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Michael Dwyer

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Michael Dwyer
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1772
Occupation: Constable
Date of Death: 1st August, 1825
Age: 53 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 60 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Irish rebel
Convicted at: Ireland, Wicklow
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Tellicherry
Departure date: 31st August, 1805
Arrival date: 15th February, 1806
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 100 other convicts


Primary source: NSW Gov Records. Irish Convicts. The Descendants of Michael Dwyer – John Donoghoe – Freemans Journal 23 April 1898 Chris Lawlor, 'Michael Dwyer, the Wicklow Chief', paper delivered at the University of Melbourne, 1 August 2006. SMH 23 May 1898 page 3, The Dictionary of Sydney: '1798 Memorial'
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Dennis Nightingale on 8th May, 2015 wrote:

Born - Camara Glen Imaal Wicklow County Ireland. Wife Mary Doyle & some children arrived per the same ship. Prisoner from Ireland never tried in Ireland - United Irishman Wicklow Chieftain.  Died - 1825 Liverpool.

Dennis Nightingale on 9th May, 2015 wrote:

Michael was the eldest of seven children of farmer John Dwyer and his wife Mary (née Byrne), who had a farm in the widespread fields of Wicklow and supplied the men of the rebellion with food. In 1784 the family moved to a farm in Eadestown.

1798 rebellion -
Dwyer joined the Society of United Irishmen and, in the summer of 1798, he fought with the rebels as captain under General Joseph Holt in battles at Arklow, Vinegar Hill, Ballyellis and Hacketstown. Under Holt’s leadership, he withdrew to the safety of the Wicklow Mountains in mid-July.[1] when rebels could no longer operate openly following their defeat in the disastrous midlands campaign. On 15 February 1799 at Dernamuck, he and about a dozen comrades were sheltering in three cottages when an informer led a large force of the British soldiers to the area. The cottages were quickly surrounded, the first two surrendering, but, following consultation, Dwyer and his men decided to fight on in the third one, Miley Connell’s cottage, after negotiating the safe passage of women and children. In the hopeless gunfight which followed, the cottage caught fire and only Dwyer remained unwounded. At this stage, Dwyer’s comrade, Antrim man Sam McAllister, stood in the doorway to draw the soldiers’ fire on him, which allowed Dwyer to slip out and make an incredible escape.

Australia - In December 1803, Dwyer finally capitulated on terms that would allow him safe passage to America but the government reneged on the agreement, holding him in Kilmainham Jail until August 1805, when they transported him to New South Wales (Australia) as an unsentenced exile. Dwyer arrived in Sydney on 14 February 1806 on the Tellicherry and was given free settler status. He was accompanied by his wife Mary and their eldest children and also by his companions, Hugh ‘Vesty’ Byrne and Martin Burke, along with Arthur Devlin and John Mernagh. He was given a grant of 40.5 ha (100 acres) of land on Cabramatta Creek in Sydney.
Michael Dwyer was later to become Chief of Police (1813–1820) at Liverpool, New South Wales but was dismissed in October for drunken conduct and mislaying important documents. In December 1822 he was sued for aggrandising his by now 620 acre farm. Bankrupted, he was forced to sell off most of his assets, which included a tavern called “The Harrow Inn”, although this did not save him from several weeks incarceration in the Sydney debtors’ prison in May 1825. Here he evidently contracted dysentery, to which he succumbed in August 1825.
Burial- Originally interred at Liverpool, his remains were reburied in the Devonshire Street cemetery, Sydney, in 1878, by his grandson John Dwyer, dean of St Mary’s Cathedral.

Denis Pember on 9th February, 2016 wrote:

## Of Interest to the Researcher: Michael’s sister Sarah, was the wife of his lieutenant Hugh ‘Vesty Byrne’.  She was also exiled as was his wife Mary.
They were not in truth convicts, but they were exiled from ever returning to Ireland. They received conditional pardons on arrival in the colony.

Denis Pember on 9th February, 2016 wrote:

The 1814 Muster records Michael and Mary:
Baxter, Carol; General Muster of New South Wales:
[Ref 3654] Michael Dwyer, Tellicherry, Constable.
[Ref 3784] Mary Dwyer, Tellicherry, wife to a constable.

Denis Pember on 9th February, 2016 wrote:

Sainty & Johnson; 1828 Census of New South Wales:
Page 134….
[Ref D1981] Dwyer, Mary, 50 Tellicherry, 1805, Housekeeper to Rev T Therry.
[Ref D1982] Dwyer, Esther, 24, CF, Sir Joseph Banks, 1828, Governess, Catholic School, Hyde Park, Sydney.
[Ref D1983] Dwyer, Bridget, 20, BC, Governess, Catholic School, Hyde Park, Sydney.

Michael was of course deceased, he died in 1825. However, Hugh Byrne and others of the Wicklow outlaws are recorded.

Robin Sharkey on 25th February, 2016 wrote:

Michael Dwyer and his wife Mary have been immortalised in a magnificent memorial in Waverley Cemetery, built by the Catholic and Irish communities of NSW, commemorating the 1798 Irish Uprising, where their remains have also been buried for well over a hundred years.

Their remains were removed to this third and final resting place in May 1898, marking the Centenary of the uprising. Tow years later, the beautiful monument was officially unveiled.  Plans had been well underway by a ‘98 Committee in Sydney which raised the funds from the Irish community for the re-interment and planned the monument, which was to have a huge Celtic Cross. 

The monument memorialises the men who fought in the 1798 uprising, and particularly those, who like Michael Dwyer had suffered for it by banishment or transportation to NSW.

The Dwyers’ remains were reinterred on Easter Sunday 1898, having first been moved to St Mary’s Cathedral from the Devonshire Cemetery on Holy Thursday. The SMH reported that 4000 member of the public joined the procession from St Mary’s out to Waverley Cemetery, additional to the ‘98 Committee, and all the Irish societies and Guilds,
SMH 23 May 1898 page 3:
” The first celebration in honour of the Irish patriots of 1798 took place yesterday, and was made the occasion of a great public demonstration The remains of Michael Dwyer and Mrs. Dwyer, which were during the week exhumed from the Devonshire-street cemetery, were placed in a coffin and mounted upon a catafalque in St. Mary’s Cathedral during yesterday’s services. At 1 o’clock Cardinal Moran, who was assisted by Monsignor O’Brien and the Cathedral clergv, pronounced the final absolutions and delivered a brief address, eulogising the patriotism of the Irish chieftain and exhorting his hearers to cultivate a similar love of country. At a quarter to 2 o’clock, when the coffin was placed in the hearse, an immense concourse had gathered without St. Mary’s Cathedral. Shortly afterwards the procession started for Waverley Cemetery.  ...”

See also The Dictionary of Sydney: http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/1798_memorial_waverley_cemetery

Robin Sharkey on 1st March, 2016 wrote:


An important part of Dwyer’s life in Australia were the years from his own arrival in early 1806 until Governor Macquarie’s arrival in January 1810, when he was transported to Norfolk Island by Bligh, transferred to Tasmania, and eventually returned to NSW.

Despite arriving in NSW as a free man, and during his first year in NSW in 1806 concentrating on his farming at Cabramatta, he and the other Irish state prisoners came under suspicion by Governor Bligh, who replaced Governor King in August 1806 six months after Dwyer arrived.  Bligh regarded Irish Catholics in NSW with contempt, and deep suspicion.

By January - February 1807, Governor Bligh was perturbed by rumours, fuelled on many small fronts, of a suspected Irish uprising (see “Unfinished Revolution: United Irishmen in New South Wales, 1800-1810” by Anne Marie Whitaker, pages 145 -151).  In February 1807 he had Dwyer and the four other Irish State prisoners arrested - Hugh Byrne, Martin Burke, John “Morner”, Arhur Devlin - as well as Dwyer’s servant Walter Clare, - and a little later, two Irish convicts Thomas McCann and William Morris.

The Sydney Gazette of 22 February 1807 reported the imagined uprising plans of “some designing Irish Prisoners who had artfully instilled into the minds of their countrymen a certainty of taking the Country and gaining their liberty” and commented about them that: “… at the present moment they are, particularly, living under greater comforts than ever fall to the lot of the labouring poor of any part of the World …”

At their trial on 11th May 1807, two convicts gave evidence against Dwyer and his “Tellicherry” cohort claiming a conspiracy to raise an Irish insurrection with plans to march on Parramatta. Dwyer had been heard to say that all Irish will be free and while he didn’t deny these words, he denied the insurrection charges.

The Court - comprised of the Judge Advocate and officers of the NSW Corps including Major George Johnston - declared the charges against the Irish state prisoners “perfectly false” and they were all acquitted, as was Dwyer’s servant Clare; however McCann and Morris were found guilty. 

But Bligh, completely ignoring this finding and intent in his belief that the evidence proved them guilty, the very next day called together a bench of magistrates to review the evidence, which found instead all the acquitted men guilty. Bligh simply wanted the Irishmen out of the way. He reported to London that he sent two each to Norfolk Island, Port Dalrymple, the Derwent and “kept two here” which possibly meant sent to Newcastle. (HRA I, vi, page 159)

He had them re-arrested and sent Michael Dwyer, with Morris, to Norfolk Island departing 28 May 1807, instructing Capt Piper in charge of Norfolk that “O’Dwyer” was a convict for life, and was found a person “Necessary to be removed from this settlement”.  They were also not allowed to leave Norfolk Island “unless by authority under my hand” ( see Bligh letter October 1807 to Piper recorded in K Sheedy page 191). Burke and the convict McCann were sent to Port Dalrymple, and of the others it was unclear who went to Hobart and who was “kept here”.

Officers of the NSW Corps were appalled by Bligh’s actions against the Irish state prisoners, especially Col Johnston, (see Kieran Sheedy, “Upon the mercy of Government”). Six months later Col Johnson led the Rum Corps mutiny against him, Bligh’s action in this trial being one of the many justifications to oust him.

Mary was left alone on the farm, with a new son, James, as were her four farming neighbours - the wives and de factos of the Irish state prisoners all on neighbouring land grants. But during 1808 hundreds of Norfolk Island prisoners were re-located to Van Diemens’ Land (their transfer being part of a plan originally proposed well before Dwyer’s NSW trial)  because Norfolk Island was too expensive to run, and Dwyer was included in this general evacuation and re-settlement.

When Dwyer was relocated to Van Diemen’s Land, Mary was permitted to move to Tasmania to settle with him.  The Norfolk Islanders arrived in four tranches in 1808 (17th January, 2nd March, 5th June and 1st October) and Dwyer was probably in one of the earlier groups because a daughter, Bridget was born in Tasmania in 1808.

In 1809, Dwyer was allowed back to NSW - Col Paterson of the Rum Corps being in charge from January 1809 until Macquarie arrived.  Dwyer’s was one of 35 pardons given out; all the five Irish state prisoners were pardoned because the Court of criminal jurisdiction had acquitted them in May 1807. When Macquarie arrived in 1810 he confirmed these pardons.

Finally, Michael Dwyer could get on with a peaceable life back on his NSW farm.

Maureen Withey on 18th July, 2020 wrote:

Surname: DWYER; First name: MICHAEL; Sex: M; Place of trial: Dublin; Name of ship: TELLICHERRY 1806; Record reference code: FS 1828 2; Ireland-Australia Transportation Records© National Archives, Ireland
Comments: List of prisoners of the Crown in the colony of New South Wales who solicit the favour of having their wives and families sent out to them. Children residing at 3, Brown St, Earl of Meath’s Liberty, Dublin.

Convict Changes History

Dennis Nightingale on 8th May, 2015 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: years, voyage, source: NSW Gov Records. Irish Convicts. (prev. ), firstname: Michael, surname: Dwyer, alias1: , alias2: , alias3: , alias4: , date of birth: 1772, date of death: 0000, gender: m, occupation, crime

Dennis Nightingale on 8th May, 2015 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: 99 years, voyage, date of death: 1825 (prev. 0000), occupation, crime

Dennis Nightingale on 9th May, 2015 made the following changes:

source: NSW Gov Records. Irish Convicts. The Descendants of Michael Dwyer – John Donoghoe – Freemans Journal 23 April 1898 Chris Lawlor, 'Michael Dwyer, the Wicklow Chief', paper delivered at the University of Melbourne, 1 August 2006. (prev. NSW Gov

Denis Pember on 9th February, 2016 made the following changes:

date of death: 1st August, 1825 (prev. August, 1825)

Robin Sharkey on 25th February, 2016 made the following changes:

source: NSW Gov Records. Irish Convicts. The Descendants of Michael Dwyer – John Donoghoe – Freemans Journal 23 April 1898 Chris Lawlor, 'Michael Dwyer, the Wicklow Chief', paper delivered at the University of Melbourne, 1 August 2006. SMH 23 May 189

This record was discovered and printed on ConvictRecords.com.au