Clan Macdowall is a Scottish clan. The clan claims to descend from the senior descendants in the male line of the princely house of Fergus, first of the ancient Lords of Galloway. The main branches of the family include the MacDowalls of Garthland, the Makdougals of Makerston, the MacDoualls of Logan, the MacDoualls of Freugh, and the MacDowalls of Machrimore.
Origins of the clan
The name MacDowall is a name connected with the ancient history of Galloway, a district in the south west of Scotland which took its name from the Gall-Gaidhel settlers of the seventh and eighth centuries. Many legends exist in Galloway including the legend that Dovall of Galloway killed Nothatus the Tyrant in 230 BC. It is also said that the Royal House of Galloway resisted the Romans. The name MacDowall is generally accepted to mean “Son of Dougal” due to the transliteration of the “ug” in Dougall to “w” in Dowall, introduced under Edward I of England because of the difficulty incurred by the English in pronouncing the Gaelic version. MacDowall was later referred to as MacDowell, with the introduction of the Irish spelled “e”.
The Lords of Galloway were very powerful. They scattered their ancient princedom with well endowed abbeys and priories. The last of the native Lords of Galloway, Allen died in 1234. His daughter Devorgilla married John Balloil, 5th Baron de Balliol, a member of the Balliol family who were lords of Barnard Castle. Their son, John, claimed Galloway through the right of his mother. He also claimed the throne of Scotland.
Balliol, Lord of Galloway had granted lands in Garthland to ‘Dougal’, a descendant of King Somerled and Fergus MacDoual, Balliol’s own relation. These two men both appear on the Ragman Rolls of Scottish nobles who swore fealty to king Edward I of England. Dougals’s grandson Fergus, third of Garthland was sheriff depute for Kirkcudbright during the reign of King David II of Scotland.
The Clan MacDowall, like their Clan MacDougall neighbours and allies, supported the Clan Comyn who were once the most powerful clan in Scotland and rivals to the Scottish throne of Robert the Bruce. Once Robert the Bruce had killed John the Red Comyn, chief of Comyns, the MacDowalls became mortal foes of the Bruces. The MacDowalls followed the MacDougalls into several battles against the Bruces until Sir Dougal was killed and dispossessed by the Bruces. The next generation of MacDowalls and MacDougalls changed sides many times but eventually became defenders of Scotland, loyal to the Bruces.
Fergus III of Garthland’s grandson was Sir Fergus MacDowall, fifth Laird of Garthland who led the Clan MacDowall against the English at the Battle of Humbleton Hill where he was captured in 1402. This was also known as the Battle of Homildon.
16th century & Anglo-Scottish Wars
Uchtred MacDowall the 9th of Garthland married Isabel Gordon. During the Anglo-Scottish Wars Uchtred Macdowall led the Clan MacDowall at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513 against the English where both he and his son Thomas MacDowall were killed.
John MacDowall the 11th of Garthland led the Clan MacDowall against the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.
Uchtred MacDowall the 12th of Garthland was among those who were involved in the “Ruthern Raid” in 1582 led by the Clan Ruthven in which the young King James IV of Scotland was kidnapped and held at Ruthven Castle and later Edinburgh Castle.
The main migrations of the family name were to Ireland during the Plantations of Ulster, and then to America during the Irish potato famine as a result of which most members of the family now live in the United States.
The MacDowalls today
Today, Fergus MacDowall of Garthland is the Chief of the Name and Arms. The caput baroniae is at Garthland Mains on the Rhinns of Galloway. The present seat is at Barr Castle, Garthland, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire.
Clan chief: Fergus MacDowall of Garthland
Chief’s motto: Vincere Vel Mori (To Conquer or Die)
Gaelic Names: mhic dhu ghaill meaning son of dark (or swarthy) stranger. See later transliterations of “MacDougall” to “MacDowall” discussed above
Clan Plant Badge: Bell Heather
Animal Symbol: Raven