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Wicklow - Event Notice
Sunday December 14 2003
The Michael Dwyer Bicentennial
Wednesday October 29, 2003 11:26 by Pat C
The Michael Dwyer Bicentennial
A new statue of the famous 1798 –1803 United Irishman and rebel leader Michael Dwyer will be unveiled in the Glen of Imaal on Sunday 14th December. The day will begin at 11 a.m. with a pike march from the landmark Dwyer-McAllister cottage in Derrynamuck to the site of the new statue, adjacent to the Glen of Imaal bar in Seskin.
A large array of pike men and women is expected on the day, with the Wicklow contingent being joined by groups from other counties, notably Wexford. A large crowd is expected to attend the ceremony and members of both the Irish and Australian governments will be present on the day at the historic event in the Glen of Imaal, so people are advised to arrive early.
This year, 2003, marks the bi-centenary of the end of the famous guerrilla campaign waged by Michael Dwyer and his followers in the Wicklow Mountains in the aftermath of the rebellions of 1798 and 1803. Chris Lawlor’s bicentennial biography of Dwyer has recently been published and is on sale in bookshops nationwide.
Michael Dwyer was a significant United Irish leader and had a prominent role in the 1798 rising in Wexford (he fought at Vinegar Hill and Ballyellis), Carlow (he commanded a rebel party at the battle of Hacketstown), Wicklow (he fought at the Battle of Arklow and waged a five and a half year guerrilla campaign in the Wicklow Mountains until December 1803). Sunday 14th December 2003 will mark the 200th anniversary of the cessation of Dwyer's military campaign of 'fugitive warfare' as it was called at the time.
This remarkable leader was born in the Glen of Imaal in 1772. He joined the Society of United Irishmen and took part in the rebellion in Wexford in 1798. Following the defeat of the United armies in Wexford, Dwyer retreated into the vast wilderness area of the Wicklow Mountains. From here he carried out a spirited resistance to the Crown authorities for over five years.
Dwyer was also in contact with Robert Emmet and he promised Emmet that he would bring five thousand men to support the Dublin revolt – but only if the city was taken and held for two days. Following the failure of Emmet’s rising and with no hope of foreign aid from Napoleonic France, Michael Dwyer finished his military campaign in December 1803.
Dwyer had arranged terms with the authorities and when he gave himself up he expected that he and his entourage would be granted safe passage to America. He was held in Kilmainham Jail until August 1805, when he was transported to Australia. Moreover, he was once again imprisoned, this time by Governor William Bligh, when he was starting his new life in the penal colony. Following his release, further adventures awaited Dwyer before his death in Australia in August 1825.
Dwyer is interred in Waverley cemetery in Sydney, and his monument there has become a symbol of the struggle for Irish freedom. It is one of the largest monuments to an Irish rebel leader anywhere in the world. However, it is fitting that Michael Dwyer should also have a suitable monument to honour his memory in his native place.
The life and achievements of the “Wicklow Chief” will be commemorated in the Glen of Imaal when the new statue is unveiled. The statue itself is of Portuguese limestone, but the plinth is of Wicklow granite. Sculpted by local man Paddy Roe, this new monument will stand proudly overlooking a scenic area of which Michael Dwyer knew every inch.
The unveiling will be one of the final events of this Emmet-Dwyer bicentenary year and it will ensure that the remarkable and enigmatic Dwyer is finally commemorated in stone in his native Wicklow, a county with which his name has become synonymous.