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Doyle Family History
Doyle (or O’Doyle) is one of the most frequently occurring surnames in counties Wexford, Wicklow, Carlow and Dublin and is derived from the Irish Ó Dubhghaill, meaning ‘a descendant of the dark (dubh) stranger (gall)’.
The name is not included in the great Gaelic genealogies but it appears as Dubhghall in the Annals of the Four Masters where it is often used to distinguish the darker-haired Danish Vikings from the fair haired Norwegian ones (Fionnghall - fair stranger) in the period AD 978 to 1013.
The Doyles’ main area of settlement was along the Leinster seaboard particularly in counties Wexford and Wicklow. The name was established long before the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1169.
In Sir William Petty’s ‘Census’ of 1659, the name Doyle or O’Doyle is mentioned as the Principal Irish Name of households in the baronies of the following counties:
Carlow Barony: O’Doyle (7); Rathvilly Barony: Doyle (10); Forth Barony: Doyle (16); Idrone Barony and St Mullins: Doyle (40).
Dublin city: Doyle (20); Newcastle and Uppercross Barony: Doyle (29); Nethercross Barony: Doyle (8); Coolock Barony: Doyle (13).
Wexford town and Liberties: Doyle (6); New Ross: Doyle (4) Enniscorthy: Doyle (4); Forth Barony: O’Doyle (16); Bargy Barony: Doyle (8); Shelmalier Barony: Doyle (33); Shelburne Barony: Doyle (19); Bantry Barony: (41); Ballaghkeen barony: Doyle (21); Gorey Barony: Doyle (27); Scarawalsh Barony: Doyle (25).
Offaly Barony: O’Doyle (7); Doyle; Naas Barony: Doyle (11); Clane Barony: Doyle (6); Salt Barony: Doyle (18); Kilkea and Moone Barony: Doyle (11); Ikeathy Barony: Doyle (7).
There are no surviving returns of the 1659 ‘Census’ for County Wicklow.
In Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' of households taken in the mid-nineteenth century, most Doyle households are in Leinster counties Wexford (1169); Wicklow (556); Dublin (483), Carlow (393), Kilkenny (251) and Kildare (218). However, the name had by now spread into Munster with significant numbers of Doyle households in Cork (111), Kerry (159) and Tipperary (129)
Although the Doyle surname is now found everywhere in Ireland, it remains most numerous in counties Wexford, Wicklow and Carlow and is ranked as 9th most common name in Ireland.
Some notable Wexford Doyles
James Warren Doyle (1786-1834), perhaps the most famous Wexford bearer of the name, was born near New Ross in 1786, the posthumous son of a respectable Catholic farmer, James Doyle and his wife, Anne Warren of Loughnageer. In 1805, he entered the Augustinian novitiate and was sent to Coimbra University, Portugal, 1806-08. While there he acted as interpreter for Wellington’s army and then with the British Mission at Lisbon.
On his return to Ireland, Doyle was ordained to the priesthood on 1 October 1809, at Enniscorthy. He taught logic in New Ross and in 1813 he was appointed to a professorship at Carlow College. He held the Chair of Rhetoric there and from 1814 he was Professor of Theology.
When Michael Corcoran, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, died in February 1819. Doyle was named as his successor. He was just thirty-three years old when he was consecrated bishop in Carlow parish church in November 1819.
Doyle was an able polemicist and a prolific writer to the press, generally under the initials JKL (James, Kildare and Leighlin). He was the first member of the hierarchy to give public support to Daniel O’Connell in the fight for Catholic Emancipation. Along with O’Connell and others, he was an influential witness before a Select Committee inquiring into conditions in Ireland in 1825.
He was keenly interested in educational matters and gave his strong support to the National Education system established in 1831. When landlords in his diocese would not make land available for the erection of schoolhouses, he had schools built in graveyards.
The construction of Carlow Cathedral of the Assumption crowned Doyle's career. He fell ill a few months after it was opened in late 1833 and died 15 June 1834. He was buried in his new cathedral. A sculpture, by John Hogan, in memory of Doyle was completed in 1839.
Seamus Doyle was one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising in Enniscorthy, County Wexford. According to his own testimony, Father Philip Roche of 1798 fame was his great uncle. He joined the Gaelic League in 1900 and was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Gorey in 1907. In 1913 he joined the Irish Volunteers and became secretary of the board that oversaw the Volunteers in County Wexford.
At the outbreak of the Rising he was Adjutant of the Enniscorthy Battalion. With Sean Etchingham, he travelled to Dublin under military escort to get confirmation from Pádraig Pearse that Dublin had surrendered. He was interned after the Rising and served time in Dartmoor, Lewes, Maidstone and Pentonville prisons in England. He was active in the Irish War of Independence and was elected to Dáil Eireann as an anti-Treaty Sinn Féin member. He also served as chairman of Enniscorthy Rural District Council, and was a member of Wexford County Council.
Seamus Doyle was an exceptional historian of pre-Norman Ireland and an authority on the placenames of County Wexford. He died in 1971.
Martin Doyle was born on October 25, 1894 in the village of Gusserane, close to the town of New Ross. He was the son of Larry Doyle, a farmer struggling to make a living off the land, and his wife Bridget. Doyle joined the Royal Irish Regiment in late 1909 and served in India in 1913.
Doyle served during the First World War and was awarded both the Military Medal and the Victoria Cross for his spectacular courage under fire. In 1919 Doyle went to Buckingham Palace to receive his Victoria Cross from the king, and left the army a short time later.
In 1920 he joined the IRA and became an intelligence officer for the mid-Clare brigade in Ennis in the War of Independence. During the Civil War he served with the Free State Army in Waterford, Kilkenny and south Tipperary and was wounded in the left arm in Limerick in early 1923. He served in the Irish Army until 1937 and then joined Guinness as a security guard. He died in Dublin in 1940 from poliomyelitis, aged 49, and is buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.
Paddy Doyle, author and disability activist, was born in County Wexford in 1951. He developed a rare neurological condition known as dystonia, which is characterised by sustained muscle contractions. Both parents died before he was four and he was committed to State care and spent eleven years in industrial schools and hospitals. His memoir, The God Squad, published in 1988, gave a chilling account of the dehumanising and harrowing life he endured in those institutions. The God Squad became an immediate best seller and won the Sunday Tribune Arts Award for Literature, and the Dublin Lord Mayor’s Prize. He became a strong advocate for people with disabilities and for survivors of institutional abuse. Paddy Doyle died in October 2020.
Elizabeth Doyle, known as Lizzie, was the daughter of Martin Doyle, a farmer, and his wife, Kate Cogley, and lived in Bree, Co. Wexford. Lizzie had three known siblings: James, Margaret, and Jeremiah. Her mother, Kate died in 1887.
Elizabeth emigrated to the US around 1909, and settled in Philadelphia but she returned home in June 1911 to be with her dying father who passed away the following month. Early in 1912, Elizabeth decided to return to the US, this time to Chicago. Her cousin, Robert Mernagh – who had also spent time in the US - decided that he would accompany her.
Elizabeth and Robert boarded the Titanic at Queenstown (Cobh) as third class passengers and both died when Titanic sank on April 15 1912. Their bodies were not recovered.
Elizabeth’s estate, valued at a meagre £10, was administered to her brother, Jeremiah, a postman, on 10 April 1913. Elizabeth is remembered on the family headstone in St David's church cemetery, Davidstown, Co Wexford.
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