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
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
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
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
P. Doyle of Ballinagre, Co. Roscommon
was killed in action against British Forces on the 20th
T. Doyle of Dolphin’s Barn, Dublin
was killed in action against British Forces on 25th November
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
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
During the Irish Civil War
(1922-1923) Doyle men were once more fighting on both
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
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
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.