Members of Clan Doyle/Clann O DubhGhaill ("Dubh-Ghaill" ... pronounced "Du-Gall") take their family surname from the Irish Gaelic words meaning "Dark/Evil foreigner"; and this is just what the indigenous Celts called the Danish Vikings who started settling in Ireland and Scotland more than 1,100 years ago.
The Doyle's & McDowell's are descendants of the Vikings, who settled along the seacoast in pre-Norman times; and in fact the Doyle's are and were always more numerous in areas adjacent to the sea coast, which tends to confirm this view. DubhGall, it may be mentioned, is the word used in early times to denote a Norseman or a Scandinavian. One authority, however, Rev. John Francis Shearman, asserts that the eponymous ancestor of the east Leinster Doyles was DubhGilla (a Norseman), son of Bruadar, King of Idrone (county Carlow), in the year 851. DubhGhall son of Amhlaibh (=Olaf), Prince of Leinster, was slain at the Battle of Clontarf, and Eoghan O DubhGaill is recorded in Waterford in 1291.
As DubhGhaill, the name appears in the "Annals of the Four Masters" at various dates between 978 and 1013. However, it does not appear in works concerned with Irish Genealogy, since the founder of the family is thought to be descended from a Norseman who came to Ireland raiding and then settled, before the Anglo-Norman invasions. The Doyles organized themselves exactly like the other Irish clans. Their war-cry "Killole Abu", refers to a hill of that name, near the present town of Arklow, where they assembled for war.
The Doyle and McDowell names (and in days gone by, O’Doyle) stand high in the list of Irish surnames arranged in order of numerical strength, holding twelfth place in Ireland. Though now widely distributed it was always most closely associated with the counties of southeast Leinster (Wicklow, Wexford, and Carlow) and Tipperary in which it is chiefly found today. Of course, the Doyles and O’Doyles are also prominent in and around other Viking settlements in Ireland such as Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Donegal. In the records of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries this name also appears prominently in these same areas. However, the Dowells & McDowells are most common in Roscommon and Ulster.
Following the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1690 many Doyles & McDowells fled into exile with the "Wild Geese", and took up arms against England in the service of France, Spain, and Austria. (There were 15 Irish regiments in the French Army alone.)
The Doyles & McDowells have a long and illustrious history from medieval times to the present day; they have been prominent in the military*, the church, commerce, agriculture, engineering works, arts, and sport. In fact, the first bridge over the River Liffey in Dublin was constructed by a Doyle.
It sometimes is claimed that the Doyles & McDowells are an offshoot of the great Decies sept of O’Phelan.
- from the 17th century on they were numerous in the armies of Europe and later Britain, where at one time there were six Doyles from Kilkenny all with the rank of Major General.
This famous surname is one of the most ancient names of Ireland. Numerically, with some twenty thousand nameholders, it is also one of the most popular, being twelfth in the table of numerical strength of Irish surnames. Originally the Clan Doyle, derived from the pre 10th century Gaelic 'Dhubh-ghall' (The dark stranger) was found mostly in the counties of South-East Leinster, (Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow) and surprisingly it largely remains so today, the name being rare in other regions. There is a traditional belief that the ancestor who gave his name to the family was a descendant of one of the Norsemen who settled in Ireland in pre-Norman times, and this is probably partly true. However if the original nameholders were dark, this suggests that a more likely explanation is that they were either 'Celts' (Olde English fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Northern England), or possibly Danes, who were much darker than the Norsemen, and who had established themselves in Ulster, the West of Scotland, and the Isle of Man. The surname is not included in the 'Gaelic Genealogies' which supports the view of 'Viking' entry. Be that as it may, the 'Doyle's', the clan is never known as O' Doyle, have made their mark on Irish history, and particularly in the Catholic Church. The Scottish form of Doyle is (Mac) Dougall, and this name was also used in the same way as a byname distinguishing darker-haired Danes from fair-haired Norwegians. The best-known bearer of the name is probably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (1859 - 1930), the creator of Sherlock Holmes, whilst an outstanding churchman was J K L Doyle, Bishop of Kildare (1786 - 1834). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of O'Dubhghaill, which was dated 978, in the "Annals of the Four Masters", during the reign of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, 940 - 1014. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Doyle is a surname of Irish origin. The name is a Anglicisation of the Gaelic Ó Dubhghaill, meaning "descendant of Dubhghall". The personal name Dubhghall contains the elements dubh "black" + gall "stranger". Similar Scottish and Irish surnames, derived from the same personal name are: MacDougall / McDougall and MacDowell / McDowell.
During the Viking Age the term Dubhghoill was used to describe the Vikings—usually Danes—and the term Fionnghoill ("fair foreigners") was used to describe Norwegians. It is commonly held that these terms were used to distinguish the darker-haired Danes from fair-haired Norwegians. Later, Fionnghall was used to describe Scottish Gaels from the Hebrides, and sometimes the Hiberno-Normans (or "Old English"). The most common term for the Hiberno-Normans was Seanghoill ("old foreigners") to difference themselves from the Dubhghoill the "new foreigners" or "dark foreigners" who came to Ireland during Tudor conquest of Ireland.
The name Doyle is not found in any of the old genealogies, like other prominent Irish families. This has lead many to maintain that the Doyles are of somewhat recent origin in Ireland. Doyle is one of the 20 most common surnames in Ireland. In consequence it is thought that there may be several different specific origins for the name. Doyles found in Ulster may be of Scottish descent, as the name was used for MacDowell.