Michael Dwyer (1772-1825)
Michael Dwyer is a legend in the Glen of Imaal. This is a brief account of his exploits.
He was the first of seven children born in 1772 to John and Mary Dwyer at Camara, Glen of Imaal, Co. Wicklow. The family moved to a 24 acre farm in Eadestown in 1784.
The authorities became relentless in their pursuit of the rebels
In 1797, Dwyer aged 25 years, joined the Society of United Irishmen. He fought against the British authorities with the Talbotstown rebel group in the 1798 Rebellion. Following their defeat in Wexford, Dwyer continued fighting under General Joseph Holt. When Holt surrendered, he continued to rebel for four more years with a group of like minded men operating in the Wicklow mountains. From 1798, the authorities became relentless in their pursuit of the rebels especially in West Wicklow.
Sheltering from a snow storm
In 1799, he narrowly escaped capture. Dwyer and his men were sheltering from a snow storm in a small cottage in Dernamuck. An informant gave up their location and a force of 100 men surrounded the cottage. He refused to surrender and the soldiers set the cottage alight. Some of Dwyers’ men were killed, including McAllister who sacrificed his life to allow Dwyer to escape. McAllister is buried in Kilranelagh graveyard. The cottage at Dernamuck was restored between 1946 and 1948. Currently it is being renovated by the Office of Public Works and will re-open to visitors when work is completed.
Deported to New South Wales, Australia
There was no let up in the search for Dwyer and in 1803, having lost a lot of his men to the conflict, Dwyer surrendered to William Hoare Hume MP. He was detained in Kilmainham Gaol and in 1805 deported to New South Wales, Australia along with his wife and their two eldest children. He was given 100 acres of uncleared land not far from land allocated to some of his Irish compatriots – Hugh “Vesty” Byrne, John Mernagh, Arthur Devlin and Martin Burke.
Tried for sedition
Dwyer’s life in Australia was as colourful as his life in Ireland. In 1801, he was tried for sedition but was acquitted. Even so, he was still sent to Norfolk Island and then to Van Diemen’s Land. By 1810, he was allowed back into society. Between 1810 and 1825 he became financially successful but fell foul of the law and was declared bankrupt and incarcerated in Sydney’s Debtor jail. That is where his life ended after contracting dysentery while imprisoned.
He and his wife, Mary Doyle are buried in Waverley Cemetery in Sydney.