Ignatius per ignotius: the short life and extraordinary times of Frederick Gallaher
2: Fred’s Brilliant Career with Sport and the Invincibles
The Editor of Sport
Fred’s big break came in December 1880, when the Gray family, owners of the Freeman’s Journal, decided to establish a weekly sports newspaper entitled Sport. The Sport offices were on the southern end of the Freeman’s site running between Prince’s Street and Middle Abbey Street in the centre of Dublin. The first issue of Sport was published on Thursday 23 December, at the price of 1d and with a grand illustrated Supplement. As editor of this new venture, and apparently with a considerable financial interest in its success, was the leading sporting correspondent of the Freeman’s Journal (and son of the Chief Sub-Editor John Blake Gallaher), Fred Gallaher. This was a dramatic coup for Fred, and he spent the next ten years building up an influential paper which helped to shape sport both in Dublin and, nationally, within Ireland.
As time went on he was able to draw together some of the Freeman’s best sporting writers under the “Sport” banner, and he ensured that they were involved not only in reporting on sport in and around the capital, but participating in it either on the field of play or as organizers and officials. Other Joyce characters belonged to his stable at “Sport”: “Jakes” McCarthy as a long-term sporting correspondent and Mick Hart as a more occasional writer (Mick’s brother, the athlete and trainer Hugh Hart also wrote for the paper); in addition Fred had on his staff as sub-editor P. B. (“Sonny”) Kirwan and Daniel Kinsella (the tipster “Lux”). At the funeral of their proprietor Edward Dwyer Gray in 1888 almost the whole staff of the Freeman’s Journal attended to pay their last respects, and the “Sport” editorial staff of the day were present too:
The dominant sport covered by the newspaper was horse-racing. In the earlier part of the century “sport” tended to mean horse-racing or hunting (and other country activities such as fishing). But the paper was keen to report on other sports, and its coverage of athletics, cycling, cricket, football, and other games developed as the years went by. At times in its history it also branched out into theatre reviews and other commentary of Dublin entertainments, in which sportsmen were often, as it happened, involved.
Despite being Editor of Sport, Fred continued to be employed to write articles as well for its parent newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal. It is a sad fact that death cut a wide swathe through Dublin journalists at the close of the nineteenth century, taking many of the leading Sport writers such as Daniel Kinsella, Jakes McCarthy, Sonny Kirwan, Mick Hart, as well as Fred Gallaher, and doubtless adding to Joyce’s feeling that in Ulysses he was recording a past and passing Dublin.
Fred Gallaher and the Phoenix Park murders: Skin the Goat Fitzharris
Although Fred was primarily
a sportswriter, he retained a strong interest in Irish national (and especially
Nationalist) affairs. He was drawn into reporting about the Phoenix Park
murders of 6 May 1882 and the long-drawn-out police hunts, arrests, and trials,
and stories of his activities at the time fitted well with the character he had
forged for himself in the Dublin media. It was said of Fred that:
On 6 May 1882 a group of conspirators (“The Irish National Invincibles”) brought about the fatal stabbing in Phoenix Park in Dublin of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and his Permanent Undersecretary, Thomas Henry Burke. Details of the individuals involved (slow to come to public knowledge), the plot itself, the getaway vehicles, and the subsequent arrests and court processes fascinated newspaper audiences across the world, especially in the latter half of 1882 and early 1883.
refers to Fred Gallaher’s involvement in these events in his role as a reporter,
and “Myles Crawford”, Editor of Sport’s
sister paper the Evening Telegraph, tells
how Gallaher sent coded information to the New
York World about details of the murders, including the route taken by one
of the conspirators’ drivers, James “Skin-the-Goat” Fitzharris:
Unfortunately corroborative evidence of Gallaher’s coded message has not been discovered, though the New York World did report on the murders on its front page for several editions. Perhaps the story is true, or perhaps it circulated anyway as an example of the sort of thing Fred Gallaher might have done.
What is certain is that Fred was deeply involved in uncovering information about the murders with a fellow journalist not long after the notorious events took place. According to the account of Leander Richardson, later a celebrated American dramatic critic but then a junior reporter working for the Boston Herald and other American newspapers, Fred assisted him in obtaining an interview with “Skin-the-Goat” Fitzharris in January 1883, while Fitzharris was hiding in Dublin, on the run from the police as the net was closing in on the conspirators.
Fitzharris was identified early on as someone the police wanted to interview, because of his insider knowledge of the cabbies’ world in central Dublin. In fact he was picked up and released several times before his final arrest in February 1883. Leander Richardson explains how he became interested in the story:1
But an American reporter needed someone on the ground who knew the world of the Dublin cabbie:
Richardson was impressed by Gallaher “an active progressive young man, considerably ahead of the prevailing newspaper ideas of that time in Europe”. Fred agreed to accompany Richardson and see if he couldn’t use the fact that he was known and trusted in the backstreets and pubs of Dublin to smooth the American reporter’s way to an interview with “Skin the Goat” Fitzharris.
They went first to the cabman who had taken
over Fitzharris’s white horse and cab, and they were eventually directed to
Fitzharris’s landlord. From there they reached his “cottage”, guarded by his
fearsome wife. After much negotiation they were finally ushered into the
presence of Fitzharris:
At last Fitzharris was prevailed upon to
tell the reporters something, not of the Phoenix Park murders themselves, but
of what had happened to him at the hands of the police since the murders:
The Freeman’s Journal contains “insider” information on Fitzharris, drawn from Gallaher’s interview with the cabman with Leander Richardson:
The article, doubtless by Gallaher, continues with further eye-witness accounts of the conspirators, before leading into the text of Richardson’s article in the Boston Herald.2
So Joyce was certainly correct in associating Fred Gallaher with stories circulating about James “Skin the Goat” Fitzharris. He was also correct in associating Gallaher generally with newspaper reporting about the Invincibles.
The Assassin Kelly and a sporting bet
Several of the Phoenix Park conspirators were interviewed by the Freeman’s Journal, but as the articles are written anonymously, it is not normally possible to know which were written by Gallaher. Fred was clearly on good terms with one of the Invincibles, the assassin Tim Kelly. During Kelly’s trial spectators observed some strange activity in the court room. While the prosecutor “was framing a terrible indictment against him”, Kelly:
A few moments later the prisoner Kelly was
handed a scrap of paper and a pencil and, in full view of the court, he
“scribbled a few words” and in due course handed the paper back to the warder,
who in turn handed it on to Gallaher. At this stage in his career Gallaher “was
very well known and generally popular throughout the length and breadth of
Dublin”. It turned out that Kelly was appealing to Gallaher the sportsman, as
the scrap of paper contained Kelly’s request that Gallaher put a shilling on a
horse for him that day. The horse did not win, and apparently:
Information on an Invincible informer: James Carey
One of the key players in the Phoenix Park murder trials was James Carey. He was one of the main conspirators but, to the surprise of his co-conspirators and the people of Dublin he (along with Joe Hanlon and Michael Kavanagh) turned “approver” or informer on his confederates, several of whom were subsequently hanged. Carey’s involvement in the murders was more surprising as he was at the time a Town Councillor (Trinity ward).
Gallaher devised a cunning plan. He made himself known to Carey’s wife and suggested that by smuggling a journalist incognito into Kilmainham prison with her during her next visit the newspaper would be able to put “James right” with the people of Dublin, by telling his story as it should be told. Mrs Carey agreed to this ruse and one of Fred Gallaher’s young sportswriters on Sport, P. B. (“Sonny”) Kirwan, was then dressed for the part of a “temporary brother-in-law” to Mrs Carey. The disguise was apparently such a “clever one that might have deceived his inamorata even”. The group set off for the prison, with “Sonny” carefully holding the Carey baby, and had reached as far as the waiting room when John Mallon, the detective in charge of the case, popped his head round the door, saw what was about to happen, and escorted “Sonny” Kirwan out of the prison, still holding the baby.
Fred was not downhearted by the failure of his first effort to gain an interview with James Carey. It is said he had two favourite sayings, both of which will have encouraged him in this spot:
Unperturbed, Fred once again sought out Mrs
Carey. This time he had prepared a series of around one hundred and twenty
questions, each of which could be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” if the
respondent had no more to say. In the hands of a clever and experienced
journalist these simple answers would furnish ample copy for a comprehensive
sensationalist first-hand account of Carey’s side of the matter.
This time the plan worked, and Gallaher obtained his copy for the Freeman.3
Back on the newspaper beat after the Phoenix Park affair
Fred Gallaher did his reputation no harm at all by his investigative journalism during the Phoenix Park affair. In Leander Richardson’s words:
But as the sensational political news sank into the background, Fred reverted to his previous occupations. Amongst these he was involved in a piece of nonsense guaranteed to excite his newspaper audience. In October 1883 Washington Irving Bishop, the celebrated American “thought-reader”, came to Dublin to demonstrate his prodigious and much-doubted powers. Joyce refers to Bishop’s “Finding the Pin” trick in Ulysses (though annotaters do not notice Bishop’s appearance in Dublin):
U 15.442-5: Do you remember, harking back in a retrospective arrangement, Old Christmas night, Georgina Simpson’s housewarming while they were playing the Irving Bishop game, finding the pin blindfold and thoughtreading?
From 10-13 October Irving Bishop (“The First and World-famed Thought-Reader and Explainer of Spirit Mysteries”) was booked to appear at the Antient Concert Rooms in Dublin.4 Bishop performed a number of turns which revealed his amazing powers. A committee of august gentlemen was normally set up to ensure fair play on these occasions. At the Antient Concert Rooms the committee included Dublin’s own newspaper showman, Fred Gallaher:
The rigmarole was followed, and the pin hidden in a place of unfathomable obscurity (“almost at the top of the wooden border of one of the entrances”). Irving Bishop re-entered the main room grasping Fred Gallaher, and walked immediately to the person previously touched by Gallaher and, after a series of “spasmodic and convulsive starts” (during which the mind of the third party was presumably “read”), proceeded to discover the pin in short order.
This entertainment was so popular in Dublin that Bishop promised an outdoor demonstration of his pin-finding powers, outside the Shelbourne Hotel in Stephen’s Green on Monday 15 October. But Bishop’s powers did not foresee that he would fall ill and the performance would have to be deferred. When it did take place towards the end of November, Fred Gallaher was again on the committee of the great and the good overseeing the action (and gathering material for the Freeman and for Sport, where Bishop’s method had been “explained”5). It was reported that a chaotic crowd of seven thousand thronged the Green to watch Bishop’s remarkable feat. Again the pin was hidden (in a shop) and again Bishop led his assistant (not Fred Gallaher on this occasion) straight to it. Honour was satisfied, the pin was found, and Fred had more sensational column inches for his papers.
The full report was published in the New
York Morning Telegraph of 30 May 1900. See here for the text of the article.