The Clan MacDougal is the senior branch of the princely House of Somerled, descending from his eldest son Dougal or Dugald. Somerled, King of the Hebrides, Regulus (sub-King or Viceroy) of Argyll, was the most powerful man in Scotland next to the King of Scots.
As eldest son, Dougal inherited the heartland of his father's Empire. When he died, in addition to Argyll from Morvern to the northern edge of Knapdale, he was ruling Mull, Jura, Tiree and Coll, Kerrera, Lismore and the smaller islands nearby.
During the early stages of the Scottish Wars of Independence, the MacDougalls, like their close kinsfolk the Comyns, fought on the Scottish side. When, however, Robert the Bruce and his men killed John of Lorn's cousin, the Red Comyn, in the Church of the Greyfriars in Dumfries, in 1306, the MacDougall Chief sided with the English. This was not because they were anti-Scottish, but because they were anti-Bruce.
There then ensued one of those tragic inter-family conflicts. Alexander, the 4th Chief of MacDougall, and his son, John of Lorn, opposed Bruce, while Duncan, Alexander's younger brother, together with a following of MacDougall men, fought for Robert the Bruce.
However, at one stage, Bruce was almost captured by John of Lorn's men. One of the great treasures still held by the MacDougall family is the Brooch of Lorn, allegedly torn from Bruce's cloak as he struggled to escape.
After the Battle of Bannockburn, John of Lorn fled to England where Edward II appointed him English Admiral of the Western Seaboard, in which capacity he successfully harassed the Scottish garrisons of the West Highlands until he was captured in 1318 and imprisoned at Dunbarton Castle. He died shortly afterwards of natural causes.
The MacDougalls paid a high price for opposing Robert the Bruce. Their lands were forfeit, but John's son Ewan was well treated as a prisoner and managed to revive the Clan's fortunes when he married King Robert's grand daughter Joan, daughter of Lady Matilda Bruce. The Lordship of Lorn was restored, but the islands, with the exception of Kerrera, remained forfeit.
Ewan MacDougall of MacDougall had two daughters – Jonette and Isabella – but no son. Around the year 1386, the two sisters married two brothers – Sir John and Sir Robert Stewart of Innermeath and Durrisdeer. Thus, through the Celtic system of succession, the Lordship of Lorn passed to the Stewart Family. The Chiefship of MacDougall, through the Laws of Tanistry, whereby a Clan can choose its Chief, passed to a cousin, Iain, and from him directly descends the present Chief.
The MacDougalls supported the Stuarts and in 1715, the 22nd MacDougall Chief's wife held Dunollie Castle against government troops while her husband was absent fighting with the Jacobite army at Sheriffmuir. The estate was confiscated as a result, but returned in the next generation. Although his brother and some Clansmen fought at the Battle of Culloden, Alexander, 23rd Chief, did not take part and, instead, built a house behind Dunollie Castle. This was extended by the 25th Chief in the mid-19th century.
Surname distribution in Scotland: The highest concentrations of the MacDougall name occur in the Western Isles, Glasgow City, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Argyll and Bute, Perth and Kinross (Perthshire and Kinross-shire), Highland (includes the historic counties of Caithness, Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland), Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.
Crest: A dexter arm in armour embowed fessways couped Proper, holding a cross crosslet fitchée erect Gules.
Motto: Buaidh no bàs (Victory or Death), also translated as "Conquer or Die".
Places of Interest: Ardchattan Priory, Loch Etive, Argyll. This was a Valliscaulian Monastery founded by the MacDougalls in 1231.
Gylen House, Kerrera, Argyll. Fortress of the MacDougall Lords of Lorn. Possibly 13th century.
Dunollie Castle, Oban, Argyll. Twelfth-century stronghold of the MacDougalls of Lorn.
Dunstaffnage, north of Oban, Argyll. Once the fortified seat of the Kings of Dalriada, the current building dated from the 13th century. Following Robert the Bruce's victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, it passed from the MacDougalls of Lorn to the Campbells.
Associated family names (Septs): Carmichael, Coles, Conacher, Cowan, Cowen, Dougal, Dougall, Dowall, Dowell, Dugal, Dugald, Eunson, Howell, Howells, Livingston, Livingstone, Lucas, MacClintock, MacConacher, MacConcher, MacCoul, MacCowan, MacCowell, MacCoyle, MacCullagh, MacCulloch, MacDill, MacDool, MacDougal, MacDoul, MacDowall, MacDowell, MacDugald, MacEwan, MacEwen, MacHale, MacHowell, MacKichan, MacLinden, MacLintock, MacLucas, MacLugash, MacLullich, MacNamell, Macoual, Macoul, MacOwen.