A conflict with a King, and making poor political allies were the main factors that reduced the nobility of our clan.
No Highland clan has a history of more striking changes than that of our clan. Our early ancestor was the mighty Somerled, Thane of Argyll and Lord of the Isles, in the middle of the twelfth century.
When Somerled was killed in battle he left behind two surviving sons, Dougall and Reginald, who became the forefathers of mighty MacDougall and MacDonald clans. Our chiefs were at one time sovereign princes in the Western Isles, who had made treaties and fought battles with the kings of Scotland.
Today the Sons of Dougall are now content to play a modest part as private citizens and loyal subjects of the British Empire.
The Battle of Dalrigh
was fought in the summer of 1306 between our Clan and the army of King Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.
*According to tradition, the clan attackers tried to dismount Robert the Bruce but only managed to pull off his cloak and brooch.
History of the Cloak & Brooch
The Brooch of Lorn remains as a potent symbol of the way things were, once – and of the way they might have been
A quick recap of our History.
Alexander MacDougall, the great grandson of Dougall , commonly known as Alastair of Argyll married the third daughter of John, the Red Comyn. After the tragic death of the King of Scotland, Alexander strongly supported his father-in-law for the throne of Scotland. However John was killed at the Church of the Minorities in Dumfries, by Robert the Bruce. This assassination made the MacDougalls very bitter enemies of Bruce, and the clan sought revenge against this man who eventually became the King of Scotland.
Full of animosty towards King Bruce, Alexander with his son, John MacDougall, known as John of Lorn, almost had his revenge. Shortly after Bruce's first defeat at Methven, the little Royal army was wandering among the western mountains when it was suddenly attacked by John and the powerful MacDougall clan, forcing them to retreat. The king was guarding the rear of his retreating company when, as he passed through a narrow path between the river and the hill, three of the MacDougall clansmen made a special effort to capture him. One grabbed his bridle, but the king swung a blow with his sword that cut off his arm and shoulder. Another put his hand between the king's foot and stirrup, hoping to drag Bruce from the saddle, but the king quickly sped forward and the man lost his grip. At that moment the third clansman jumped from the steep hillside on the King's horse behind Bruce, and tried to capture the king. However Bruce, suddenly leaned forward, sending this man over his head. While still saddled the king killed the man with his sword. The King escaped the MacDougalls, however one of the MacDougalls had miraculously held the king's plaid with such a death grip, that it was only by undoing the brooch and letting the plaid go that Bruce got rid of his burden. This brooch, known as the brooch of Lorn, remains in possession of the MacDougalls to this present day and it is the last tangible evidence of the ancient greatness of their house. (Pictured)
More than once afterwards John of Lorn came within reach of killing or capturing the king. On one of those memorable occasions he pursued him with a bloodhound. Bruce endeavoured to escape by dividing his forces again and again, but on each occasion the hound followed the party containing the king, and at last Bruce seemed on the point of being taken, when he decided wade down a running stream, throwing the hound off his scent, and so escaped.
But the king's turn came at last. After his return from a victory at Loudon Hill, he made a special incursion into the West to avenge the cruelty he had suffered from John of Lorn. Chief John MacDougall waited for his coming in the steep, narrow pathway between Loch Awe and Loch Etive known as the Pass of Awe. It was here John made an ambush, but he was outsmarted by the king.
King Bruce had sent his comrades higher along the hillside, and the ambush that John had hoped for, never happened. As the MacDougalls attacked they were caught in a vice, with the King coming from below and the Douglas from above. The men of Argyll wavered and then broke. They were chased westwards across the River all the way back to Dunstaffnage, while John escaped down the Loch in his galley. Bruce then captured Dunstaffnage, the ancient Royal Scottish stronghold, which had been MacDougall's chief seat, and proceeded to lay the country waste. Alexander, who was ill at the castle, surrendered and was received into favour. However John of Lorn remained a rebel, and when Bruce sailed into the Western Isles, " None refused him obedience except only John of Lorn." Very soon afterwards, however, John was captured and imprisoned, first at Dunbarton and afterwards in Loch Leven Castle.
After the death of Bruce, strangely enough, John was restored to liberty and his estates, and even married a granddaughter of the king. When war broke out again in the days of Bruce's son, and Edward Baliol overran the country, the MacDougalls took the Baliol side. This was again the wrong side, and in the end the MacDougalls lost a large part of their estates, which from that time on passed more and more into the hands of the Campbells.
The last MacDougall Lord of Lorn was Ewan MacDougall. He left two heiresses, who became the wives of John Stewart of Invermeath, and his brother Robert. Robert the younger of the two, made a bargain with his brother by which John obtained the whole Lordship of Lome while Robert secured the entire family patrimony of Invermeath. From John Stewart and his MacDougall wife, accordingly descended all the Stewart Lords of Lome, the Stewart Earls of Athol, and the Stewarts of Appin.
The only part of the MacDougall Lordship of Lorn which did not pass to the Stewarts was Dunollie Castle, with its dependent lands, which belonged to the MacDougalls of Dunollie, the next cadet branch, descended from Allan, son of John, brother of Ewen, last of the elder line, already mentioned; and upon these MacDougalls of Dunollie the chiefship of the clan devolved. The MacDougalls continued to hold these decreased possessions in more or less security till the time of the Civil Wars in 1645.
Meanwhile the Campbells, whose first fortunes had been founded upon the downfall of the MacDougalls, had continued to grow in power steadily from century to century. At length, in 1645, the Campbell chief, now Marquess of Argyll, found himself at the head of the Government as the representative of the party of the Covenant in Scotland. Finding himself supreme, took the opportunity in destroying the last relics of greatness possessed by the families his own had supplanted. The army of the Covenant was sent first to destroy the MacDonald stronghold of Dunaverty in Kintyre, where three hundred of the garrison were slain. The Lamonts of Cowal were attacked, carried to Dunoon, and butchered bloodily to the number of some two hundred and thirty. General Leslie was sent to attack and destroy the remaining MacDougall strongholds of Gylen on the Island of Kerrera, and of Dunollie on the northern horn of Oban Bay. This last commission was duly carried out, the castles were destroyed never to be restored, and the Brooch of Lorn, last sign of former MacDougall greatness, mysteriously disappeared.
The chapter of the family history which followed is as romantic as anything in the memory of the Highlands. The head of the family fled to France, and his son would have been destitute had it not been for a member of the clan , at that time keeper of a public house in Dunbarton, who took the young chief into his house, and maintained and educated him till his sixteenth year. The lad proved clever and intelligent, and turned whatever advantages he possessed to good account. When the Jacobite rising of 1745 was afoot it was expected that Prince Charles Edward would land near Oban. Instead, as is well known, he disembarked at Lochnanuagh in Arisaig. Word of his landing was sent to MacDougall by Stewart of Appin, and MacDougall ordered his brother to have the clan ready to rise while he himself went to consult the Chamberlain of the Earl of Breadalbane. This individual threw cold water on the enterprise, pointing out that Charles had not kept his promise either as to his place of landing or in the matter of bringing forces to support his cause. MacDougall then proceeded to interview the Duke of Argyll at Rosneath. While awaiting the interview there he saw a horseman arrive at full gallop. Shortly afterwards the Duke, entering the apartment, map in hand, asked MacDougall to point out Lochnanuagh. MacDougall quickly perceived that the secret was known, and seized the opportunity of being the first to give details. By the Duke's advice he took no part in the rising, and his reward was the restoration of the estate of Dunolli, which his father had lost. Such was the story told by a relation of the family at Uunstaffnage to Sir Walter Scott when he visited the neighbourhood in 1814. The MacDougall who had the estate restored lived to a great age, and it was his son who was in possession at the time of Scott's visit. MacDougall had just then lost his eldest son who had fallen fighting under Wellington in Spam. The second son was then a lieutenant in the Royal Wavy, and it was to him at a later day that the Brooch of Lorn was restored with much ceremony by Campbell of Lochnell. On the occasion the Duke of Argyll himself was present, and everything in the way of courtesy was done to show that the ancient feud between the houses had at last come to an end.
When Queen Victoria sailed along Loch Tay after enjoying the resplendent hospitality of Taymouth Castle in 1842, Captain MacDougall acted as the steersman of the Royal barge. It was pointed out to the Queen that he was wearing on his shoulder the famous Brooch of Lorn, and at Her Majesty's request it was handed to her and examined with the utmost interest.
Chiefs of Clan MacDougall
I – Dougall MacSomairle, King in the (Hebrides) Isles was chief for 43 Years.
II – Duncan de Ergadia (of Argyll), and King in the (Hebrides) Isles was chief for 40 Years.
III – Ewan de Ergadia (of Argyll), King in the (Hebrides) Isles, and Lord of Lorn was chief for 19 Years.
IV – Sir Alexander de Ergadia (of Argyll), Lord of Lorn was Chief of the clan for 44 years.
V – Eoin de Ergadia (John of Argyll) known as Sir John of Lorn was Chief of the clan for less than a year
VI – Duncan of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 15 years.
VII – Ewan de Ergadia (of Argyll) was Chief of the clan for 50 years
VIII – Iain of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 25 years.
IX – Dougal of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for appoximately 28 years.
X – Alan of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for around 27 years.
XI – Sir John of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for about 25 years.
XII – Alexander of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 13 years.
XIII – John of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 42 years.
XIV – John of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 28 years.
XV – Dougall of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 28 years.
XVI – Duncan of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 26 years.
XVII – Sir John of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 17 years.
XVIII – Alexander of Dunollie was chief of the clan for 10 years.
XIX – Iain of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 25 years.
XX – Duncan of Dunollie was chief of the clan for 17 years.
XXI – Alan of Dunollie was Chief of the clan 9 years.
XXII – John of Dunollie (Iain Ciar) was Chief of the clan for 42 years.
XXIII – Alexander of Dunollie (Alastair Dubh) was Chief of the clan for 64 years.
XXIV – Patrick of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 24 years.
XXV – Sir John of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 40 years.
XXVI – Captain Alexander John of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 2 years.
XXVII – Lt. Colonel Charles Allan of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 29 years.
XXVIII – Deputy Surgeon General Henry Robert Lawrence of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 3 years.
XXIX – Colonel Alexander James of Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 54 years.
XXX – Coline Helen Elizabeth MacDougall of MacDougall and Dunollie was Chief of the clan for 37 years.
XXXI – Morag Morley MacDougall of MacDougall and Dunollie current chief of the clan for over 25 years now.
READ MORE: Clan MacDougall Society