This is the story of the Doyles of Clooncarne. But even saying that immediately gives us a few interesting points to discuss.

Clooncarne, also spelled Clooncarreen, and also Cloncarn, is a large townland in the Roman Catholic Parish of Bornacoola and the Civil Parish of Mohill, in Co Leitrim, Ireland. Those who seek Clooncarne on official documentation might be surprised to learn that the offical spelling of the townland is Clooncarreen, and has been so since the 1830s.

The Doyles in question arrived there in 1867 and now, in 2014, one remaining member of the family still lives there. Of course, if they only arrived there in 1867, a mere 147 years ago, why not call them the Doyles of Laheen South, which is where they dwelt prior to Clooncarne?

One reason perhaps is that the Doyle name survived in Laheen South townland until at least the year 2000. The one Doyle who still lived there then admitted to some sort of relationship to the Clooncarne family, a relationship also claimed by at least two of the Clooncarne Doyles. But nobody could state with any precision what that relationship was. And I will admit openly here that this is a question that to date remains unanswered even after about 15 years of research.

Later in this study we will look in more detail at the Doyles of Laheen South, and indeed some other Doyles of that general area of County Leitrim, but the focus of this section is on the family that settled in Clooncarne, and so we will continue to call them the Doyles of Clooncarne.This study looks at their ancestry, and the ancestry of their parents, and so forth, back as far as can be traced to date. But before proceeding to that, it is fitting to try to look a little bit at the overall origins of the Doyles in question.


Edward MacLysaght states that the name Doyle in County Roscommon is synonymous with MacDowell[1]. This galloglass sept had, by the 16th Century, settled, fairly exclusively, there.[2] Given the proximity of the two counties, the Doyles of Leitrim may be migrated (and renamed) MacDowells of Roscommon.

Doyle is relatively rare among Co Leitrim surnames.[3] It does not feature there on the Census of 1659[4]; Griffith's Valuation shows 42 Doyle holdings in the County[5]; the 1901 Census of Ireland shows only 27 Doyle households in Leitrim[6].

It seems reasonable to suggest from this evidence that those Doyles found originated from another county.

MacLysaght mostly associates the surname with Leinster.[7] Leitrim was not one of the counties included in Connaught for Cromwell's infamous transplantation of the Irish in the 1650s but the adjacent Roscommon was.[8] There is no record of Doyles being moved to that county.[9] But MacLysaght states that the MacDowells of Roscommon - who came as from the Hebrides as galloglasses - are synonymous with Doyles.

MacDowell is an anglicisation of MacDubhghall. Dubhghall itself means 'black foreigner' and probably indicates Danish origins.[10] MacFirbis provides the most precise reference to the sept in the major genealogies, listing as "Genealach Mec Dubhgaill Connachtaigh": "Ruaidhrí­, Colla agus Toirdealbhach (le Moir inghin Eoghain Connachtaig Mec Suibhne) mec Alasdrainn m. Gille Pheadair m. Eoin Óg m. Eoin Mhór m. Donnchuid m. Dubghaill, a quo, 7c., m. Raghnaill."[11] This can be translated as:

Ruaidhrí­, Colla and Toirdealbhach (who married Moir daughter of Eoghain Connachtaig Mec Suibhne) sons of Alasdrainn son of Gille Pheadair son of Eoin Óg son of Eoin Mhór son of Donnchuid son of Dubghaill, from whom, etc, (indicating the founder of the sept), son of  Raghnaill

Significantly, perhaps, Nicholls cites MacDubhghalls as a prime example of one of the known defects in the Gaelic genealogies.[12] Certainly there is confusion over the origins of the MacDowells of Roscommon. MacFirbis gives no indication of the ancestry of this Raghnall who fathered Dubhghaill, even among the genealogies headed "Genealach Mec Dubhghaill na hAlban".[13] He appears to link the MacDubhghall genealogies with those of the MacDomhnalls, another galloglass family. O Clery makes this link more explicitly when describing Raghnall, the son of Somaile (see below): "oc an Ragnall sin condreccait clan nDomnaill, ocus clan Ruaidri et clan Dubhghaill,"[14] which Linea Antiqua renders as: "at this Raghnall, the clans of Domhnall, Ruaidri and Dubhghall meet."[15]

Neither O Clery nor O'Ferrall appear to show any instances of a Dubhghall son of Raghnall among either MacDubhghalls or MacDomhnalls but both trace these septs back to Somairle, Lord of the Isles, who ruled areas of Western Scotland around 1100 AD.[16],[17],[18].

Somairle had at least two sons: Raghnall and Dubhghall, the latter the ancestor of Clann Dubhghall na hAlban.[19] Raghnall's sons founded two distinct clans: Clan Ruadhrí­ and Clan Domhnall.[20] Could he have had a third son, Dubhghall, ancestor of MacFirbis's MacDubhghalls of Connacht?

The Irish Midlands Ancestry website, in its history of the MacDonnells of Laois[21] (also apparently descended from Somairle), lists Dogall as a son of Raghnall, but without citation. None of O'Ferrall, MacFirbis or O Clery specifically mentions such a son.

O'Ferrall suggests another origin of the Roscommon sept. Having mentioned Dubhghall son of Somairle, as ancestor of the MacDowells of Ireland and Scotland, he adds: "Other antiquities differ from this and say MacDowell is descended from Donald na hEyle, 2nd brother of Eoin Mór or John MacDonnell.... Perhaps MacDowell of Scotland descended from one and the family of the same surname in Ireland descended from the other."[22] Sadly, I could find no reference to a Raghnall son of Donald among O'Ferrall's MacDonnell pedigrees.

Of course, MacFirbis's pedigree may simply be wrong. As, however, none of the other genealogies specifically refer to the Connacht MacDowells, it does not seem possible to suggest any meaningful alternative at present.

The Annals of the Four Masters and The Annals of Logh Cé recount MacDubhghalls' participation in events between 1299 and 1589. Sadly, many of the accounts are non-specific, for example, "Mac Dowell Galloglagh, and many other persons not enumerated, were slain."[23] The first annal that clearly refers to the MacDubhghalls of Roscommon appears to be from 1520, when "The Gilla-dubh, son of William, son of Colla Mac Dubhgaill, constable of Magh-Luirg," died.[24]It is possible this is the Colla mentioned in MacFirbis. In 1473[25], 1490,[26] and 1521,[27] Donnchadh, son of Toirdealbhach, is mentioned; the latter could be Colla's brother.

Mor, the daughter of Eoghan Connachtaig,[28] gives a potential indication of dates. "Mac Sweeny Connaughtagh, i.e. Mac Sweeny Baghaineach, Owen" was captured in battle in 1497.[29] If this is the correct Eoghan, then his grandsons (Colla, Toirdealbhach and Ruaidhrí­) almost certainly were not born before 1450. That is incompatible with the dates above for Toirdealbhach's son.

To date, then, I have been unable to link the Roscommon MacDubhghalls to a specific ancestor or to match the few known names to recorded events.

That MacDubhghalls did settle in Roscommon is indisputable. The Fiants of the Tudor monarchs refer, from 1581 on, to various M'Dowalls, M'Dowells and Dowles of the county.[30] This suggests the surname transition from MacDubhghall to MacDowell commenced before the end of the 16th Century.

The Census of 1659 for Roscommon barony includes surnames Doyle and Dowell, and also lists M'Dowell among the names of Principal Irish families.[31] Interestingly, for Athlone barony, MacDowell and MacDonnill are grouped together among the Irish names.[32] From the end of the 17th Century, MacLysaght refers to Luke Dowell, a Roscommon Jacobite,[33] while King James's Irish Army List mentions Dionysius Dowell of Moneylogh, Co. Roscommon.[34]


By the middle of the 18th Century, the 'Mac' appears to have been entirely discarded. The Elphin Census of 1749 reveals 61 households of Dowels, Dowells, Dowles and Doyles, but no MacDowells, spread throughout Roscommon.[35]

The Tithe Applotment books for County Roscommon (circa 1830) show just 4 Dowell households in the county, but 22 Doyles.[36]The Griffith Valuation, of circa 1850, shows just 1 Dowell land-holding but 112 by Doyles (there may be some duplication in this).[37]


On this evidence, therefore, the evolution in County Roscommon of the surname MacDubhghall to Doyle took place gradually between say 1300 and 1850. Sadly, there is no nevidence showing the movement of any of these MacDubhghall descendents to Leitrim, and so my theory that the Doyles of Leitrim originated from them remains totally unproven.

What can be shown is that the surname Doyle seems to have replaced the surname MacDowell in Roscommon, and given the proximity of Roscommon to the south of County Leitrim, and given too the total lack of evidence of Doyles from other parts of the country having been transplanted to Leitrim, it does seem likely that at some point some of the MacDowells of Roscommon, renamed as Doyles, made their way across the River Shannon into south Leitrim. And if this is so, then it also seems likely that at least one of them made his way to Laheen South.

Whether this speculation is correct or not, our Doyles did hail from Laheen South, and their history, such as is known, from 1750 onwards will now be traced.





[1] Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland, 6th Edition, Dublin, 1985, Page 89.

[2] John Marsden, Galloglas, East Linton, 2003, Pages 65-7

[3] Sean O'Suilleabhain, 'Leitrim Surnames', Irish Roots, Quarter 4, 1994.

[4] Seamus Pender (Editor), A Census of Ireland, circa 1659, Dublin, 1939. Pages 573-592.

[5] Richard Griffith, Primary Valuation of the Tenements of Ireland,, County of Leitrim. Accessed 07/03/2007

[6] 1901 Census of Ireland, County of Leitrim.

[7] Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland, 6th Edition, Dublin, 1985, Page 89

[8] Peter Beresford Ellis, Hell or Connaught, The Cromwellian Colonisation of Ireland 1652-1660, 1st Edition Facsimile, Belfast, 1988, Page 84

[9] Robert C. Simington, The Transplantation to Connaught, 1654-58, Irish University Press for the Irish Manuscript Commission, Dublin, 1970, Page 232

[10] Patrick Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall: Irish names and surnames, Dublin, 1923, Page 511 (CD-Rom edition published by Archive CD Books Ireland, Dublin, 2005)

[11] Ó Muraíle, Editor, Leabhar Mór na nGenealach, The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, Volume 3, Page 100, Section 361.1

[12] Nicholls, 'The Irish Genealogies: their values and defects', The Irish Genealogist, Vol. 5, Issue 2, November 1975, Page 260

[13] Ó Muraí­le, Editor, Leabhar Mór na nGenealach, The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, Volume 3, Page 100, Sections 360.6 to 360.15

[14] Pender, Editor, 'The O Clery Book of Genealogies', Page 126, Section 1714

[15] O'Ferrall, Linea Antiqua, Page 151

[16] Pender, Editor, 'The O Clery Book of Genealogies', Pages 125-126

[17] The MacDonnells of Laois,, Accessed 04/03/2007

[18] Chiefs of Clan MacDougall in Argyll,, Accessed 04/03/2007

[19] Ó Muraí­le, Editor, Leabhar Mór na nGenealach, The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, Volume 3, Page 100, Sections 360.6 to 360.15

[20] Pender, Editor, 'The O Clery Book of Genealogies', Page 126, Section 1714

[21] The MacDonnells of Laois,, Accessed 04/03/2007

[22] O'Ferrall, Linea Antiqua, National Library of Ireland, GO MS155, Page 151 (Microfilm version, NLI POS 8300)

[23] Annals of the Four Masters, Part 4, Year 1469,, Accessed 14/03/2007

[24] Annals of Lough Cé, Part 2, Year 1520,, Accessed 14/03/2007

[25] Annals of the Four Masters, Part 4, Year 1473,, Accessed 14/03/2007

[26] Annals of the Four Masters, Part 4, Year 1490,, Accessed 14/03/2007

[27] Annals of Lough Cé, Part 2, Year 1521,, Accessed 14/03/2007

[28] Ó Muraí­le, Editor, Leabhar Mór na nGenealach, The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, Volume 3, Page 100, Section 361.1

[29] Annals of the Four Masters, Part 4, Year 1497,, Accessed 14/03/2007

[30] de Búrca (Editor), The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns, during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Philip & Mary, and Elizabeth I, Volume 2, P519, Volume 3, P104-105

[31] Pender (Editor), A Census of Ireland, circa 1659, Dublin 1939, Pages 573, 576-577.

[32] Pender (Editor), A Census of Ireland, circa 1659, Dublin 1939, Pages 573-592

[33] Edward MacLysaght, More Irish Families, Dublin, 1960, Page 253

[34] John D'Alton, Illustrations, Historical and Genealogical, of King James's Irish Army List (1689), Irish Genealogical Foundation, Kansas, 1997. Page 615.

[35] Census of Elphin, 1749, Irish Origins website, , Accessed 07/03/2007

[36] John Hunter, 'L2_Alpha Distribution of surnames 1749 - 1901.pdf', Resource County Roscommon, Disk 2, CD-ROM, John Hunter, Brisbane, 2005

[37] Richard Griffith', Primary Valuation of the Tenements of Ireland,  County of Roscommon. Accessed 04/03/2007