per ignotius: the short life and extraordinary times of
5a Addendum: The
eccentricities of a grandfather:
Patrick Frederick Gallaher
Fred Gallaher, editor of the Dublin Sport, was known for his ready wit and
practical jokes. Nineteenth–century Dubliners were familiar with the ready wit
and practical jokes of his grandfather, and so it may not be inappropriate to
investigate the details of the life of Fred’s grandfather, the nationally
Patrick Frederick Gallaher.
who delighted audiences throughout Ireland for many years (1800-1863). He was
the father of the well-known editor of the
under Dwyer-Gray’s proprietorship, and whose sons inherited in turn
many of the qualities that make journalism "racy of the soil".
is sometimes difficult to establish genealogical details. John Wyse Jackson and
Peter Costello, normally exemplary in their research, incorrectly refer to the
ventriloquist Patrick Gallaher as the father, rather than the grandfather, of
Fred and his brother Joe.2
Gallaher was born just outside Dublin in 1800, but was living in Cork when his son John Blake Gallaher (the father of Fred and Joe Gallaher) was born in the mid 1820s. Patrick performed throughout Ireland
and also in England:
Mr. Gallaher was born
of highly respectable parents residing in Chapelizod, and was educated for the
church, but having a strong passion for the stage, he followed his inclination,
and commenced as a monologue performer.
early as 1825, at the age of twenty five, he was performing his ventriloquist
act on the Dublin stage, in the theatre in Grafton Street:
On this Evening,
Wednesday 24th instant, and following days, Mr. G. will repeat his new Piece,
Or, The Randoms of a
Fourteen Characters, all acted and transformed by Mr. Gallaher alone.
the following January he was back in Dublin performing The Eccentricities of Dominick, or the Randoms of a Ventriloquist – in
3 Acts. This new “comic entertainment” showcased:
Mons. Delero, (An old Quack Doctor, suffering under a complication of
his own Medicine, Poisons more than he cures,) Mr. Gallaher
Ald[erman] Orlington, (From Indisposition occasioned by bad Cookery, is
obliged to confine himself to Fish and Beer,) Mr. Gallaher
Gallaher developed many new acts over the years, but he also achieved notoriety
for his off-stage wit. On one occasion he was travelling in County Wexford when
“a poor man, of the name of Finn, who was labouring dreadfully under
hypochondriacism”, heard that the great ventriloquist was nearby. He asked his
parish priest if he could seek a cure from Gallaher, to which the priest
(knowing Finn was not really ill) consented:
Upon calling on Mr.
Gallaher, Finn said that he used to be afflicted by fairies, who were
constantly going into his mouth, and after capering through his stomach, would
then make their exit through his ears.
rapidly got the measure of the situation and played along:
Gallaher then threw
his voice successively into the man’s mouth and ears, and at length brought it
down to his stomach, and made it appear as if several people were making their
escape out of the knees of Finn’s breeches.
no time Finn was on his knees blessing the ventriloquist and ever afterwards
could “read his prayer-book in peace and quietness – a thing the fairies never
before permitted him to do.”4
Gallaher was an inveterate performer. His ventriloquist act graced Irish stages
regularly throughout his career, which lasted until months before his death in
A favourite show in the 1830s was The Adventures of Richard the Ventriloquist,
or The Biter Bit, in which he again played a host of male and female
characters. This spectacle made a big impression on the Cork poet Daniel Casey, who immediately put his thoughts to paper:
MR. GALLAHER THE VENTRILOQUIST,
MONDAY, SEP. 5TH, 1836.
Written immediately after his performance.
spirit of Momus and Proteus yet
In the frame
of one mortal were happily met,
mirth-loving souls, by dame nature designed,
thee, wondrous Gallaher, all are combined.
O! who that
could see thee, as I have, to-night,
think on thee long with enraptured delight,
half-starved Richard lamenting his wrongs,
the toothache, by virtue of tongs.
plethoric Alderman-gouty and gruff-
bottles, his pills, and such stuff.
sweet "cara sposa” behind and before,
with the gossamer step of four score.
bold dashing Captain - so fond of the fair,
and booted, "la militaire”;
skirmish of gallantry, who so sublime,
love-speech to lisp, or, a chimney to climb;
Deborah, Venus-like, spring from the wave,
Thinks the fair
should be ever the prize of the brave:
To be sure
these were fine folks, - but Paul, oh! 'twas Paul,
Paul Doherty you surpassed all.
talk of Jack Johnson, and some now in vogue,
musical richness - for beautiful brogue -
smack of the buttermilk, who'd not have hung
for years, on each note from his tongue.
harmony's magic your souls would enthrall,
even Leonard, is rivall'd by Paul;
delicious the tone of sweet melody drawn
touching the fiddle with drone like strouncane;
And then -
Oh! his lectures on music so fine, -
folly to think a description like mine
half his humours. If any there be
with tic-doloreux – gout - ennui,
sweet companions, I'll give them a cure
quick convalescence will promptly ensure,
o'er their spirits a flood of delight,
Let them go
and see Gallaher every night.
Gems of the Cork Poets, comprising the Complete
of Callanan, Condon, Casey, Fitzgerald, and Cody
(Cork: 1883) p. 306
He took this act to Liverpool, and the local paper provides a
sketch of Gallaher performing amongst his characters:
Liverpool Mercury (1833) 8 March
The newspaper published a letter the
following month reminding readers of Gallaher’s experience with Finn and the
But this was not the only tale to follow
Gallaher around. Another practical joke reported in 1847 shows his mischievous
nature operating in the sphere of black comedy. The London Pioneer of 11 November reported an incident on the outskirts
The Dead Alive! – One Sunday night Mr. Gallaher the celebrated
ventriloquist, observed two simple country-looking fellows carrying a coffin
out to Roundtown. When they got near to the bridge at Harold’s-cross, they
stopped to rest themselves.
The scene was set for the chance
appearance of Patrick Gallaher and his many voices:
Mr. Gallaher pretended to be walking quietly by them, when he threw his
voice into the coffin, and immediately a loud shriek of agony was heard to
issue, followed by cries of “Oh! Murther! Murther! Is it the canal you’re going
to throw me in?
anecdote progressed in the expected way:
Christians," cried a poor woman who was attracted by the noise, "here’s a dead
man in the coffin that wants to fight his two murderers". A crowd was
immediately collected, the two poor countrymen were arrested as
resurrectionists, and it was not until the coffin was opened and examined that
they were permitted to proceed with their burden.
Gallaher had the last laugh, though:
Just as the crowd was
dispersing, a voice from the coffin was heard to exclaim, "Now boys, after all
the trouble I gave you, I hope you won’t forget to bury me dacently".
performances, including Paddy’s Knapsack
or The Kit Laid Open and his Table-talk
Chatology, continued regularly until Patrick was taken ill in March 1863.
His death was announced in the Freeman’s
Journal on 9 April that year:
Gallaher – April 7,
in Amiens-street, Dublin, aged 63, Mr. P. F. Gallaher, the celebrated
In the same issue the newspaper gave him a
handsome obituary notice, closing with these lines:
He passed out of the world in peace with God and with all mankind, on
Monday night, in the sixty-third year of his age. He acted his part well "off"
as well as on the stage, and for many a long year he shall be spoken of with
kind regret and affectionate remembrance, by the many whom he relieved in their
want and suffering and by a circle of friends, to whom his genuine good
qualities had endeared him.
Frederick Gallaher died when his grandson Frederick Gallaher (the sporting
editor behind Joyce’s character Ignatius Gallaher) was almost ten. The young
boy will have remembered the friendly, joking nature of his grandfather, and
that nature doubtless contributed to the friendly, joking personality drawn many
years later by Joyce.
1 R. J. O’Duffy Historic Graves in Glasnevin Cemetery (1915),
2 John Wyse Jackson and
Peter Costello John Stanislaus Joyce
(1998 ), ch. 12 p. 126.
3 Freeman’s Journal (1825), 24 August p. 1.
4 Bell’s Life in London (1827), 21 October, citing the Tipperary Free Press.
5 Liverpool Mercury (1833) 5 April.