The ruth­less Michael Dwyer


Bray People - - SCHOOLS REPORT -


MICHAEL DWYER (1772-1825) was born to John Dwyer of Ca­mara in Imaal and Mary Byrne, daugh­ter of Charles Byrne of Cul­len­tragh.

Dwyer was the el­dest of four brothers and three sis­ters. At Bal­ly­hub­bock school in Imaal, Dwyer re­ceived his ed­u­ca­tion from its mas­ter Peter Burr - a man whom Dwyer greatly ad­mired for his pa­tri­o­tism. In 1784, John Dwyer moved his fam­ily to Eadestown in Imaal where they reared sheep - this farm was pro­cured for them with the help of Robert Em­met's fam­ily. Ac­cord­ing to con­tem­po­rary de­scrip­tions, Dwyer stood at about six feet with dark hair and eyes.

Like many in the Glen of Imaal, Dwyer joined the United Ir­ish­men early in 1797. To the authorities in Wick­low dur­ing the early months of `1798, the signs of im­pend­ing re­bel­lion were all too ob­vi­ous - prompt­ing them to com­mence a bru­tal counter in­sur­gency cam­paign to break up the United Ir­ish­man net­work. The in­creased gov­ern­ment at­ten­tion forced Dwyer into hid­ing on Lug­naquilla.

When the re­bel­lion broke on 23 May, the yeo­manry at­tempted to cow the pop­u­lace through in­tim­i­da­tion - shoot­ing Dwyer's ar­dently repub­li­can un­cle John Dwyer of Se­skin along with thirty-five oth­ers on the fair green in Dunlavin.

Through the chaos of con­flict, Dwyer made his way to Mount Pleas­ant near Ti­na­hely where the United Ir­ish­men of Wick­low were gather­ing un­der Billy Byrne.

Un­der Byrne's com­mand, Dwyer fought in the ranks of the Bal­ly­manus Divi­sion in the bloody battle of Ark­low on 9 June.

In the af­ter­math of Ark­low, he re­treated south­ward with Byrne to En­nis­cor­thy where they fought at Vine­gar Hill on 21 June.

Af­ter the de­feat of the United Ir­ish­men at Vine­gar Hill, Dwyer with the Wick­low men es­caped into their home county, be­com­ing a cap­tain on 24 June. He was to fight at the sec­ond battle of Hack­et­stown on 25 June and at Bal­lyel­lis near Carnew on 30 June.

In the lat­ter en­counter, Dwyer dis­tin­guished him­self by the fe­roc­ity of his courage - cut­ting down at least of one of the gov­ern­ment dra­goons. In July, he re­treated to Glen­malure, de­clin­ing to join the rebel army's last cam­paign in the mid­lands - con­sid­er­ing it ill-judged.

With Joseph Holt, Dwyer re­fused the of­fer by the gov­ern­ment of an amnesty in July and Au­gust. He though was in the mi­nor­ity, as most rebels did ac­cept the amnesty. In any case, ex­treme el­e­ments among the yeo­manry re­mained op­posed to any act of clemency to­wards the United Ir­ish­men, mur­der­ing sev­eral par­doned rebels who re­turned to their homes. Thus, loyalist vengeance obliged Dwyer to re­main a fugi­tive.

With Holt, Dwyer led fierce re­sis­tance in the moun­tains over the next five months un­til Holt sur­ren­dered in Novem­ber, raid­ing the prop­er­ties and farms of the loy­al­ists.

Dwyer also found the time to marry Mary Doyle of Knockan­dar­ragh on 16 Oc­to­ber.

Dwyer's con­tin­ued sur­vival in the moun­tains was en­sured by his re­liance on a large and ex­tended kin net­work that in­cluded the fam­i­lies of Anne Devlin and Hugh Vesty Byrne of Kiri­kee, al­low­ing him to de­velop a se­ries of du­gouts, caves and safe houses.

On the other hand, Dwyer proved him­self ruth­lessly op­pres­sive in his de­mands for main­te­nance and sup­plies. Yet Dwyer only what did was nec­es­sary to main­tain the in­sur­gency against the loy­al­ists, killing five sol­diers on 8 De­cem­ber, 1798, in re­venge for a friend's death, as well as as­sas­si­nat­ing four wit­nesses for the state be­tween 1799 and 1800.

In­deed, an in­sight into Dwyer's dis­ci­plined ap­proach is gleaned from the re­port that Dwyer by his own hand killed three men who at­tempted to desert from his band, deal­ing also ruth­lessly with in­form­ers.

But above all, Dwyer was lucky, as his es­cape on 15 Fe­bru­ary 1799 from the Glen­garry High­landers at Der­ry­na­muck in Imaal at­tests to - cre­at­ing the aura of le­gend about him.

Michael Dwyer (1772-1825).

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