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Clan MacDowall

The Macdowyls / Macdowalls / Macdowells / Macdouals etc. descend from Duegald the grandson of "Prince" Fergus, Lord of Galloway d. 1164 and are recognized as the Clan MacDowall by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. In 1987 the Clan Chief designated the proper spelling of the clan name as MacDowall with the letter "D" capitalized, though the small letter “d” is used in many of its family surnames. 

Professor Fergus D. H. Macdowall of Garthland is Chief of the Name and Arms of MacDowall. He retains the site of Garthland Castle (1211-1811) at Garthland Mains near Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Scotland and the substitute estate of Garthland with seat at Barr Castle near Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland. He is an Honorary President of the Clan MacDougall Society of North America which is comprised of Clan MacDowall and also the Clan MacDougall.

Names and Spellings

Through the centuries the migrations of family members led to many spelling variations of the ancient family name. Clan MacDowall names are now spelled in as many as 76 many variations.

Nowadays the Clan MacDowall names and spellings with or without the Mac, Mc, or M' prefix include McDowell, MacDowel, Macdowal, MacDowyl, McDuyl, Macdoual, McDouall, M'Douall, MacDool, McDoll, Makdougal, Macdougal(l) with the small “d” (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, and Dole are accepted territorially. However these and many other name spellings are all considered part of the Clan MacDowall though some of these names also do occur in other clans and in unrelated families as well.

The spellings of Macdowall with a capital "D" and also with a letter "e" as in "MacDowell / McDowel / Dowel" were variations which became common in Ireland. Many of these families had emigrated earlier from Galloway across the water to nearby Ireland but still more settled there during the Plantations of Ulster in the early 1600's. Decades or centuries later many of these families and other variant surnames emigrated again from Ireland onwards to North America and to other parts of the world. As a result many clan members now living in the United States and other countries have this capital "D" and "e" name spelling. However many of the original small “d” name spellings remain as well other name variations which have evolved from them.


In the Middle Ages the ancestors of our family were Norse and Celtic rulers of Galloway, a territory which is now south west Scotland. The direct ancestral founder of our family was Duegald k. 1185 who was part of the ruling feudal family in Galloway. Since he was the second son, his own descendants became a branch (called a cadet) of that ruling family. We descend from that cadet.

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 “Prince” Fergus Lord of Galloway. 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 by King David I of Scotland. Fergus’ elder son Uchtred became the second feudal Lord of Galloway.

Uchtred’s second son was named Duegald. He is mentioned in the Melrose Chronicle as having been killed in a battle in 1185. This happened while he was fighting in support of his older brother Roland during a feudal reconquest of Galloway. Duegald was the eponymous founder of the cadet family whose descendants have become Clan MacDowall.

In the century after Duegald's death his cadet family was called “Macdougall in Galloway”. These descendants spelt their name with a small letter "d". Their name came from adding the Gaelic prefix "Mac" meaning "son of" in front of his name. 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. By Duegald's time it applied more generally to persons of Norse descent.

Duegald’s cadet branch of the House of Galloway was patronymically written as “Macdougall” until 1292-6, after which time it appeared as “Macdowyl” and “Macdowall”. In Galloway both were phonetically pronounced as “mock-dool” which led to later spelling variations such as “Macdouall” and “McDool” “McDuyl” etc.

The signing of the oath of fealty known as the Ragman Roll was required of the Scottish nobility by King Edward I of England. On 7 July 1292 two of Duegald’s lineal successors and cadet family members affixed their seals and names on the “Ragman Roll” of fealty. Here their name was not spelled as “Macdougall” as it had been for the previous century but was now changed to a modified form which distinguished it from the Highland clan MacDougall of Argyll. At this time Dougal Macdougall of Gairachloyne (later knighted Sir Dougal) and his younger brother Fergus had their surnames recorded on the Roll as “Macdowyl” and “Macdowald”.

The spelling of the traditional “Macdougall” portion of the cadet family name was thereby 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. These two changes had modified their name spelling to align more closely with its Galloway phonetic pronunciation of “mock-dool”.

During the Wars of Independence 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. The family suffered greatly at the hands of the Bruce brothers. 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 MacDowyl (or Macdowall) of Makerstoun and of Garthland, circa 1370 founded the Makerston cadet family on the property called Makerstoun which he had inherited from his mother. It was located outside of Galloway, being in south east Scotland near Kelso in the Borders in Roxburghshire an area then known as Teviotdale. Serving under the new Lords of Galloway Sir Fergus regained family properties and re-established the prestige of the Macdowall family in Galloway. In a long distinguished career he fought the English until he was wounded and captured in 1402 at the disastrous battle of Homildon Hill, and was later ransomed.

His Makerston cadet carried on for centuries afterwards using the original name of "Macdougal(l)" and later on spelling it as “Makdougal(l)" when use of the “k” in names became a spelling fashion - but all the while retaining and using the small letter "d”. The Makerston cadet family was not related to the Highland clan MacDougall of Argyll.

For centuries afterwards the Macdowyls / Macdowalls / Macdowells / Macdouals were important in Galloway but not as rulers of it. 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 in the Scots defeat 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 family history has now continued for over eight centuries during which many clan members have emigrated from Galloway but some still remain in their ancestral homeland.

Branches and Extended Names

The early armigerous baronial stock of the MacDowalls on surviving records starts from the Macdougalls of Garochloyne with Lougan-Elrig and continues through a century to the Macdowylls / Macdowalls of these lands and also of Garthland. McDoualls of Logan and Macdowalls of Freugh then appear separately, but Macdowall or Macdougal of Makerstoun preceded Garthland in Makerstoun inheritance. Those of Machrimore (Machermore) developed later but soon lost touch.

Younger sons who formed cadet lines or stirps from these families inherited or were granted or purchased lands, often castellated. Those stirps from Garthland on record included Elrig, Spotts, Barjarg, Kildonand, Inch, Mindork, Myroch, Knockglass, Dalreagle, Lefnall, Corochtrie, Killaser, Crockuncrush, Castlesemple, Kirriebroom, Woolmet, Walkinshaw and Arndilly. Each contained tenant farms and lands. Scions of Logan included Ardwell, Ringseat and Culgroat; and those of Freugh had Longcastle, Hackburn, and Stratford Hall. A sequence of Swedish baronies stemmed from the family in Makerstoun.


Coat of Arms of the Chief

The private Coat of Arms of the Chief 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. 

  • Only the Chief is permitted to use this private Coat of Arms of the Chief and the Chief’s Standard described below.

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.


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" is represented on the book cover of the "The MacDowalls" published in June 2009.

  • 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.

  • The new clan tartan, as well as many of its symbols and crest-badges, may be viewed in the Graphics page of the Heritage Section of the Clan MacDougall Society of North America web site at

Clan Motto: "VINCERE VEL MORI" (Conquer or Die)

Clan Plant Badge: Sprig of Oak Leaves.

Sources of Further Information Concerning Clan MacDowall

Booklet: An 8-page color booklet in PDF format, entitled "The Clan of the MacDowalls of Galloway" is available for download in the Heritage Section of the Clan MacDougall Society of North America web site at 

Books: The Book Section in the Heritage Section of this web site at lists books about clan MacDowall at 

The MacDowalls: The newest book published in June 2009 is The MacDowalls by Fergus D. H. Macdowall Editor-in-Chief.

The 182 page book is well written and interesting to read because it has such a variety of topics. This is perhaps the first book ever to attempt to give a broad overview of the MacDowalls and some of their accomplishments over the past 800 years. The Chapters include the ancient history in Galloway, the Macdougalls of Makerston cadet, castles and abbeys and other structures relating to the Macdowalls in Galloway, emigration and settlement of North America, prominent MacDowalls in North American history, and emigrations of families to the Netherlands, Sweden and Russia. This book uses of the new MacDowall Tartan as its book cover pattern.

Fergus D. H. Macdowall Chief of the Name has directed that all profits from the sale of this book are to be held in trust to be used for promoting the heritage of the MacDowalls. The MacDowalls may be purchased through the Clan MacDougall Society of North America web site e-store or from at

The soft cover price is US $19.00 plus shipping. The book is also available in eBook format from for $8.00.

Local bookstores can order it but might ask for the ISBN 978-0-578-02679-4. Major outlets such as or may offer it at their own prices.



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