The Irish surname Dowling is of patronymic origin being derived from the Gaelic name O’Dunlaing. The personal name Dunlaing is derived from the terms dun meaning “Harbor or refuge” and long meaning “ship,” this meaning residence by a haven for ships. The Dowlings were one of the ' Seven septs of Leix," and area around modern day county Laois and their original territory lay along the banks of the River Barrow and was called "Dowling's Country." Several branches of the family moved to the neighboring counties of Kilkenny and Carlow and later to county Wicklow where there are four townlands called Ballydowling.
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