Downie Surname Map

I have plotted on Google Maps the majority of information in this document and from other sources; unfortunately I am limited by the size of information that can be displayed. This information may assist in getting a visual picture of the following information. The maps are here (Google Maps of Downie Surname and variations in Highland Scotland), but please note they may take a minute or so to load. Senior Sergeant Damian Downie

The information contained in the map is from Scotland’s People Online and other sources by searching for Downie’s in central and western Scotland and all other Downie surname variations for all of Scotland. The reasoning behind the searches was the alignment with genetic hits identified by the Downey/Downie DNA Project for the individuals identified as M222+ and the associated geographical areas of traditional occupation using Electric Scotland and Official Clan Web Sites. Future research will include the larger volume of Downie’s on the Scottish eastern seaboard.  



Downie Surname

There are a number of possible derivations of the surname Downie that arise in the western or highland area of Scotland, as opposed to the Downie families of eastern Scotland (Barony of Downie). There is a high probability that the Downie surname in the south west/west of Scotland is derived from the original surname Mac Gille/Maol Domhnaich to McAldonich, Mcildonich, and Mcoldonich which later developed into surnames such as Mcildownie, Mcgildownie, Mcildonie, Mcgildonie, Mcildounie, Mcgildounie and Mcillduine (and various minor corruptions of these, i.e. Mcaldownie, Mcildowney, Mckildownie or Mcildony) Dounie, Donie and finally to Downie.

From reading there appears to be a number of sources of the Downie surname in Scotland and Ireland, with the intermittent mix in Ulster, that with DNA testing we should be able to identify the different evolution of the Downie/Downey surname. The following information has been collected and reviewed from numerous referenced sources.

The following sources are not exhaustive, but include:

In Scotland

· Geographical, there are Dounie/Doune/Downie place names or hill forts or Dun in most parishes in Scotland, including Aberdeen, Angus, Stirling, Perth, Inverness and Isle of Lewis;

· Geographical, from the Barony of Downie in Angus; and

· As a derivative of the Gaelic Mac Gille/Maol Domhnaich or McAldonich "son of the servant of the Lord (Sunday)" which both are anglacised to Macgildownie, Mcildownie and Gildownie (and many variations) to Downie, mainly in the parishes of Argyll, western Perth and Inverness.

In Ireland

· O’Dunadhaigh is a person identified with a fort or Dun. This surname is found mostly in County Galway, South west Cork and Leinster. The surname is Anglacised to Downey;

· Mac Dunadhaigh, identified with a fort or Dun this is the surname of an old Galway family; and

· O’Maoldomhnaigh from a church or Sunday, this name is anglacised to Moloney (sometimes Muldowney) and is the name of a Dalcassian family who were chiefs of the Barony of Tully, County Clare and the name is still common in Munster.

In Northern Ireland (Ulster):

· Mac Giolla Domhnaigh, "son of the servant of the Lord (Sunday)" which is an Ulster name and is anglacised to MacGildowney, Gildowney, Mcildowney, McEldowney, McDowney and Downey. The Scottish form of the same surname is spelt Mac Gille Domhnaich.


· The first name such as Maol Domhnaich, or Muldonich meaning the "Lord's Devotee" have been used in Scotland and may have been the precursors to the Mac variations. 





Domhnaich pronounced as DoE-ne, Donee, Donie, Dawnie and Doenee

It should be noted that the pronunciation of Domhnaigh/Domhnaich in Gaelic is what leads to the transition of the surname to Downie and variants.



Sunday Domhnaigh doe' – nee



From the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness (1896-7), the elision of final slender ch in the oblique cases of nouns prevails in Islay; MacAlpine has Di-Dcnaidh Caisg, s.v. Caisg. It has been elided in all parts of speech in Manx also; and in Irish it is represented by gh, which is not sounded, e.g., Domhnaich is Donee in Manx, and Domhnaigh, pronounced Domhnai in Irish (Reference).



Mac Gille Domhnaich and Variants

The Celtic monthly: a magazine for Highlanders, Volume 17 (1909) describe that there are many Mac’s that are not purely Gaelic (rather Norse), while there are many other names such as Downie “the tonsured of the Lord” for instance, with no trace of the original Mac or maol or Gille as known in their English form, which yet are Celtic or Gaelic as they can be (Reference).

Supporting this, Black (1923), Surnames of Scotland states that the breakdown of Mcildownie or Mac Gille Domhnaich (insert: MacIlleDhòmhnaich and M'Ghille-Domhnuich), meaning “son of the Lords (insert: God) gille or servant” and said to be shortened to Downie.

MacLysaght (1985) states that there is a Northern Irish or Ulster version of the surname Mac Giolla Domhnaigh of “son of the devotee of the church” and is known as Mceldowney, Mcildowney, Mcildoney and Downey. MacLysaght (1985) states that MacDowney however which is to be found in Ulster though a rare name even there is the anglacised form of quite a different surname Mac Giolla Domhnaigh usually rendered Mceldowney, in English simply as Downey and that family in Ulster are presumably of this origin. Gildowney and Macgildowney are properly synonyms of MacEldowney. An example, the erenagh of Ardstraw was Ó Farannáin, a branch of Cineál Eoghain, with the earliest of the name are Maolbhríde  (servant of St Bríd) Ó Farannáin who died in 1127 and Giolla Domhnaigh (servant of the Lord) who died in 1179. (Reference)

Partick Woulfe Irish Names and Surnames (1906) states that MacGildowney, Macildowney, MacEldowney, MacDowney, Gildownie, Ildowney and Downey are rare Ulster names from Mac Giolla Domnaig “son of the servant of the Lord”.

From the Manx Notebook (1928), the Irish name Mac Giolla Domhnaigh was rendered into “MacIldowney” or "Downey" in English, a clipped version of the original Gaelic name which means “son of the servant of the Lord” (God - Dominus). (Reference)

The Book of Ulster Surnames (1988) describes the surname Downey is most common in Ulster where it can be of Irish or Scottish origin. In Scotland it has two derivations, the first is territorial from the old barony of Duny or Downie in Angus, with Duny is from the Gaelic Dun meaning hill. The second derivation is a shortening of Mcildownie, from the Gaelic Mac Gill Domhnaich meaning "son of the lord's gillie (or servant)."

The official Clan Donald website (2009) describes Macildonie not of Clan Donald in Kintyre may be of Clans Cameron, Lamont, MacGregor or MacLean, with Macildonie derived from the Gaelic: Mac Mhaoil Domnhaigh - "son of the Lord's Dayservant". (Reference)


Iain Mac an Tàilleir of the SMO created a document: on the 23rd September 2009 which states that in Scottish Gaelic Downie is MacIlleDhòmhnaich, MacIldownie is MacIlleDhòmhnaich and MacIldonich is MacMhaolDòmhnaich.


1. Downie

2. MacIldownie



Inbhir Nis


Sloinnte Gaelacha in Ultaibh (2009). The main part of this page contains an (incomplete) alphabetic list of Gaelic surnames found in Ulster, each with various anglicized forms. The content is largely based on the writings of such reliable scholars as Séamus Ó Ceallaigh, Seaghán Ó Annáin, Seaghán 'ac a' Bháird, Éamonn Ó Tuathail, who drew on first-hand oral sources and on public records:

Mac Giolla Domhnaigh

McEldowney, Downey

(Reference) (Bell, 1988)

The Dictionary of American Family Names (2003) describes Mceldowney as Northern Irish, Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Giolla Dhomhnaigh ‘son of the servant of the Church’. (Reference)

Mr. Connolly, the minister of Ramoan, in his account of that parish, printed A.D. 1816, in Mason's Parochial Survey, says : " This town (Ballycastle) is the residence of three magistrates, who are generally grand jurors; they keep carriages and have handsome fortunes; their names are Ezekiel Devis Boyd, uncle to the proprietor, Edmund McGildowney and Alexander MacNeill, Esqs."," Edmund (commonly called Munn) McGildowney belonges to a Highland family, MacGiolla Domhnaigh - "Son of the Servant of the Lord;" he was a Catholic, but his mother being a Protestant brought up her other sons Protestant. (Reference)

From the "List of Scottish Surnames and Variants" (Ref) describes the derivation of some of the modern day Downie surnames: MAC-GILLE-DOMHNAICH, MACILDOWNIE, MACKILDOWNY, M'ILDOWNIE, MCILDOWNY, M'GILDOWNY and DOWNIE.


Domhnaigh et. al. as Sunday

Di(e)-Domhnaich, Domnhaigh and Domhnuich all mean Sunday in Gaelic. (Reference). In Scottish Gaelic there are two names for Sunday depending on whether you are Protestant or Catholic. Catholic usage is Di-domhnuich and in Irish De Domhnaigh meaning The Lord's day. Protestant usage is Latha na Sbaid = Day of the Sabbath (Reference)



Downie as Mac Mhaol Domhnaich

Martin (1999) described that virtually all Gaelic names suffered mutilation to a greater or lesser degree, with surnames of Kintyre that are demonstrably Gaelic origin have ceased to be recognized as so, Cook, Downie, etc… On the examination of the Downie surname in Kintyre Martin states that having considered all of the evidence in Kintyre, Matheson doubted if gille would have been reduced to one syllable in unstressed position and suggested that both –ol and –il (below) represent Gaelic Mhaol, with which evaluation O’Baoill inclines to agree (Maol and gille – Irish Giolla – equate in these contexts: servant). Matheson further questions the assumption that these examples represent surnames rather than patronymics, Maol-domhnaich then being current as a personal name (e.g. Moldonych Mcillicheir in Achaleik or Kilmichell, c.1630 – SLK). The likeliest form (of Downie) is, therefore, Mac Mhaol Domhnaich, which may – or may not- represent “son of the servant of the Lord”. Gilpatrick McOldonych in Gartgrellane and Gilnave McOldonych in Egill (Uigle) or Ochterane c.1630 (SLK); Malcolme Mcildonie in Moy c.1635. (SLK = Survey of the Lands of the ordship of Kintyre c.1630/1653).

MaolDomhnaich as Maldowny, Muldonich, M’Aldonich, M’Oldonych and Mildonie


Black (1923) described the name Maoldomhnaich as from the earlier Mael-Domhnaich ‘Sundays Lad’, literally meaning ‘Sundays Servant’. The name is described as being spelt as Malduueny (1214 Glasgow), Maldofeni (1300 Luss), MacMaldouney (1333 received a grant from Earl of Lennox), Maldowny (1364), Muldonych (1530 Black isle), Muldonich (1541 Tiree), M’Aldonich (1723 Black book of Teymouth), M’Oldonych, Gilledonich and M’Yildonich (1504 Easter Ross), Meldonich (1646 Bute), Mildonich (1674 Peinmore), Mildonie (1684 Killurin and 1686 Steligmor). Black (1923) notes that MacFarlane (1912) gives modern Gaelic also as Maol-Domhnuich.


(Mac) Maol/Giolla Domhnaich to McAldonich, Muldowney, Muldooney and Moldonny

The Manx Notebook (1929) describes the surname MacAldonich, or in Gaelic is M’ Maol-Domhnaich, from the older Mael-Domhnaich or “Servant of Sunday or Sunday’s Servant” or Muldonich “Sunday’s Servant” (Black, 1923) or from Maoldomhnaich, "servant of the Church", derivative surnames are McAldonich in Scotland, Muldooney, Muldowney, in Ireland (insert: the ‘ch’ at the end of McAldonich appears to be pronounced as ‘ey’ in Ireland) (W.W.Gill A Third Manx Scrapbook, 1928). (Reference)

The Manx Notebook (1929) describes MacAldonieh, MacIldoney. Mac-giolla-, or Mac-maol-, Domhnaich, son of the servant of the Church, or of the Lord. Cf. the former Mx forename Moldonny, Maoldonich in Scotland, whence the surname Mc oldonuich, 16th cent. (Reference)


Mac Ghille Domhnaich, McAldonich to Downie


From Padraig Mac Giolla Domhnaigh’s (1923) book, “Some Anglacised Surnames in Ireland” describes the Downey/Downie surname in the north of Scotland we find it in the form of Downie. The Scottish Gaelic form of the name is Mac Ghille Domhnaich. The Irish form being Mc Giolla Domhnaigh. The origin of this name goes back to Maoldomhnach, of the Lords of the Buchanans of Lenny in Stirling from who the sept sprang and got the name. The Scottish sept occupied the districts of Strathearn and Strathdon, the former on the southern banks of the River Tay between Perth and Abernathy.

The name was written in Perthshire, about two hundred years ago as McAldonich, and probably the sept came to Ulster in the early part of the 16th century as the M’Glades, M’Veaghs, M’Fees, M’Daids and several other septs of Western Isles and Argyll came either as auxiliary soldiers to the O’Donnells, or forced through religious disabilities accompanying the Scottish Reformation.


Maol-Domhnaich to Downey, Downie, McEldowney, McGildowney and McAldonich

William O’Byrne cited in DOWNEY (1931) “A history of the Protestant Downeys of the counties of Sligo, Leitrim, Fermanagh & Donegal describes that Downey, Downie, McEldowney and McGildowney”, common in northeast Ulster have each the same origin, being a sept of the Clan Buchanans of Lenny in Sterlingshire, that was located in Strathallan and Strathern in Perthshire. The name originated from Maol-Domhnaich, one of the chiefs of the Buchanans, and is written in Gaelic Mac Gille-Domhnaich, and in the seventeenth century in the north of Scotland we find it written McAldonich. The Buchannan Clan is descended from Ausalan Buidhe O’Kane, who settled in the Lennox County in the tenth or eleventh century and his descendents took the name of MacAusalain, whence comes McCausland and McAuslin, surnames found in Ulster. The whole clan held the name of McAusalain until the time if Gillbrid, the ninth laird who assumed the name of Buchanan, being of that district. The name of Buchanan is called McWhanan by the old generation in Ulster and Scotland and occurs from the proper Gaelic name of the district of Buchanan that is Mac a’Chanonach.

According to the Leny family tree the MacMaoldonichs had their seat in Strathearn in Perthshire, though the few individuals so far found bearing this surname appear more often in Argyll, alongside MacMillans and other names

related to the clan in that part of Scotland. So we find Finlay M'Moldonich in Craignish in 1549, and a Donald M'millan alias M'ildonich marrying Christian M'coll in 1779 in the parish of Kilninver & Kilmelford. (Reference)


McAldonich and McAldounie as Same Surname in 1701

From the Papers of the Campbell Family, Earls of Breadalbane (Breadalbane Muniments) held at the National Archives of Scotland relating to the Vouchers of charge and discharge of Hew Campbell with victual of Glenorchy and Barbreck account of hewn stone won by John McAldounie for the use of the castle in 1701. Receipt by John McAldonich, workman at Castle Kelhurne, 10 October 1701. (Reference)



MacOldonie to McOlduine Surname


There is evidence of two different spellings of the same surname being:


M'Oldounie, John, in Molay, in Clachandysart, d. Mar. 1694;Mary N'Verrist, relict ; John, son 19 Oct. 1695 (Reference).

This is supported by Martin (1999) who states that Mcildonie in Argyll has been reduced to Downie (Dounie).



Family Surname Transition

The is an interesting family from Campbeltown in Argyll, who provide one of the most classic and recordable transition from the Gaelic to the anglacised surname of Downie. Within one generation they family has almost every pre anglacised variation of the Downie surname and yet are later are identified as Downie.

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Campbeltown holds an interesting Register of births from 15 September 1794 to 10th January 1820. This volume appears to contain records of births to members of both the Highland and Lowland congregations.

It is not known who kept the Register, but during the period covered the keeping of such records was within the province of the Kirk. There were no civil registrars before 1855. The Register gives the name of the child, of the father and the mother, together with the date. Its value is somewhat diminished by the fact that there is no further identification, such as an address or trade or profession. But in an Appendix to the Register there are two most interesting lists.

The first is as follows:

"Names mentioned in this copy of Register believed to be changed and now known by the surnames stated in the following lists."



McGildownie to Downie;

McIldownie to Downie;

..... (Reference)


I would like to pass on my most humble thanks to three people who assisted in this research, Ian Downie, the foremost expert on the Downie surname, Harold Ralston for his web site and insight into Kintyre and James Adams who has meticulously photographed and documented grave site in Kintyre.

The father and mother in question are documented as having the following surnames names on the birth of each child:





It has been identified that the father Lachlan was buried as Lachlan Downie d. 1825 at 80 years Kilkenzie by Campbeltown in Kintyre NR6724 with Mary Kelly died 1816 aged 70 - Kilchenzie Graveyard image 331. Inscription by by Archd. Downie in memory of his Mother Mary Kelly died 22d June 1816 aged 70 years and Lachlan Downie his Father died Oct 9th 1825 aged 80 years and his Son Duncan Downie died May 8th [difficult to read] 1825 aged 12 [?] years (Reference & Downie, I, ScotlandsPeople).


First child:

Archibald Mcildownie

Died 1856 DOWNIE ARCHIBALD (Mothers Maiden Name) KELLY M 84 CAMPBELTOWN (LANDWARD) /ARGYLL 507/02 0012. Archibald Downie Birth: 1771, Unknown (Argyllshire?) Death: 1856, Campbeltown, Argyll, In 1841 Census as Archibald Downie living with younger brother Donald (Reference & Downie, I, ScotlandsPeople).


Second child:

Katherine Dounie

Nothing known at this time.


Third child:

Donald Downie

1857 Deaths in the District of Campbeltown in the County of Argyll 507 page 22 no 6410 Downie Donald Tailor Single died 1857 May Eleventh 1h P.M. Rhue male age 76 years Parents Lachlan Downie Farm Servant (deceased) Mary Downie Maiden Name Kelly deceased. Cause of Death Senile debility 20 days No medical attendant Burial Place Kilchenzie Churchyard as certified by Archibald Downie Nephew of deceased Informant Archibald Downie Nephew Registered 1857 May 14th at Campbeltown William Walker Assist Registrar [initialled D.C. and page signed David Colville Registrar] [transcribed from a copy of the certificate], in 1841 Census living with Archibald Downie (brother) (Reference & Downie, I, ScotlandsPeople).


Fourth child:

Malcom Mcgildownie

Nothing known at this time.


Fifth child:

Mary Mcgildownie

Died 1857 DOWNIE MARY (Mothers Maiden Name) KELLY (Other Name) MCQUILKAN F 73 Parents Lachlan Downie Farm Servant (deceased) Mary Downie Maiden Name Kelly deceasedKILLEAN AND KILCHENZIE /ARGYLL 519/00 0016 (Reference & Downie, I, ScotlandsPeople).


Sixth child:

Christian Mcgildownie

Married 30/01/1806 DOWNIE CHRISTIN ANGUS MACMILLAN/ F CAMPBELTOWN /ARGYLL 507/00 0050 0073 (Reference & Downie, I, ScotlandsPeople).


Seventh child:

Florance Dounie

Died DOWNIE Flora d.1939 80 yrs Kilkerran new by Campbeltown in Kintyre NR7219, 1868 DOWNIE FLORA STEWART F 80 Parents Lachlan Downie Farm Servant (deceased) Mary Downie Maiden Name Kelly deceased KILLEAN AND KILCHENZIE /ARGYLL 519/00 0004. Married 30/03/1809 DOWNIE FLORA ARCHIBALD STEWART/ F CAMPBELTOWN /ARGYLL 507/00 0050 0086 (Reference & Downie, I, ScotlandsPeople).  



McAldonich Surname Disappears


In 1879 the Celtic Magazine reported that “a somewhat common surname in Kilmorack at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries was that of "Gildonich," sometimes spelt "Mhaoldonich," sometimes" MacGildonich " and "MacOldonich." The name disappears altogether, so far as the Church Registers are concerned, before 1720. What surname did the family assume, and what are the members of it now known by?” (Reference)

It is the contention of this research that from the identified evidence that the surname McAldonich devolved via multiple paths such as Mcgildownie, Mcildonie, Mcildounie to Donie and Dounie and finally to Downie.

Scotlands People web site (Reference) describes that many emigrants from Scotland changed their names on arrival in their new country, as did many people from the Highlands & Islands who migrated to the Scottish lowlands in search of work. Shortening or dropping the prefix "Mc" or "Mac", or anglicising a gaelic surname, or indeed changing the surname altogether for a similar sounding English one, which would be easier to pronounce and would conceal one’s origins, were quite common occurrences. Thus the gaelic surname Macdonnchaidh or Macdonachie becomes Duncanson, Macian becomes Johnson, Macdonald is anglicised to Donaldson, Macilroy becomes Milroy, and Maccowan becomes Cowan. “Similar to Mac Ghillie Domhnaich (Downie)” is the gaelic Mac Ghille dhuibh, or “son of the black lad”, seen in the surnames Macilduy, Macildue and Macildowie, translates to Black. Gilchrist, a gaelic name meaning servant of Christ, might be anglicised to Christopher. Illiteracy might, however, engender a change of surname by default, giving rise to weird and wonderful variants, e.g. Maclachlan recorded as Mcglauflin.


Downie Name Cleared from Glenorchy


ALEX MACKENZIE THE HISTORY OF THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES (1883) describes Glenorchy, of which the Marquis of Breadalbane is sole proprietor, was, like many other places, ruthlessly cleared of its whole native population. The writer of the New Statistical Account of the Parish, in 1843, the Rev. Duncan Maclean, " Fior Ghael " of the Teachdaire, informs us that the census taken by Dr. Webster in 1755, and by Dr. Maclntyre forty years later, in 1795, " differ exceedingly little," only to the number of sixty. The Marquis of the day, it is well known, was a good friend of his reverence; the feeling was naturally reciprocated, and one of the apparent results is that the reverend author abstained from giving, in his Account of the Parish, the population statistics of the Glenorchy district. It was, however, impossible to pass over that important portion of his duty altogether, and, apparently with reluctance, he makes the following sad admission: "A great and rapid decrease has, however, taken place since [referring to the population in 1795]. This decrease is mainly attributable to the introduction of sheep, and the absorption of small into large tenements. The aboriginal population of the parish of Glenorchy (not of Inishail) has been nearly supplanted by adventurers from the neighbouring district of Breadalbane, who now occupy the far largest share of the parish. There are a few, and only a few, shoots from the stems that supplied the ancient population. Some clans, who were rather numerous and powerful, have disappeared altogether; others, viz., the Downies, Macnabs, Macnicols, and Fletchers, have nearly ceased to exist. The Macgregors, at one time lords of the soil, have totally disappeared; not one of the name is to be found among the population. The Macintyres, at once time extremely numerous, are likewise greatly reduced." By this nobleman's mania for evictions, the population of Glenorchy was reduced from 1806 in 1831 to 831 in 1841, or by nearly a thousand souls in the short space of ten years! (Reference)