Constable Michael Dwyer’s grave, 1877.

Shooting accident

Dwyer’s is the oldest marked grave in the Cairns area and it marks the resting place of 26 year old, Irish born ‘Constable of Escort’ Michael Dwyer who accidentally shot himself on 19 July 1877. Dwyer was employed in the Special Division which guarded the transportation of gold from the Hodgkinson fields to Trinity Bay.

Witnesses at the inquest into Dwyer’s death said they were target shooting at the nearby Halfway Hotel when Dwyer told William Guilfoyle, a packer, that he was going into the scrub to shoot turkeys. At about 4.00 pm Dwyer tripped and accidentally shot himself in the side. Badly wounded he was taken to the Hotel and Guilfoyle rode off to Smithfield town to get help. He returned with George Rutherford, the local chemist, and shortly afterwards Dr Myers arrived. Despite their best efforts, Dwyer died at about 10.40pm.

Typical gold escort in the late 1800s.
Image: Cairns Historical Society


An inquest was held the next day by Police Magistrate Morley and Dwyer was buried at the back of the horse paddock, a sandstone headstone being erected to mark the grave.

Grave of Michael Dwyer showing headstone and memorial plaque.
Image: Cairns Historical Society (B4164).

In March 1986 as a result of increasing illegibility of the headstone, Mulgrave Shire Council’s’ Parks and Recreation Department erected the smaller concrete plaque. Continued erosion of the river bank threatened Dwyer’s remains and they were exhumed. Dwyer’s exhumation began on 20 July 2003, exactly 126 years after his burial, and his remains were re-buried near the Stratford Bowls Club.

Image: Dave Phoenix.

The Stratford Heritage Trail is an initiative of the
Stratford & Freshwater Community Association