Duggan Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Duggan Meaning
The Irish name O’Dubhagain, being a diminutive of
the Gaelic dubh
meaning “black,” was anglicized principally as Duggan.
Other spellings were Dugan and Doogan, the
latter representing perhaps a more accurate rendition of the Irish
pronunciation. The name was also to be found, as Dougan and
Dugan, in SW Scotland
close to Ireland.
Dugan, Duggan and Dougan are the main
today. Duggan predominates, except in
America where there are more Dugans.
Dougan is Scottish or Scots Irish.

Duggan Resources on

Duggan Ancestry

Ireland. The surname arose simultaneously in a number of areas –
in Cork, Galway,
Wexford and Fermanagh. The largest
numbers at the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the mid-19th
century were
in Cork, followed by Tipperary and Galway.

Cork. The O’Dubhagains here held
territory near Fermoy in north Cork.
They were originally the ruling family of the Fir
Maighe family grouping
which had given its name to the town. The poet O’Heerin described
them as
follows in the early 15th century:

“Chief of Fermoy of well-fenced forts
O’Dugan of Dunmannan

A tribe of Gaels of precious jewels.”

However, along with other
Fir Maighe families, they had lost their power when the Normans
conquered the
territory in the 12th and 13th centuries. The family name continued in
parish and townland of Caherduggan in that area. Duggans date from the
1700’s in the barony of Duhallow and were landowners at Kilmeen a
century or so

Galway. Another sept of the same
name was to be found
in the Ui Maine area of east Galway and south Roscommon. They may have
pre-Gaelic origins from the earlier Tir Soghain in Galway.

They had their homeland in the parish of
Fohenagh and were known as bards and scribes.
The most prominent of them
was Sean MorO’Dubhagain who lived in the mid-14th century. The
Annals of the
Four Masters
recorded the deaths of two other notables – Richard
O’Dubhagáin in
1379 and Donal O’Dubhagáin in 1487.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the greatest
concentration of the name was to be found at Claregalway in county
Galway and in
the environs of Galway City. Patrick Duggan who became Bishop of Clonfert is best
remembered for his supposed
interference in the election in Galway in 1872 in support of tenants’
for which he was tried and acquitted.

Wexford. The original Irish name here was
O’Duibhghinn. The genealogy of the
Wexford Duggans became a matter of considerable interest in the early
when the story of the so-called “Duggan millions” became known. Alfredo Duggan of Argentina, a descendant of
a Wexford emigrant, had died an extremely wealthy man with no heirs.
in 1944 a nephew, then aged 72 and originally from Rosslare, inherited
million pounds.

Ulster. There were
O’Dugains who were erenachs (hereditary priests) at Inishkeen in
Fermanagh. The Dugans and Dougans in
Ulster, most common in Antrim and Down, are most likely to have been of
Scottish extraction. The footballer
Derek Dougan, for instance, grew up in the 1950’s in a traditional
working-class Protestant family in Belfast.

Scotland. The spelling in Scotland is
either Dougan or
Dugan, although the roots – the Gaelic dubh – are the same as

The early sightings were in
Galloway and Wigtown. There was a 15th
century bishop in Galloway named Adougan; while Loch Dougan lies in
Kirkcudbright. The name spread up the
coast in Ayrshire and inland to Glasgow.
Many crossed the Irish Sea to Ulster.

Isle of Man. Duggan can also be a Manx
name. John Duggan died at Arbory in 1769. The name also cropped up later at Onchan
on the east coast where they were farmers.

America. The
spelling in America was generally Dugan.

One early arrival was Thomas Dugan,
Scots Irish from Donegal, who came with his family to Pennsylvania
sometime in
the 1740’s. Son Robert migrated south to
the Newberry district in the 1760’s where he helped to establish the
Presbyterian church in South Carolina:

  • his
    son Thomas was a colonel in the Continental army during the
    Revolutionary War.
  • but after the war was over two of
    his other
    sons –
    Robert and John – were
    murdered by British supporters
    at their

Dugan had been born in Maryland in 1773 and his brother George some two
later. In the 1790’s they moved to
Kentucky and settled in Nelson county near Bardstown where they farmed. George was the ancestor of most of the Nelson
county Dugans.

Among later Dugan
arrivals were:

  • John Dugan, a physician,
    and his wife Margaret who arrived from Armagh in 1849 and settled at
    in upstate New York. The story goes that
    John was the son of an Irish lord but, having married
    against his wishes, was
    disowned by his father. Their son Hugh
    was for many years the proprietor of the Exchange Hotel in Oswego.
  • Martin and
    Bridget Dugan from Galway who came to Indiana in 1854.
    Martin and his sons were farmers at
  • Martin and Mary Dugan from Tipperary who came to
    Michigan sometime in the 1850’s and later settled in Crawford county,
    where Martin farmed. Some of their
    descendants subsequently moved onto Omaha, Nebraska.
  • and Patrick and Elizabeth Dugan who left
    Ireland for Pennsylvania also in the 1850’s. Their
    grandson Joseph, born in 1897, was known in baseball
    as Jumping
    Joe Dugan. This was because of his star
    performances as third baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics and the
    New York
    Yankees between 1917 and 1931. He appeared in five World Series.

Canada. The Duggans had come to
York (now Toronto)
from Cork soon after the town had been founded in the 1790’s. George Duggan started out there as a
carpenter and progressed to coroner and budding politician. His nephew George, who arrived around 1820
with his parents, followed his uncle into politics and later became a

George’s son Thomas was a surgeon, his other son John a lawyer. John’s son Herrick
was a
prominent Canadian engineer – a builder of bridges and a designer of
yachts – who
was killed in a motor accident.

Argentina. Michael
, aged twenty, left Ireland for Argentina in 1848 to seek
fortune. He started out as a wool broker
for Irish sheep farmers and ended up with his brothers John and Thomas
wealthy land developers.

The line from Alfredo, a son of Thomas, led back across
the Atlantic to London where Alfredo was appointed an attaché
at the Argentine embassy in 1905. He and
his wife Grace, who was later to marry George Curzon (a former Viceroy
India), were the parents of two sons Alfred and Hubert who mixed with
high society during the 1930’s:

  • Alfred became a historian,
    archaeologist and best-selling historical novelist in the 1950’s.
  • while
    Hubert was a politician, serving as the MP for Acton from 1931 until
    his death
    in 1943.

Australia. Robert
Duggan had come with his family from Ireland to Sydney on the Marquis
in 1796 and joined the NSW Corps as a soldier. He gained a fearsome reputation as a flogger
of prisoners. Later the roles were
reversed and he was flogged during the Irish uprising at Castle Hill in

Among later Dugans and Duggans in Australia were:

  • John and Jane Dugan,
    Protestants from Mayo, who came to Sydney on the Argyle in 1839. John was a pioneer farmer at Minorie Falls
    along the Macquarie river.
  • and Jeremiah Duggan and his family from Cork who
    arrived in Tasmania as bounty immigrants on the Sir W.F Williams
    1857. One son Jeremiah died in a bicycle
    accident on the island in 1905; another son Timothy lived until 1940


Duggan Miscellany

Dugans, Duggans, and Dougans Today

Number (000’s) Dugan Duggan Dougan Total
Ireland    7    7
UK    1    8    4   13
America   11    6    2   19
Elsewhere    1    7    1    9
Total 13   28    7   48

The Dubhagains as Bards and Scribes.  The O’Dubhagains in Galway claimed descent from the
druid Mog Rutih.  Even with the change-over
to Christianity, druids carried on with their profession as filí
seers. These filí were socially very important and held in the
esteem as kings. They enjoyed many privileges, were exempt from
military duties,
and were the custodians of the oral tradition which embraced genealogy

Their most celebrated bard was Sean MorO’Dubhagain, chief
poet of the
O’Kellys, who lived in the mid-14th century.
He was the author of Tiallimtimpeallna Fodla, a poem
giving a
description of the pre-Norman Ireland of some two centuries earlier.  He is credited with the introduction of a
didactic nature into Irish literature.  As
he held the title of ollamh or professor, it is logical to
conclude that
later scribes were his students. He retired to a monastery in Roscommon
in 1365
and died there in 1372.

Descendants did
in fact continue as scribes until well into the 19th century.  Tomas Bacach O’Dugain who flourished in the
1850’s was a scribe who wrote songs at Claregalway in Galway, as did
two other
O’Dugains at that time there.

It was amazing that these scribes were able to
keep up the tradition of composing and writing at a time when the
language and culture was at its lowest ebb and there was no reward for

Their heritage continued into the 20th century.  Richard Duggan was born in 1860 and lived all
his life at Menlo in Galway.  He was a
native Irish speaker and epitomized the oral tradition of the filí
olden times. He died in 1947.

Strangely enough, there is no genealogical record
available for the O’Dubhagains.  Roderick
O’Flaherty, the famous 17th century Galway scholar, said in his Ogygia
that no line of pedigree for them could be found in any of the
Irish annals, rather strange for a family who were such professors of
and history.

The Murders of Robert and John Dugan.  In 1781, after the main fighting was over in the
Revolutionary War against the British, the two brothers Robert and John
went home for a “sly” visit to their mother – “sly” because
Up Country in South Carolina was rife with American Tories.

In the middle of the
night their mother heard knocking on the door and a dozen or more
demanding entrance.  She thrust one of
the brothers into the fireplace opening.
The other threw himself from the upper window, hoping to escape
cover of darkness, but shivered a bone in his leg, which caused his

Dugans’ Tory neighbors fired a small house in the yard and by its light
proceeded to hang Robert and John from the limb of a nearby oak.  With broadswords they hewed off their
victims’ limbs, flesh and heads before their mother’s eyes. After they
she gathered the remains of her murdered boys and buried them on a
probably with the help of a trusted neighbor.

Their brother Colonel Thomas later
hanged some of the murderers at the nearby crossroads.   In September 1785 he signed a receipt for pay
on behalf of his dead brother Robert and perhaps also for his dead
brother John.

Michael Duggan in Argentina.  Most of the early Irish
immigrants to Argentina were from either Wexford or Westmeath.  And this was true of Michael Duggan who had
arrived in Buenos Aires as a young man of twenty in 1848.
He got to know the Irish sheep farmers in
Argentina and became a wool and hide broker and consignee for them.   Later, he became the agent for The
, the first English-language newspaper in Argentina.

He went on to become reputedly the richest
Irishman in the world, with interests in Argentina in banking and
railways.  He bought vast areas of land
from the
government which he developed and then sold in square-league lots.

It was said of him:

“He began undoubtedly at the bottom rung and, in so far
as the acquiring
of wealth went, got several steps above the highest of his countrymen.  Yet he was a simple living man, charitable
and generous, and always was ready to help his own people.  Unlike
too many of
the wealthy Irish of today he always preferred his own countrymen in
branch of his vast business.”

On his death in 1888 Michael – together with his brothers
John and
Thomas – owned approximately 65,000 hectares of the best land in
the province of
Buenos Aires.  Their estate was said to
have been the size of Munster in Ireland.
John died in 1896 and the last of the brothers, Thomas, in 1913.

The Drowning of Swim Duggan at Onchan.  Alfred Duggan’s reminiscences in the 1950’s of his
family in the Isle of Man included the following:

“Dada Duggan was born in 1871
in the little thatched cottage at the top of Whitebridge hill
on the Laxey
side of Onchan village.  His father was
known on the island as Swim Duggan.

One moonlight night, accompanied by two
other men, he went conger-fishing from Onchan harbor.
It is thought that the boat capsized
and all were thrown into the water.
They must have clung to each other for all were drowned, though
Swim was
said to have been the best swimmer on the island.

Swim Duggan’s wife died soon
after his drowning when Dada was five years old.
As a result, Dada was separated from
his sister Eliza and he went to live with his uncle Jimmy Duggan
farmed at Ballacallister in Lonan; while his sister Eliza went to live
Uncle Billie Duggan who farmed at Hoanes.

Dada – whose real name was William
Duggan – married Eleanor Ann Kermode.  They died in 1935 and 1936
and were buried in Lonan churchyard.” 

Herrick Duggan Killed in a Motor Accident.  The Toronto
reported in 1946:

of the “grand old men” of Canadian engineering and a leading figure
in Canada’s sport, finance and industry, Herrick Duggan died instantly
injuries received in a three-car accident near St. Jerome in Quebec.

Herrick had
previously survived a broken neck, broken ribs, serious falls, and
arthritis.  This day his family car was
properly parked on the side of a Laurentian road.  Herrick
Duggan, aged eighty-four, had long
ceased to drive his own car.  His
chauffeur, who had served him well for years, had assisted him from the
and he was standing by the car on the side away from the traffic.  Then another car struck a truck, the truck
struck the parked car, and at the same moment the parked car struck its
and killed him.

Perhaps his most distinguished work had been the
designing of
the mighty Quebec bridge spanning the St. Lawrence river.
He had been called in after two American
attempts had failed, the almost completed bridge twice collapsing with
a great
loss of life.”



Duggan Names

  • Sean Mor O’Dubhagain,
    aka John O’Dugan, was a 14th century Irish bard from Galway. 
  • Michael Duggan emigrated
    from Ireland to Argentina in 1848 and amassed a fortune in
    land development there. 
  • Alfred Duggan was a historian,
    archaeologist and best-selling historical novelist in England
    during the 1950’s. 
  • Sean Duggan from Galway is widely regarded as one of
    the greatest Irish hurlers in the history of the game

Select Duggan Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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