The Clan MacDougall takes its name from Dougall, the son of Somerled who was killed at the Battle of Renfrew in 1164. After Somerled's death, Dougall held most of Argyll as well as the islands of Mull, Lismore, Jura, Tiree, Coll and others.
The Celtic first name Dougall, or Dugald is derived from the Gaelic dubh-gall, which means black stranger. Dougall's royal descent was acknowledged by the king of Norway and Dougall himself was styled as 'King of the South Isles and Lord of Lorne'. One of Dougall's sons seems to have been Óspakr-Hákon, a man installed as King of the Isles by Hákon Hákonarson, King of Norway in 1230. A certain son of Dougall was Duncan, who was in turn the father of Ewan. Duncan and Ewan built many castles to defend their territory. These included Dunstaffnage Castle, Dunollie Castle and Duntrune Castle on the main land. Whilst on the islands they built Aros Castle, Cairnburgh Castle, Dunchonnel Castle and Coeffin Castle. Dunollie Castle is believed to have been fortified since the 6th century and became the seat of the chief of Clan MacDougall. Duncan also built Ardchattan Priory and it was here that the MacDougall chiefs were buried until 1737.
Ewan's possessions on the islands were held from the king of Norway, whilst his possessions on the mainland were held from the king of Scotland. This made it hard for him to remain loyal to both. In 1263 Haakon IV of Norway arrived with a huge fleet off the coast of Oban for an invasion of the west coast of Scotland. However Ewan decided not to join the invasion and thanks to old blood ties Haakon left him in peace. The Battle of Largs then took place and Ewan joined the side of Scots and attacked part of the Norse fleet. The Vikings were utterly defeated and three years later Norway ceded all of the Hebrides to Scotland.
The MacDougall's influence in Argyll brought them into conflict with the Clan Campbell. In 1294 John MacDougall of Argyll led the Clan MacDougall against the Clan Campbell at the Battle of Red Ford, where Sir Colin Campbell was killed but there were considerable losses on both sides.
The fourth chief of Clan MacDougall married a sister of John II Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (the "Black Comyn"), whose son, John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (the "Red Comyn") was stabbed to death by Robert the Bruce in the church of Greyfriars in Dumfries in 1306, and this brought the MacDougalls into conflict with the Bruces. The MacDougalls who had supported William Wallace in the cause of Scottish independence now found themselves in a blood feud with the Clan Bruce, whose cause was also of Scottish Independence. Shortly after Robert the Bruce's coronation at Scone he was forced by the English to retreat into Argyll, in an attempt to reach his Clan Campbell allies. However the Clan MacDougall surprised the Bruce and defeated him in what was known as the Battle of Dalrigh. The king escaped but left behind what was described as a magnificent example of Celtic jewellery, known as the Brooch of Lorne and it became one of the Clan MacDougall's great treasures. Three years later Robert the Bruce led three thousand battle hardened veterans into Argyll against the MacDougalls. John MacDougall of Lorne set an ambush for them but in the ensuing Battle of the Pass of Brander the MacDougalls were defeated and forced to flee. The MacDougall's lands were then forfeited by the king and he gave them to the Campbells for their loyalty.
Although the power of the MacDougalls was never regained, their fortunes were restored somewhat under John MacDougall's grandson, John Gallda MacDougall, Lord of Lorne. In the mid 14th-century, the latter relocated from England to Scotland, married a niece of the reigning David II, King of Scotland, and regained the clan's ancestral lands in Lorne. Most of their mainland lands were then returned in a royal charter from David II of Scotland. Although the lordship of Lorne eventually passed into the hands of the Stewarts following John Gallda's death, the MacDougall chiefly line preserved through his son Allan.
During the civil war of the 17th century the MacDougalls were generally royalists and chief Alexander MacDougall led five hundred of his clansmen into battle. However, after the defeat of the royalist James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, a Covenanter army, led by David Leslie, Lord Newark was sent into Argyll to deal with royalist supporters. The MacDougalls lands were restored however, after the restoration on the monarchy in 1660.
During the Jacobite rising of 1715 the Clan MacDougall supported the Jacobite cause and fought at the Battle of Sheriffmuir after which the chief was forced into exile but later returned to Scotland to live as a fugitive. He was pardoned in 1727.
His son and next chief, Alexander MacDougall did not take part in the Jacobite rising of 1745. However his brother and some of the clansmen did indeed fight as Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The fighting force of the clan at this time is given as 200 men.
The current chief of the clan is Morag Morley MacDougall of MacDougall. The Chieftaincy of a Gaelic clan now usually follows the principle of Agnatic seniority. The present holder is a niece of her predecessor, Coline Helen Elizabeth MacDougall (XXX) of MacDougall and Dunollie, d. 1990, herself the daughter of Colonel Alexander James MacDougall (XXIX) of MacDougall and Dunollie.
Chiefs arms: Quartered in these arms are two ancient royal emblems, the Black Galley of Lorn symbolising descent from the royal house of the Norse and the lion symbolic of the descent from the Scottish Kings of ancient Dal Riada.
Castles built or owned by the Clan MacDougall have included amongst many others:Dunollie Castle near Oban, Argyll. There are now the remains of a strong but ruinous tower and other buildings that are overgrown. The site has actually been fortified since the days of the kings of Dál Riata in the sixth and seventh centuries. The present castle was built by the MacDougalls of Lorn. The Brooch of Lorn, which is said to have been captured from Robert the Bruce by the MacDougalls was kept at Dunollie Castle. The castle was attacked by Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell in 1644 and in 1647 it was besieged by a Covenanter army under General David Leslie, in which in the castle was sacked and burnt. During the Jacobite rising of 1715 the castle was attacked again when the MacDougalls supported the Stewarts and as a result the lands were forfeited. However the lands were restored in 1745 and in 1746 the MacDougalls built nearby Dunollie House, although there was an earlier house there dating from about 1600, and the old castle was abandoned. The castle is now in a dangerous condition but is still owned by the MacDougalls.
Dunstaffnage Castle, three and a half miles north-east of Oban, Argyll is a large courtyard castle with a high curtain wall, and later gatehouse range. The kings of Dál Riata also had a strong hold there. The Stone of Scone (or Stone of Destiny) is also said to have been kept at the castle. The present castle was built by the MacDougalls and was besieged by Robert the Bruce after the MacDougalls were defeated at the Battle of the Pass of Brander in 1309. The Bruce then made it a royal castle with the Campbells as the keepers. There is also a chapel nearby that dates from the thirteenth century. The castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland.
Gylen Castle, on the south coast of Kerrera is a small tower house that was and still is a property of the MacDougalls. An earlier castle on the site was where Alexander II of Scotland may have died during an expedition to recover the Western Isles in the mid thirteenth century. The current castle was completed by Duncan MacDougall in 1582. It was however torched (along with Dunollie Castle) by the Covenanters under General David Leslie in 1647.
Cairnburgh Castle, on the Treshnish Isles, off the Isle of Mull, is a ruinous castle once held by the MacDougalls that passed to the Crown with the MacDougalls as keepers in 1309.
Dunchonnel Castle, on the Garvellach Isles is a ruinous castle that was once held by the MacDougalls.
Coeffin Castle, on the Isle of Lismore is a ruinous castle once held by the MacDougalls.
Dugald, son of Somerled
Dugald Screech and Donnchadh of Argyll (died 1237x1248) (and perhaps Óspakr-Hákon), sons of Dugald
Eóghan MacDubhgall, son of Dugald (died 1268x1275)
Alexander of Argyll, son of Eoghan (died 1310x1311, perhaps at Carlisle), married a daughter of John Comyn, driven from Scotland by Robert Bruce and his allies; his sister Mary married Magnus Olafsson, King of Mann and the Isles and, on Magnus's death, remarried with Maol Íosa, Mormaer of Strathearn
John of Lorne, son of Alexander (died on pilgrimage to Canterbury, September 1317), enemy of Bruce and Bruce's ally Angus Óg of Islay, defeated and driven into exile
Argent, a lymphad (or fishing galley) sable with pennant gules are the arms of MacDougall, ancient Lords of Lorne in Argyleshire. These arms are now quartered by the arms of Campbell by the Duke of Argyll who also holds the title Marquess of Lorne and is Hereditary Sheriff of Argyll. The Duke is descended from Isabel, the daughter and heiress of Lord Lorne, and wife of the 1st Earl of Argyll who by this marriage inherited the estates of the MacDougalls.
The principle collateral branches of the MacDougalls of Dunollie (also spelt, Dunolly), are those of Gallanach and Soraba (now spelt, Soroba). Of the former, MacDougall of Gallanach, was established as a Cadet of the Clan in 1641 when John MacDougall of Torsay was granted the Estate by Alexander MacDougall, 18th of Dunollie. Ownership has remained in the same family since but has passed twice through the female members, firstly in 1888 and again in 1935 due to deaths in the male line. However, a lineal male descendant of Allan MacDougall (6th Laird of Gallanach from 1793 to 1799), Malcolm Peters MacDougall, currently lives in SW France and has 2 sons and 1 daughter. The Estate of Gallanach passed from Allan MacDougall to his younger brother Patrick in 1799 from whom the current owner, Charles Patten Williamson MacDougall of Gallanach, is descended. Jane Patten (née MacDougall), 11th of Gallanach and granddaughter of Patrick, requested that all future family members who became owners of the property should adopt the surname of MacDougall, this being first done by her eldest son, Sir James Patten MacDougall KCB in the late 19th century and again in the mid 20th century by her great-grandson, Major James Williamson MacDougall MC., both with the permission of the Lord Lyon.
The principle cadet branch of the Clan was MacDougall of Raray and Ardmaddie (spelt variously as, Raera, Reray and Rara), or Craigenicht, Ardnahoy and Lunga. The male line of the MacDougalls of Lunga became extinct with the deaths of Lt.-Col. Stewart MacDougall (1915) and his son, Iain MacDougall of Lunga Adj. 2nd Batt. Grenadier Guards, the previous year. (The Lunga estate was inherited by Lt. Col. MacDougall's eldest daughter Helen Margaret MacDougall, who married Major Francis Howard Lindsay and whose son, John Stewart Lindsay adopted the surname Lindsay-MacDougall). Lt. Col. MacDougall had four male first cousins, however.
In the event of the failure of the line of Lunga (or any of its collateral branches), the MacDougalls of Raray are represented by another branch, that of Coll of Ardencaple a son of John (IV) of Raray and Ardmaddie. Allan MacDougall sold the estate of Ardincaple in 1877, it having been five hundred years tradition says eight in the possession of his forefathers. He succeeded his father, Rear-Admiral John MacDougall, of Ardencaple (died 1870), a Captain Commandant of the 1st Easdale Argyll Artillery Volunteers.
Of the MacDougalls of Soraba there is little known.