MacDowalls of Galloway

Fergus D. H. Macdowall of Garthland is Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall and the MacDowalls are recognized as a clan by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.  Professor Fergus Macdowall is an Honorary President of the Clan MacDougall Society of North America.  Our Society has a strong membership of MacDowalls (often spelled in name variations such as McDowell as discussed below) who are anciently connected to us through “Prince” Fergus, Lord of Galloway, a contemporary ally, and grandfather-in-law of King Somerled of Argyll and the Isles.

The proper spelling of the clan name is MacDowall with the letter “D” capitalized.  The family originated in Galloway in what is now south west Scotland as descendants of Duegald who was a grandson of Prince Fergus of Galloway and the second son of Uchtred Lord of Galloway.  Duegald the eponymous founder of the family is mentioned in the Melrose Chronicle as having been killed in a battle in 1185 while supporting his older brother.

For the next century Duegald’s family were 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 their shared original Gaelic name of “Mac Dou gall” meaning “son of the black stranger” suggests that both have a Norse heritage.  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.

On 7 July 1292 the family name spelling of Macdougall in Galloway was written in modified form to distinguish it from the Highland clan MacDougall of Argyll in a time period when leaders of both were required to sign the oath of fealty known as the Ragman Roll as required of the Scottish nobility by King Edward I of England.  The Macdougall in Galloway family name spelling was modified when the letters “ug” were changed to “w” (i.e. “uu” pronounced “oo”) in a Norman transliteration introduced under King Edward I of England.  However the Makerston branch of the family founded circa 1370 on the Borders in south east 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 some emigrated from Galloway across to nearby Ireland during the Plantations of Ulster in the early 1600’s, and then 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 our name exist as well as discussed below.

Nowadays the names and spellings with or without the Mac, Mc, or M’ prefix within the Macdowall Kindred include many spelling variations of the surname including McDowell, MacDowel, Macdowal, MacDowyl, McDuyl, Macdoual, McDouall, M’Douall, MacDool, McDoll, Makdougal, Macdougall (the original ancient name of the MacDowalls) etc.  Other names within the MacDowalls include Dowall, Dugal, Dugle, Duwall, Duvall, M’Gowall, Wall, Wahl, etc.  and also Doyle, and O’Dowill.  The Britonic Kyles with Coull, McCoul, Coyle, Cole, and Dole are accepted territorially.  However these and many other variant name spellings are all considered part of the Kindred of MacDowall.


History indicates that Gille, the native 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 Henry I, king of England who wished to dominate Galloway and its clan system of governance then in use for Gaels in southwestern Scotland. Implicit in this was the use of only the territorial name “de Gallouyia”, Galloway. In this context, however, he could have used the surname “MacGille”, and even the surname “MacDubh Gall” the “dark stranger” name which had been applied to the first Gaels under Norse influence settled on the Galloway coast.

About 1124 Fergus married Elizabeth, a natural daughter of HENRY I of England and he assumed the powerful Lordship of Galloway ruling a quasi-independent realm 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 1987, however, the Chief designated the spelling of the clan name as “Clan MacDowall” in honour of the style most clansmen today.

In the change of spelling of 1292 Duegald’s lineal successor Dougal Macdougall of Gairachloyne and his younger brother Fergus affixed their seals to the “Ragman Roll” of fealty to their fifth cousin King Edward I of England , who later knighted Dougal, and their names were inscribed on the Roll as Macdowyl and Macdowald.  In 1295 Dougal was granted a confirmatory charter to the lands of Gairachloyne / Garochloyne, Lougan / Logan and Eldrig / Elrig by his Baliol / Balliol 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, however, comrades in battle and English captivity with King Robert I’s heir king David II in 1347.  Sir Dougal’s fourth grandson, Sir Fergus Macdowell of Makerstoun and of Garthland, also fought, was wounded, captured and ransomed in 1402 at the battle of Homildon Hill.  In 1414 he helped his nephew Thomas Macdowall, the previous Chief’s son and heir to receive a charter renewing to him the family’s old feudal baronies of Garochloyne, and Logan-Elrig, with Garthland as well.

Original family archives were taken by EDWARD I of England, others were destroyed by ROBERT I and Edward Bruce, and everything left was eliminated by Sir Archibald Douglas as successive new Lords of Galloway.  Further losses of records occurred in the burning of Balzieland Tower of Patrick M’Douall of Logan in 1500, the pillage of Freugh in 1679 and in the fire at Preston Hall destroying Garthland records in 1686. Cognate sources, however, have helped to sketch the lineages with some highlights.

Uchtred Macdowall of Garthland and his heir Thomas, together with Charles McDouall of Logan, Gilbert Macdowall of Freugh and most male relations, were killed with JAMES IV of Scotland at the battle of Flodden in 1513.  John Macdowall of Garthland and Corswall and Fergus McDouall of Freugh were killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547.  The widely reputed Chief Uchtred Macdowall of Garthland and Uchtred the younger, defended cadet stirps in a feud with cousins, the Gordons of Lochinvar, and they were drawn into the Gowrie conspiracy of 1582 against JAMES VI who later made warrant to delete their summons.  The younger Uchtred then married Janet Gordon of Lochinvar and in 1598 he besieged the Kennedy Earl of Cassilis to obtain legal terms on feud properties the Earl had claimed by force of arms.

In 1613 Sir John Macdowall of Garthland was in the court of JAMES VI and petitioned for the restoration of the Lordship of Galloway that had been dormant in the Crown since the Douglas attainder in 1455. It was then achieved by his first cousin, Sir Alexander Stewart Lord Garlies as Earl of Galloway.  Sir John’s son Sir James, a Commissioner of the Estates and an M.P. in 1644, raised men to suppress the Irish rebellion as did Alexander McDouall of Logan and Uchtred McDouall of Freugh and he took a force of the Scots army to relieve CHARLES I outside Newark where he was knighted in 1647.  John McDouall of Freugh was a high Royalist in support of CHARLES I and escaped from capture but his house “Balgreggan” and his fortalice “Castle MacDougall” were burnt with their records.  His grandson Patrick McDouall lost the Barony to John Graham of Claverhouse (“Bonnie Dundee”) under protest to his martial law, but it was recovered by his son Patrick with a charter to the “Barony of McDougall alias Freugh” in 1707.

William Macdowall of Garthland, M.P. under WILLIAM and MARY, lost his family archives when lent to Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh whose house Preston Hall and all in it were destroyed by fire in 1686.  In 1725 Patrick McDouall of Freugh married the Crichton heiress, the Countess of Dumfries, which led to the listing of Freugh McDoualls as collaterals of the Stuart Marquess of Bute.  Similarly, the Macdowells or Makdougalls of Makerstoun became latent in 1722 when the heiress married Sir George Hay (Hay-Makdougal) whose heiress-granddaughter married Lieut. Gen. Sir Thomas Brisbane of that Ilk (Brisbane-Makdougal), 6th Governor of New South Wales, followed by their Aunt Ann Makdougal who married John Scott of Gala, and in 1920 the Barony of Makerstoun was sold to the progenitor of the Rt. Hon. Mary Lady Biddulph who restored the House in 1974.

Col. William Macdowall of Castlesemple, brother of Patrick in the Garthland family who died at the battle of Ramilies after taking supplies to relieve the Darien Expedition, brought the West Indian sugar trade to Scotland in 1725.  His seven grandsons included William Macdowall of Garthland and Castlesemple, M.P. in five Reform Parliaments and King’s Lieut. of Renfrewshire (1793-1810); James, Provost of Glasgow; Gen. Hay Macdowall, co-conqueror of Ceylon and Commander-in-Chief of the army in Madras, India; and Col. Day Hort Macdowall whose son, Lieut. Gen. Day Hort Macdowall of Garthland and Castlesemple, Col. of ‘The Buffs’, was followed by his nephew Capt. Day Hort Macdowall, M.P. for Prince Albert, Sask., Canada, who helped to subdue the Riel Rebellion; he died in 1927 not long before the McDoualls of Logan, Andrew and Nigel, who developed the Logan Botanical Garden but left that feudal barony without a McDouall heir.  His grandson, Professor Fergus Day Hort Macdowall, a Research Scientist for the Government of Canada, in Ottawa, re-matriculated Arms at the Lyon Court in 1987 as the Laird and Baron of the feudal baronies of Garthland and Castlesemple, Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall.  He was born in and retired to Victoria, B.C., Canada but 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.

Names and Spellings:  The migrations of the family to Ireland, North America and elsewhere led to many spellings and variations of the ancient family name Macdowall.  Nowadays the names and spellings with or without the Mac, Mc, or M’ prefix within the MacDowall Kindred include McDowell, MacDowel, Macdowal, MacDowyl, McDuyl, Macdoual, McDouall, M’Douall, MacDool, McDoll, Makdougal, Macdougall, (the ancient name of the MacDowalls) etc. Other names within the MacDowalls include Dowall, Dugal, Dugle, Duwall, Duvall, M’Gowall, Wall, Wahl etc. and also Doyle, and O’Dowill. The Britonic Kyles with Coull, McCoul, Coyle, Cole, Dole are accepted territorially. However these and many other name spellings are all considered part of the Kindred of MacDowall. See Clan Names for more information.


Coat of Arms of the Chief 

The private Coat of Arms of the Chief (see above) is that of Garthland augmented with the crest-coronet to signify chiefship.

  • The Arms per se on the shield are the blue field on which a silver (white) lion rampant is crowned with a “ducal coronet”.  These are the plain arms of Galloway used by the ancient Lordship and in the provincial arms.  They also comprise the Chief’s rectangular Banner.
  • The supporters or bearers of the shield are rampant lions gorged (about the neck) with an antique (pointed) crown.  These bearers are appropriate for use on their surcoat by MacDowall clansmen.

  • The Compartment on which the supporters stand is rock with waves of the sea around the base and sprigs of the Oak plant badge.

The Chief’s Standard 

The Chief’s 12 foot long Standard has the St. Andrew’s Cross in the hoist (next to the flagstaff) followed by 3 Crests alternating with 3 gold slashes bearing one each of the words of the Motto “Vincere Vel Mori”

The White Pinsel 

The white Pinsel (triangular flag) is centered by the Crest surrounded by the belt and buckle bearing the Motto “Vincere Vel Mori”, within a green circlet labeled Garthland.  This is specifically carried by the Clan Tosheador (Commander abroad), currently Dr. Walter M. Macdougall, Past President Clan MacDougall Society of North America.

The Clansman’s Crest Badge 

The clansman’s Crest Badge, as a pin for cap or clothing, is the Chief’s Crest-Coronet encircled by the belt and buckle with the Motto “Vincere Vel Mori”.

  • The Chapeau or “Cap of Maintenance” in the Crest Badge represents the feudal barony and it is blue velvet lined with ermine, the blue indicating interrupted ownership, unlike the MacDougall red chapeau-coronet.

The Chief’s Eagle Feathers 

 The Chief may also wear three golden eagle feathers in his cap.

Tartans:  Clansmen may officially wear any of the following four tartans: MacDowall (Macdowall), MacDowall – Galloway Hunting; Hunting Stewart, or Galloway Hunting, and MacDougall.

  • The tartan of “Clan MacDowall” appears on the book cover of the “The MacDowalls” published in June 2009 as shown in our Book Section.
  • This modern tartan was designed over a seven year period by the Chief through alterations in the sett of Hunting Stewart tartan, for the Stewart Lords of Galloway, and the symbolic use of tinctures from his plain Arms of ancient Galloway.
  • The central device, the silver (white) lion rampant, is represented in the tartan labels by a white square which is crossed by the yellow overstripe as the gold crown.  The lion romps in a blue field indicative of the Irish Sea around the Rhinns of Galloway where the original families were based.  Their family seats and the oak badge are represented by the crossing green bands, with the white overstripe to symbolize the widespread family diaspora.
  • The new clan tartan was registered by the Scottish Tartans Authority on November 12, 2007 and it is before the Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland to be recorded in the Court Books.

Motto: “Vincere Vel Mori”  (Conquer or Die)

Plant Badge:    Sprig of Oak Leaves.


A sprig of Oak Leaves are the plant badge for Clan MacDowall. The oak is a common symbol of strength and endurance and has been chosen as the national tree of many countries.

In Greek mythology, the oak is the tree sacred to Zeus, king of the gods. In Zeus’s oracle in Dodona, Epirus, the sacred oak was the centerpiece of the precinct, and the priests would divine the pronouncements of the god by interpreting the rustling of the oak’s leaves.

In Baltic mythology, the oak is the sacred tree of Latvian Pērkons, Lithuanian Perkūnas and Prussian Perkūns. Pērkons is the god of thunder and one of the most important deities in the Baltic pantheon.

In Celtic polytheism, the name of the oak tree was part of the Proto-Celtic word for ‘druid’: *derwo-weyd- > *druwid- ; however, Proto-Celtic *derwo- (and *dru-) can also be adjectives for ‘strong’ and ‘firm’, so Ranko Matasovic interprets that *druwid- may mean ‘strong knowledge’. As in other Indo-European faiths, Taranus, being a Thunder God, was associated with the oak tree. The Indo-Europeans worshiped the oak and connected it with a thunder or lightning god; “tree” and drus may also be cognate with “Druid,” the Celtic priest to whom the oak was sacred. There has even been a study that shows that oaks are more likely to be struck by lightning than any other tree of the same height.

In Norse mythology, the oak was sacred to the thunder god, Thor. Thor’s Oak was a sacred tree of the Germanic Chatti tribe. According to legend, the Christianisation of the heathen tribes by Saint Boniface was marked by the oak’s being replaced by the fir (whose triangular shape symbolizes the Trinity) as a “sacred” tree.

Oak Sprig

Oak Sprig

In the Bible, the oak tree at Shechem is the site where Jacob buries the foreign gods of his people (Gen. 35:4) . In addition, Joshua erects a stone under an oak tree as the first covenant of the Lord (Josh. 24.25–7). In Isaiah 61, the prophet refers to the Israelites as “Oaks of Righteousness”.

In Slavic mythology, the oak was the most important tree of the god Perun.



Sites of Importance to MacDowalls

Buittle (Botel) Castle

Stronghold of the Lords of Galloway, Dervorgilla and the Baliols (Devorguilla and the Balliols in English spelling). Located in Wigtownshire, 1 mile W of Dalbeattie on a small mount on the W bank of the River Urr in the Valley of the Urr Water.

Cruggleton Castle

Seaside fortification of the Lords of Galloway and the Norse before them.  Located in Wigtownshire, 1- 1/2 miles S of Garlieston.


Where Robert Bruce murdered John Comyn in Greyfriars Kirk in February 1306.

  • Dumfries castle was starved into surrender in by King Robert 1 (Bruce) while defended by Sir Dougal MacDowyl in 1313. Mutilated earthworks remain from its intentional destruction in 1357 under the terms of a treaty freeing King David II from English captivity.
  • Dervorgilla’s Bridge – Built over the River Nith in 1262 by Dervorgilla, Lady of Galloway.  It is still in use.

Dundrennan Abbey

Founded in 1142 as a Cistercian Monastery by Fergus, Lord of Galloway.  It is the grave site of Alan Lord of Galloway d. 1234. The abbey ruins are located in Kirkcudbrightshire about 4- 1/2 miles SE of Kirkcudbright close to the village of Dundrennan. The abbey is a little over 1 mile inland from the Solway Firth.

Forest of Buchan

Where John of Lorn the 5th Chief of Clan MacDougall and Dougal Macdowyll outflanked and almost captured Robert Bruce.

Garthland Tower

Seat of the Macdowalls of Garthland.  Built in 1211 and pulled down circa 1840. In Wigtownshire, at Garthland Mains near Stranraer.  The Tower House stood 135 feet NE of Garthland farmhouse.  A cairn now marks the site.

Glen Luce Abbey

Founded by Roland Lord of Galloway in 1190.  Located in Wigtownshire on the Water of Luce 2 miles NW of the village of Glenluce.

Isle of Heston

Site of Sir Duncan Macdowall’s stronghold, 1310-1353.  Located in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright 7 miles S of Dalbeattie on minor roads at the mouth of the river Urr.


Site of a decisive victory in 1308 by Edward Bruce over his opponents in Galloway. Kirouchtrie means a Fort of Uchtred, the Lord of Galloway.

Lincluden Abbey

Founded circa 1161-65 by Uchtred, Lord of Galloway on the site of the bailey of Kirkhill Motte.  In 1389 the nunnery was replaced by a Collegiate Church then by the present abbey for Princess Margaret of >Scotland.  Its picturesque remains stand where the Cluden and Nith rivers meet 1 mile N of Dumfries Town Center.

Loch Ryan

Where in 1307 Sir Dougal Macdowyl of Gairochloyne and Logan-Elrig defeated and captured Thomas and Alexander Bruce, two brothers of Robert Bruce.

Logan House

Seat of the McDoualls of Logan, including a famous Royal Botanical Garden.  Located in Wigtonshire 14 miles S of Stranraer and 1-1/2 miles N of Port Logan in the Rhinns of Galloway.

Machrimore Castle

Seat of Macdowall of Machrimore. Located in West Kirkcudbrightshire, approximately 1 ½ miles SE of Newton Stewart, Kikcudbrightshire, near the E bank of the Cree River. Machrimore is now a seniors’ residence.

Makerstoun House

Seat of Macdowall / Makdougal of Makerston on Tweed for five centuries. Located 4 miles NW of Kelso, Roxburghshire.

Palace Isle

Home of Fergus of Galloway on an island in the (now dry) Loch Fergus near Kirkcudbright.  Located in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 2 miles E of Kirkcudbright on the N side of the Route B727 on the farm of Lochfergus.

Saulseat Abbey (New Name Soulseat Abbey)

Founded by Fergus Lord of Galloway circa 1160. Located in Wigtownshire 2 miles E of Stanraer on Soulseat Loch near the ruins of Castle Kennedy. The abbey lay on the promontory of the loch with a very narrow isthmus which is now an Herb Garden open to the public in the summer months.

St. Mary’s Isle

Fergus Prince of Galloway founded the Priory of Ste. Maria de Trayle dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1161 on St. Mary’s Isle at the mouth of the Dee river but later the island became a peninsula of the mainland. This large Priory existed until 1608 but now no ruins are visible and no trace of St. Mary’s Isle itself remains.

Located on Route A711 south of Kirkcudbright. Sir Fergus Macdowyl of Makerstoun was Constable of the nearby Royal castle of Castlemains (Castledykes) now a ruin located upstream on the Dee River on the W side of Kirkcudbright.

Sweetheart Abbey

Founded as New Abbey by Dervorgilla, Lady of Galloway, as a Cistercian Abbey in 1273 in memory of her husband John Balliol.  The abbey ruins are located 5 miles S of Dumfries on the E side of the village of New Abbey.

Whithorn Priory

Founded by Fergus, Lord of Galloway circa 1150, it became a Priory by 1177 for the Premonstratensian order.

Located in Wigtownshire on the peninsula between Luce and Wigtown bays in the town of Whithorn. Nearby Candida Casa was founded on the isle of Whithorn circa 397 by Saint Ninian, Scotland’s first saint.

Sources of Further Information of Importance to Clan MacDowall

An 8-page color booklet in PDF format, entitled “The Clan of the MacDowalls of Galloway” is available for download here.

See our Book Section for information.

During the 1980s the BBC produced a film about the history of Lochwinnoch, Lochwinnoch Through the Ages. Much of the later history mentioned in this show  involves some of Fergus’ ancestors who had moved there from Galloway. It is available on YouTube in three parts:

Part I (10 min):
Part II (6 min):
Part III (12 min):