Royal Irish Academy Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Sir Michael O'Dwyer1864

Michael O'Dwyer 1864

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Michael O'Dwyer was born in Barronstown, Co. Tipperary on the 28th of April 1864 to John O'Dwyer and Margaret Quirke. His early life was spent in education in Co. Offaly. From there he went to Oxford where he spent 3 years training in jurisprudence for the civil service in India. In 1885 he travelled to Shahpur, India, where he was appointed to the role of Assistant Commissioner. A diligent worker, O'Dwyer soon rose through the ranks gaining a number of accolades along the way. By 1913 he had become the Lieutenant-General of the Punjab, and in 1917, he was made a Knight Grand Commander of the Indian Empire, the most prestigious award granted by Queen Victoria for service in India. 

This was a time of intense civil unrest in India, as the people were campaigning for an end to British rule. O'Dwyer was instrumental in the creation of legislation which sought to put an end to any uprisings, in particular the Ghadr movement. A number of protests and riots throughout the Punjab had been descending into violence. It seemed as though the situation was undoubtedly coming to a head. In April 1918, a military commander, Reginald Dyer, declared martial war in Amritsar, outlawing all protests and political gatherings. Upon learning of a gathering at the Jallianwala Bagh, Dyer went immediately to the walled garden. He arrived in an armoured car and had his men open fire on the men, women, and children gathered there, not distinguishing between political activists and civilians who were visiting the shrine. When he told O'Dwyer what he had done, O'Dwyer sent the following response by telegraph, "Your action correct and the lieutenant-governor approves". The official British report stated that 379 people died and 1,200 were wounded, though it is possible that the true numbers were much higher than this. 

O'Dwyer continued to support Dyer's actions, even when the British Labour Party condemned him and called for a trial. Dyer was forced to resign in disgrace, yet even then O'Dwyer remained steadfast in his support of the Amritsar Massacre. O'Dwyer remained in India until 1925, though his position was largely taken from him. He returned to England where he would spend the rest of his days. 

On the 13th of March 1940, O'Dwyer made a rare public appearance at Caxton Hall in London where a meeting was taking place between the East India Association and the Royal Central Asia Society. At this event, an Indian man named Udham Singh, who had witnessed the Amritsar Massacre as a child, shot and killed O'Dwyer. Singh was captured and hanged for the assassination, but he went to his death proud of his actions stating at his trial, "I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country". 

O'Dwyer is remembered in infamy for his condoning of the Amritsar Massacre and his refusal to acknowledge the barbarity of the event, even when faced with the disapproval of his peers. Though he was not the one who gave the order to fire, his validation of the decision sealed his fate and tarnished his reputation and career in India with the blood of Dyer's victims. 

Additional Information
Date of Birth 28th Apr 1864 VIEW SOURCE
Date of Death 13th Mar 1940 VIEW SOURCE
Father (First Name/s and Surname) John Dwyer VIEW SOURCE
Mother (First Name/s and Maiden) Margaret Quirke VIEW SOURCE
Townland born Barronstown, Co. Tipperary VIEW SOURCE

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