Dave Gallaher

Dave Gallaher with a Rugby Ball

Dave Gallaher was born on October 30th, 1873 in Ramelton, Co. Donegal to shopkeeper James and his wife Maria, a teacher in Ramelton, on October 30th,1873. The 7th of 14 children (3 of whom died in infancy), his birth is recorded in the parish of Tullaughnish and he was baptised in the First Ramelton Meeting House on 8th January 1874. Dave Gallaher's remarkable life is one of the great Irish emigrant stories. Leaving Donegal behind as a young boy, Gallaher would become known in New Zealand as the ‘Founding Father of All Blacks Rugby’, achieving legendary status in his lifetime.

In May 1878, the family joined hundreds of other Donegal emigrant families and left Irish soil for a new life on the other side of the world under a special scheme organised by George Vesey Stewart. The decision of the Gallaher family to leave Ramelton for a new life in New Zealand was one which would ultimately change the face of world rugby forever and young Dave would go on to become a legend in his adopted country.

On arriving in their new home, the family altered the spelling of their name from Gallagher to Gallaher and settled at Katikati in the Bay of Plenty with many other Ulster families. It had initially been hoped that the family would set up a woollen business in New Zealand but their patron, Lord George Hill, died unexpectedly and his successor did not support the initiative. Dave’s mother Maria had to become the chief breadwinner teaching at the local school. Maria herself was a remarkable woman who bore four further children to her husband James (now in his seventies) whilst running the school. Secretly she also fought a battle against cancer and died aged just 42 leaving behind the young family.

The highlight of Gallaher's All Blacks career was his iconic captaincy of the 1905 "Originals" tour in which the New Zealanders won all but one of their games. Gallaher proved to be an outstanding leader and one of the deepest thinkers of the game. His leadership, tactics and training regime set the high standard by which all subsequent All Blacks teams are judged, and for this reason he is still regarded as one of the world’s all-time influential sports people. 

Gallaher died during WW1 in 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium leaving behind a grateful nation and a sporting legacy that resonates to this day. Follow the links below for more detail, pictures and video.