The O’Dwyer Family

O’Dwyer family crest

(Crest No. 285. Plate 25.)

THIS family, whose name is variously spelled O’Dwyer, Dwyer, Dwyre, Duyar, Dwier, and Dwire, is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Conchorb, of the line of Ugane More, nineteenth in descent from Heremon. The ancient name was Duibhidir, meaning “Dark and Clear.” The title of the chiefs was Lord of Kilmenagh, and their possessions were located in the present County of Tipperary. In ancient times the O’Dwyers were noted chiefs. Their estates in the present barony of Kilnamanagh, in the County of Tipperary, embraced an extensive territory.

In latter days the O’Dwyers were prominent in their hostility to the English, and the name was honorably represented in the Irish Brigade in the service of France. One of the family, Michael Dwyer, the Wicklow Chieftain, was celebrated in the Rebellion of 1798 and for many years afterward. Gathering around him a number of brave and faithful followers, he baffled for months the power of the British Government in the mountain fastnesses of Wicklow. His adventures with and narrow escapes from the British soldiery read like romance. He and his followers dwelt by day in a subterranean cave in a deep glen called Emall and sallied out at night. Dwyer surrendered in 1803 on a promise of pardon, but the government transported him to Botany Bay. He eventually became chief of police in Sydney, New South Wales, where he died in 1826.

Many of the O’Dwyer family served with distinction under the French flag. One of them, Philip O’Dwyer, was aid-major in Berwick’s Regiment, Irish Brigade, and fell at the victory of Almanza, in Spain, fighting his hereditary foe, the English. Many others of the name were among the officers of the brigade, and were honored with the Order of Chevaliers of St. Louis. They also contributed many brave officers to the army of James the Second in Ireland during the Revolution. Major-General O’Dwyer, Count and Governor of Belgrade, is mentioned in the service of Austria, while another O’Dwyer was an admiral in the service of Russia, under Empress Catherine the Great.