The Clan MacDowall

Battle Cry: “Vincere Vel Mori” To Conquer or Die
Clan Badge: Oak
Clan Bird: the Raven

The MacDowalls are recognized as a clan by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. Although there are many variations as described below, the official spelling of the clan name is MacDowall with the letter “D” capitalized. Fergus D. H. Macdowall of Garthland is Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall. He is an Honorary President of the Clan MacDougall Society of North America. The Society has a strong membership of MacDowalls whose names are often spelled in phonetic variations such as Macdowel, McDowell, Macdowall, and McDoual etc. as discussed below.

Origins in Scotland

The family originated in Galloway in south west Scotland as descendants of Duegald, the founder of the family. He was the second son of Uchtred Lord of Galloway and a grandson of Prince Fergus of Galloway d. 1161, rulers of Galloway. Duegald is mentioned in the Melrose Chronicle as having been killed in 1185 while supporting his older brother in battle.

For the next century Duegald’s family was known as the Macdougalls in Galloway with their name spelt with a small letter “d”. They have no proven relation to the MacDougalls of Argyll though both originally had a Gaelic name of “Mac Dou gall” meaning “son of the black stranger”. The name “Black Foreigner” or “Black Stranger” was the early Gaelic term or nickname for a Dane, later extended to other Norsemen and by Duegald’s time it applied more generally to persons of Norse descent. Duegald’s descendants’ family name of “Macdougall” came from adding the Gaelic prefix “Mac” meaning “son of” in front of his name.

Names and Spellings

On 7 July 1292 the family name spelling of Macdougall in Galloway was written in modified form when signing the “Ragman Roll” oath of fealty required of all the Scottish nobility by King Edward I of England. This change in spelling distinguished it from the Highland Clan MacDougall of Argyll. The Macdougall in Galloway family name spelling was thus modified to change the letters “ug” to “w” (i.e. “uu” pronounced “oo”) in a Norman transliteration. Duegald’s lineal successor Dougal Macdougall of Gairachloyne and his younger brother Fergus affixed their seals to the “Ragman Roll” and their names were inscribed on the Roll as “Macdowyl” and “Macdowald” instead of Macdougall. However the Makerston branch of the family founded circa 1370 on the Borders in southeast Scotland carried on for centuries using the original name of “Macdougal” or “Makdougal” always using the small letter “d’.

In later centuries the spellings of Macdowall with a capital “D” and also with the letter “e” as in “MacDowell” became common especially after many emigrated from Galloway across to nearby Ireland before and during the Plantations of Ulster in the early 1600’s, and then generations later from Ireland on to North America. As a result most of the members of the family now live in the United States where the “e” spelling is most commonly found but many other variant spellings of the name exist. Because of the years these families spent in Ireland there are those who believe their name is Irish but the Clan MacDowall is actually a Galloway Scotland name over eight centuries old.

The migrations of the family to Ireland, North America and elsewhere led to many spellings and variations of the ancient family name Macdowall.

  1. Nowadays the surnames and spellings with or without the Mac, Mc, or M’ prefix within the Clan MacDowall include variations of McDowell, MacDowel, Macdowal, MacDowyl, McDuyl, Macdoual, McDouall, M’Douall, MacDool, McDoll, Makdougal, Macdougall (the original ancient name of the Macdowalls) etc.
  2. Other name variations within the Clan MacDowall include Dowall, Dugal, Dugle, Duwall, and O’Dowill.
  3. Names such as Kyle, Coull, McCoul, Coyle, Cole, and Dole are Galloway family names that were territorially associated with the Macdowalls. These names and their related spellings are all accepted as members of Clan MacDowall.

A Brief History of the Clan MacDowall

History indicates that Gille, the native Dalriadic Governor of the Western Isles under Norse suzerainty about the year 1000, was the great grandfather in the male line of Fergus Lord of Galloway. Gille was also the ancestor on the distaff line of the Norse king Somerled of Argyll the father of Dougall the patronymic ancestor of the MacDougalls of Argyll.

Fergus of Galloway (1096-1161) was placed in training in the feudal court of England for the purpose of replacing the competing clan system of governance then in use for Gaels in southwestern Scotland. About 1124 Fergus married Elizabeth, a daughter of King Henry I of England and he assumed the powerful Lordship of Galloway ruling a land coveted by both Scotland and England. “Prince” Fergus was made the first feudal Lord of Galloway under King David I of Scotland. Their elder son Uchtred became the second feudal Lord of Galloway. It was Uchtred’s second son Duegald (k. 1185) after whom the cadet branch of the House of ancient Galloway was patronymically written as Macdougall until 1292-6, after which time it appeared as “Macdowall” and was pronounced “Macdouall”.

In 1295 Duegald’s lineal successor Dougal Macdougall of Gairachloyne was granted a confirmatory charter to the Galloway lands of Gairachloyne / Garochloyne, Lougan / Logan and Eldrig / Elrig by his Baliol fourth cousin King John I as Lord of Galloway.

This Sir Dougal and his heirs of two more generations led the defending forces of Galloway in the name of the Baliol Crown of Scotland for fifty years after King Robert I (Bruce) invaded Galloway in 1306. They were comrades in battle with King Robert I’s heir king David II in 1347 and shared his English captivity. About 1370 Sir Dougal’s fourth grandson, Sir Fergus Macdowell of Makerstoun and of Garthland inherited the feudal Barony of Makerstoun near Kelso in south east Scotland from his Fraser mother. There he established the Makerstoun cadet branch which later adopted the spellings of “Macdougall” and “Makdougall” but consistently retained the use of the small letter “d”. This lowland derivation accounts for the name Macdougall being in common use in a Borders area so far from the Highlands.

The family continued to play a role in Scottish government and commercial life for centuries though over time many emigrated to Ireland and to Europe. Many of the Irish members moved onwards generations later to settle in North America particularly after 1700.

In 1987 Professor Fergus Day Hort Macdowall, the Clan Chief, re-matriculated Arms at the Lyon Court of Scotland as the Laird and Baron of the feudal baronies of Garthland and Castlesemple, Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall. He retained the site of Garthland Castle (1211) at Garthland Mains near Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Scotland and the substitute estate of Garthland with seat at Barr Castle near Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland. In 1987 he designated the official spelling of the clan name as “Clan MacDowall” in honour of the capital “D” spelling style of most clansmen today.

Sources of Further Information of Importance to Clan MacDowall

  1. An excellent 9-page color booklet in PDF format, entitled “The Clan of the MacDowalls of Galloway” is available for download from the North America Society web site here
  2. Informative books about Clan MacDowall are displayed in the Book Pages in the Resources Section of the Clan MacDougall Society web site here.
  3. The MacDowalls a book by Fergus D. H. Macdowall Editor-in-Chief and Contributing Writers became available in 2009. Its cover is the new MacDowall Tartan pattern. Chapters include the ancient history in Galloway, the Macdougalls of Makerstoun cadet, castles and abbeys and other structures relating to the Macdowalls in Galloway, emigration, settlement and prominent MacDowalls of North American history, and emigrations of families to the Netherlands, Sweden and Russia. All profits from the sale of this book are held in Trust by the Clan MacDougall Society to be used for promoting the heritage of Clan MacDowall. Your local bookstore may order this book for you but may ask for its ISBN 978-0-578-02679-4. The MacDowalls may also be purchased through at The soft cover price is $19.00 plus shipping. Outlets such as and other book stores may offer it at their own prices.

Clan MacDougall Society of North America

The Clan MacDougall Society of North America:

  1. Promotes interest in Scottish heritage and Clan MacDowall and Clan MacDougall
  2. Helps to research their history and support their heritages and historic places.
  3. Publishes “The Tartan” newsletter, has a web site at and a Facebook page at
  4. Our web site Heritage Section for MacDowalls
  • Explains our Clan MacDowall history and describes our historic places in Galloway,
  • Displays our Crest-badges and our Tartans,
  • Provides information about relevant and reliable books about our Clan MacDowall.

Membership in the Society is open to all persons and their descendants who support Clan MacDowall or Clan MacDougall or the Families associated with these two clans.
Names eligible for membership include:

  1. All spelling variations of MacDowall or Macdougall with or without the “Mac” or “Mc” or capital “D” or double “L” or “e” or “a”,
  2. Clan MacDowall’s Associated Families of Kyle, Coull, McCoul, Coyle, Cole, and Dole etc. with or without the “Mac” or “Mc”.

Help us to preserve your ancient heritage by becoming a member of the Clan MacDougall Society. Membership information is available here.

***** Created by the Clan MacDougall Society of North America, September 2012 *****


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