armed volunteers to ambush British forces, and on home ground, they operated successfully. A truce was eventually agreed in July 1921.


Dublin in ruins, 1920.

After months of negotiations in London, the Irish delegation signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, which gave 26 counties of Ireland independence and allowed six largely Protestant Ulster counties the choice of opting out. If they did (a foregone conclusion), a Boundary Commission would then decide on the final frontiers between north and south. The Treaty might have seemed the answer to Ireland’s problems, but it wasn’t to be.

During the Easter Rebellion (1916) and the 1919-1922 Anglo-Irish War ("The Black and Tans War") Doyle men fought on both sides.

1916 Patrick Doyle - killed defending Clan William House.

Jimmy Doyle  escaped from Clan William House and avoided capture, he got as far as Marion Square where he was set upon by a crowd, but he escaped and another crowd of people carried him to a house where his wounds were treated and a change of clothes provided.


Patrick Doyle of Milltown, Dublin was killed in action against British Forces during the battle of Mount Street Bridge on 27th April 1916.

Captain Seamus Doyle of Gorey, Co. Wexford was active against British forces in Enniscorthy during Easter Week. He went to Dublin on 29 April to receive surrender order from Pearse before standing down his volunteers. He was deported by the British, but later returned to Ireland after Independence and was elected to Parliament.

However, Sergeant Michael Doyle of the Royal Irish Constabulary was decorated for gallantry with the Constabulary Medal on 27th July 1916, as a reward for bravery in action against the I.R.A.

And, Constable Patrick Doyle of the Royal Irish Constabulary was wounded by I.R.A. men at Lower Glanmire Road in Cork on 11th May 1920.

S. Doyle of Inchicore; Dublin was killed in action against British Forces on 19th September 1920.

P. Doyle of Ballinagre, Co. Roscommon was killed in action against British Forces on the 20th October 1920.

T. Doyle of Dolphin’s Barn, Dublin was killed in action against British Forces on 25th November 1920.

Constable Michael Doyle of the Royal Irish Constabulary was killed by I.R.A. men at Dromkeen, Co. Limerick on 3rd February 1921.

Patrick Doyle of St. Mary’s Place, Dublin was hanged at Kilminham on 14th March 1921 during a rash of violent operations by British troops.

A Constable Doyle of the Royal Irish Constabulary was wounded by I.R.A. men at Mullinahone, Co. Tipperary on 20th March 1921.

S. Doyle of Amiens Street, Dublin was killed in action against British Forces during May 1921.

The Irish Civil War

The negotiations on the Treaty had been largely carried on the Irish side by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith. Both men knew that many Dail (Parliament) members wouldn’t accept the loss of the north, or the fact that the British king would still be head of the new Irish Free State and Irish Members of Parliament would still have to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown. Eamon de Valera had been elected President of the new self-proclaimed republic in August, and he remained in Dublin during negotiations. Under pressure from Britain’s Lloyd George and after a spell of exhausting negotiations, Collins and Griffith signed the Treaty without checking with de Valera in Dublin. De Valera was outraged when the delegates returned with what he and many other republicans regarded as a betrayal of the I.R.A.’s principles.

Collins regarded the issue of the monarchy and the oath of allegiance as largely symbolic; he hoped that the north-eastern six counties would not be a viable entity and would eventually become part of the Free State. During the Treaty negotiations he had been encouraged to think that the Border Commission would decrease the size of that part of Ireland remaining outside the Free State. He hoped that he would convince the rest of his comrades, but he knew the risks and declared, "I have signed my death warrant".

In the end Collins could not persuade his colleagues to accept the Treaty. De Valera was furious, and it was not long before a bitter civil war broke out between comrades who, a year previously, had fought alongside each other against the British.

The Treaty was ratified in the Dail (the Irish Parliament’s Lower House, and is pronounced "Doyle") in January 1922, and in June the country’s first general election resulted in victory for the pro-Treaty forces. Fighting broke out two weeks later.

Amazingly, the Civil War was primarily about the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown, rather than the exclusion of the six northern counties from the Irish Free State. Of the 400 or more pages of Dail records on the Treaty debate, only seven deal with the issue of Ulster. The rest focus on the Oath and the Crown.

Collins was ambushed and shot dead in Cork by anti-Treaty forces, and de Valera was imprisoned by the new Free State government, under its new Prime Minister William Cosgrave, which went so far as to execute 77 of its former comrades. The Civil War ground to an exhausted halt in 1923.

During the Irish Civil War (1922-1923) Doyle men were once more fighting on both sides.

Captain Johnny Doyle (Pro-Treaty Forces) fired the first round of artillery from an 18-pounder gun on Four Courts on 28th June 1922.

Philip Doyle, a goal (jail) escapee was shot dead by Anti-Treaty troops near Killane, Co. Wexford for attacking a Sergeant of the Civic Guard and taking his bicycle. His body was found on 21st July 1922.

Tommy Doyle, who served with the Pro-Treaty Forces, saw plenty of fighting in South Leinster and Munster. He accompanied David Moran in many actions. He was wounded while trying to recover the body of Corporal Kelly on 9th August 1922 at Redmondstown, Clonmel.

(Very sad days for Ireland and the Doyle Clan.)


Since the Partition of Ireland

The Irish Free State, as it was known until 1949, was established after the signing in December 1921 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, between the British Government and an Irish delegation led by Michael Collins. The Irish Civil War between pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty factions followed.

After boycotting the Dail for a number of years, de Valera founded a new party called Fianna Fail ("Warriors of Ireland") which won nearly half the seats in the 1927 election. De Valera and the other new Teachta Dala (T.D.’s, Members of the Dail = Members of Parliament) managed within weeks to enter the Dail by the simple expedient of not taking the Oath but signing in as if they had.

Fianna Fail won a majority in the 1932 election, and remained in power for 16 years. De Valera introduced a new constitution in 1937, doing away with the Oath and claiming sovereignty over the six northern counties of Ulster. In 1938 Britain renounced its right to use certain Irish ports for military purposes, which it had been granted under the Treaty. Southern Ireland was therefore able to remain neutral in the Second World War. (However, it is very interesting to note that more than 40,000 southern Irishmen still crossed the border to enlist in British units during the Second World War.)

In 1948 Fianna Fail lost the general election to Fine Gael - the direct descendants of the first Irish Free State government - in coalition with the new republican Clann an Poblachta. The new government declared the Free State to be a republic at last. Ireland left the British Commonwealth in 1949. In 1955 it became a member of the United Nations.

20th Century Doyles of Note

Jack Doyle (1913-1978) Irish born, was known as "the Gorgeous Gael"; a boxer and playboy who achieved fame, not to say notoriety, blazing a starry trail across the boxing rings, the footlights and divorce courts, during and after World War II.

During the Second World War hundreds of thousands of Irishmen saw fought against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the Armed Forces of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia, and the U.S.A. (Between 1939 and 1945 more than 40,000 men from the Republic of Ireland crossed the border to join British units fighting in the war against the Nazis and the Japs.) Many Doyle men died in this war, and we are preparing a Doyle Roll of Honour in their memory.

On 15 May 1940, Private Harold Doyle of the 5th Gordon Highlanders Regiment (British Army) was on outpost duty in the Saar Valley in France. His unit had been under heavy shelling by German artillery for 5 days, and that morning his outpost was overwhelmed by attacking German infantry. About 75 of the surviving soldiers from his unit were taken prisoner and removed in German trucks. He was segregated from the others at Comblerz, and was interrogated by a German General, before joining the others at the transit camp at Lindburg. From there they were taken to Stalag XXA at Thorn, and shortly afterwards, he was transferred in a party of 150 soldiers to the working camp at Winduga in eastern Germany. 

On arrival, his and all the British soldiers' personal belongings were confiscated. No additional clothing was issued to them. They were housed in wooden huts and the food was very poor and rather scarce. Discipline was very strict; their quarters were searched once or twice every week. They did not receive any Red Cross parcels. All their mail was censored. In spite of everything, and of the German effort to convince these captured soldiers that the war was lost for Britain, they never despaired. They were obliged to work and went out daily in parties of 10 or 20 under escort of 2 armed German guards. Roll call was always taken before leaving and on return to the Camp. 

There was no recognised escape organisation amongst these British Prisoners of War, but individual soldiers were constantly scheming and collecting equipment. They stole a map from the German guards' mess and they had already acquired a pocket compass. However, it was impossible to get hold of civilian clothes; this handicap and the general lack of money stopped many of these Prisoners of War from trying to get away. The Germans had also put up a notice saying that it was useless to attempt to escape to Russia, as the Red frontier guards "shot on sight". In spite of all this Harold Doyle decided to make a break for it.

The German guards' mess had a door on the far side opening out of the camp, with only a wire construction fence beyond it. At 4.30am on the 3rd of December 1940 he, and one other British soldier, went through the German guards' mess and, when the German sentry had just passed, scrambled under and through the fence and got away. They took the river Vistula as their direction for Russian-Occupied Poland and, for the first 10 days, avoided meeting anybody. Then their supply of food ran out, but after approaching Polish farmers, they were given food and clothing and by degrees guided to Warsaw. In Warsaw they were able to make contact with the Polish Resistance. The Polish Resistance helped them to reach the Russian frontier at Ostroleica. There they got through the wire and penetrated 5 miles into Russia before they were arrested by the Russians. They were then taken to Lomsa prison for 3 days, then for another 9 days at Bialostok, and after that for 13 more days at Minok. At all those places the prisons were filthy and overcrowded, and they were half starved. The other prisoners were mostly Poles of whom the majority were ex-Army Officers. Later they were moved to a prison in Moscow, where conditions were better; this was an internment camp for political prisoners. After 2 weeks they were taken, with 140 Frenchmen, to a camp at Smolensk, were they remained from the beginning of February 1941 until the 22nd of June 1941, when the German invasion of Russia began. They were then taken to the railway station and were all ready for their journey (rumoured to be Siberia), in cattle trucks under heavy guard, when all British Prisoners of War were suddenly ordered to leave the train. They were taken back to the camp and later to a hotel in Moscow, where they spent 8 days on good rations before their release on 8 July to the British Embassy in Moscow.

Distinguished Conduct Medal
Distinguished Conduct Medal

Private Harold Doyle was then allowed to return back to Britain where he rejoined his regiment, the Gordon Highlanders (which is a very famous Scottish regiment), in the continuing war against Nazi Germany. He was decorated with the very prestigious Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry. (The "D.C.M." is a bravery award for British, and British Commonwealth, enlisted men; and it is second only to the very highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross.) 

Another Doyle came to notice during the German invasion of France, on the 21st of May 1940. The 7th Royal Tank Regiment of the British Army was engaged in an action to delay the advance of the crack German Panzer Divisions, and to relieve the pressure on the British Garrison in Arras. Early in the battle the 4 tanks under the command of Sergeant Benjamin Doyle became heavily engaged with a German Anti-Tank Battery. All 4 of the German Anti-Tank cannons were destroyed. However, 2 of Sergeant Doyle's tanks were also put out of action (by the very detirmined German Anti-Tank crews). Nonetheless, Sergeant Doyle and his 2 remaining tanks continued to attack, as there were German machine gun units maintaining an intense fire on Doyle's tanks from behind the destroyed Anti-Tank cannons. Doyle's attack with his remaining tanks broke the German's resistance, and then the German machine gun troops started to withdraw.

There was about 150 German soldiers retreating from Sergeant Doyle's 2 attacking tanks, and most of them were killed or wounded by machine gun fire from the tanks as they ran away.

Sergeant Doyle's 2 remaining tanks then went to the assistance of 5 British light "infantry" tanks (equipped only with machine guns) who were being attacked by 4 German Medium Tanks (armed with cannons). Sergeant Doyle's 2 tanks then destroyed all 4 of the attacking German Medium Tanks, and left them burning. (All the Germans who tried to escape from their burning tanks were killed by machine gun fire from Doyle's tank.) A little later, Doyle's 2 remaining tanks ran up against another 4 German Anti-Tank cannons. These were also destroyed. (One of these Anti-Tank guns was knocked out when Sergeant Doyle, under intense fire, drove straight for it and ran over the German cannon with his tank.) Both of Sergeant Doyle's tanks now had fires burning in the forward tool boxes, and the crews had to repeatedly open the escape hatches, to avoid suffocation by the fumes. Observers noticed smoke pouring out of the open top hatch whenever Sergeant Doyle took a breather. It was also noticed that both tank's cannons had become stuck; the cannons on both tanks were pointing to one side because both tank's turrets had been jammed by German hits. Shortly after this engagement, on reaching the crest of rising ground, Doyle's 2 tanks came upon a German 88mm heavy Anti-Tank cannon about 20 yards away. The Germans prepared to fire on one of Doyle's tanks, but it got away behind a rise in the ground. This same tank then swung around and manouvered so that its stuck cannon could be bought to shoot at the German Anti-Tank gun. At the same time this was happening Sergeant Doyle swung his tank around and opened fire with his machine gun, scattering the German gunners. Doyle then fired his cannon when it finally lined-up on target. Doyle's quick and aggressive action saved the crew of his other tank from being destroyed by these German Anti-Tank gunners. However, by this time the fire on Doyle's second tank had flared up and had to be abandoned by its crew. Sergeant Doyle had the two centre fingers on his right hand shot off on one of the occasions when he had opened his hatch to get air. Doyle's own tank's turret was still jammed and all the periscopes were shattered. Doyle's tank was also still emitting smoke when he finally left the battlefield to rally with what was left of his regiment. Sergeant Doyle was captured two days later by the Germans near Cambrai. He spent the rest of the Second World War as a prisoner of the Germans. However his gallantry was recognised by the British Army, and he was later awarded the very prestigious Distinguished Conduct Medal for his outstanding bravery and leadership.

1940's to today  (cont)   

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 Last updated 30 April, 2001