Ignatius per ignotius: the short life and extraordinary times of Frederick Gallaher
U 7.626-30: The Great Gallaher […] that was a pressman for you. That was a pen.
1: Making his way in the world
Fred Gallaher joined the editorial staff of the Freeman’s Journal at the age of fifteen, around the year 1868, and died of heart failure on the streets of London thirty years later, at the age of just 45. Between those years he became one of the most prominent, energetic, daring, and popular of Dublin sporting journalists, always with an imaginative eye for the sensational. In addition, the burly Gallaher was a genial companion, a sound Nationalist, and an inveterate hoaxer.
Much of the information above has been extracted from the text of Ulysses. Some of the additional detail, such as the fact that Fred Gallaher died in Paris, was presumably supplied by Ellmann’s informants, and is incorrect. When the Joyce family moved to No 23 Castleward Avenue, Rathmines, in 1884 they were neighbours of Fred Gallaher and his family at No 13; later on in the 1880s Fred’s brother Joseph also moved into the avenue before the Joyces moved to Bray in 1887. But as Fred left Ireland in 1890 (when Joyce
From Cork to Dublin
Frederick John [sometimes Jonathan] Gallaher was born in Cork on Tuesday 19 April 1853, the eldest son of John Blake Gallaher and his wife Sarah (Russell). He was baptized over four years later on 11 August 1859, in a joint ceremony with his younger sister Francisca (“Fannie”) and his younger brother Joseph.1 Joseph also appears in Ulysses. By the time of the baptism the family had moved from Cork to Dublin, and was living at No 7 Upper Oriel Street, a few streets north of the North Wall Quay in the centre of the city.
Fred’s father, John Blake Gallaher, was from this time and for many years Chief Sub-Editor of the Freeman’s Journal. He was widely known as the Editor of the Journal, but this title was reserved to the proprietors of the paper, the Grays. Fred’s grandfather and John Blake’s father, Patrick Frederick Gallaher (1800-63), was well-known in his day as a ventriloquist who performed a wide variety of characters on stage throughout Ireland and north-eastern England. It is likely that some of his talent for comedic soliloquy rubbed off on his journalist grandsons.
In the mid or late 1860s the Gallaher boys were coming to the end of their formal education. The midsummer examination prizing-giving at the College of the Immaculate Conception, Upper Mount Street, in Dublin in 1867 and 1868, shows us that both were good (if not stunningly excellent) at school.
In 1867 Fred gained a Certificate of Merit for Geography and Honourable Mentions in Orthography and Dictation, Irish History, Latin Classics, French, and Arithmetic.
By 1868 his journalistic streak was beginning to shine through: he took a Prize in Latin (Caesar), English Composition, and in Orthography and Dictation, with Certificates of Merit in Irish History and Writing Classes, and Honourable Mentions in Astronomy and the Use of the Globe, Arithmetic, Grammatical Analysis, and Reading and Elocution.2
By the close of the 1860s Fred’s academic skills and (doubtless) his engaging character led to his employment at the age of fifteen as an office junior on his father’s paper, the Freeman’s Journal.3 He would have to work his way up from the bottom before he could claim to be one of Dublin’s most popular and productive journalists.
A plucky rescue
Life as a racing journalist
As time went by the Gallahers moved to No 16 Nelson Street, off Eccles Street and just near the Mater hospital. Fred’s father’s position in Dublin, as acting editor of the leading newspaper, gave him access to regular society events and John Blake Gallaher often attended balls with his wife and family at the Mansion House. At the Lady Mayoress’s Fancy Ball in May 1873 Fred went dressed as a jockey, signalling both his sense of fun and his position as sporting correspondent of the Freeman.5 Unfortunately we can identify little of what Fred (or his brother Joe, also a Freeman staff writer) actually wrote, as most articles were published anonymously, or with “By our sporting (or special, or military, etc.) correspondent” to indicate any one of a number of writers by whom an article may have been written.
Two major events occurred in 1874: Fred’s marriage to Sarah (also Sara) Martin, and the publication of his first racing booklet. The seeds of his future life were starting to be sown.
By now Fred and Sarah were living at No 37 Upper Blessington Street, a short distance from Nelson Street. On 19 April 1875 their first child, Florence Mary, was born.6 Florence was followed two years later by a son, Frederick Joseph Valentine, born at the same address.7
D 8.2-6: Gallaher had got on. You could tell that at once by his travelled air, his well-cut tweed suit and fearless accent. Few fellows had talents like his and fewer still could remain unspoiled by such success. Gallaher’s heart was in the right place and he had deserved to win.
In those days travel to America was quite a commitment. He left in late August and did not return (on the SS City of Chester from New York) to Queenstown until early October. The Centennial Rifle Match took place in New York in mid September, with teams from Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Canada, and the United States. The Irish team was strongly supported by their fellow Irish Americans, but lost all the same. Fred, however, ensured that the event was thoroughly covered by the Freeman’s Journal both during the build-up and over the days of the rifle match itself. He had acquired a taste for international travel and for international sport which he never lost.
A quiet day at work
Life as a racing journalist was not all fun. As one of the Freeman correspondents Fred would have spent long hours in the office writing up stories and discussing life with his fellow journalists. His father was effectively editor of the paper, and his colleagues were often his friends, with whom he would go drinking, attend funerals, or generally spend time.
Unbeknownst to Fred and the other Freeman staff, James Armstrong was engaged in a scheme to steal the identity of a Dublin solicitor, Mr Elliott, and to obtain money from his bank account using forged cheques. Quick-witted Fred saved the day, and presumably was instrumental in ensuring that the story was covered by his newspaper.
Consolidating his sporting and society credentials
A month later he was in Liverpool for the Waterloo Cup, one of the “Irish division” of journalists to attend,8 and in both April and November he and his wife attended social events at the Mansion House: the Lord Mayor’s Ball in April and the Lady Mayoress “at Home” in November, followed by another Lord Mayor’s Ball (with his father as well) in February 1878.9
Family matters and another little ruse
The 1880s must have been a time of great success for the Gallaher brothers at work, but it seems that they were times of great sadness at home. Fred lost two children in the early 1880s, and his brother Joseph lost three in the course of a month to scarlatina later in the decade. Somewhere amongst this disappointment we can perhaps see the seeds of the misfortune the family suffered into the 1890s. When asked several years later how many children he had, he replied: “I have two in Heaven and three at home”.10
Not surprisingly, Fred, Sarah, and Edith left No 151 Rathgar Road behind then, moving nearby to No 13 Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines. It was here that his son John Blake Gallaher (named after his grandfather) was born on 19 December 1880.11 His last child, a daughter Aileen, was born at the same address on 24 August 1882.12
1 See the Irish Genealogy database (http://churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/details/7035f70348354).
2 The results appear in the Freeman’s Journal for 9 July 1867 and 2 July 1868. It is likely that before this at least Fred attended St Patrick’s Collegiate Seminary in Tullow, Carlow, where the midsummer results for 1866 show an “F Gallaher” achieving first prize (shared) in French (Fables), Spelling, and Writing; second prize (shared) in English Grammar, Arithmetic, Irish History, Geography, and Reading; with an Honourable Mention in General History (Freeman’s Journal (1866) 26 July).
3 National Police Gazette, New York (1885) 5 September, p. 13.
4 Belfast Newsletter (1869), 12 August. The Freeman’s Journal was first with the news, on 11 August. Most reports were based on the account of the Cork Examiner.
5 Freeman’s Journal (1873), 24 May.
6 Belfast Newsletter (1875), 21 April.
7 Belfast Newsletter (1877), 16 February.
8 Freeman’s Journal (1877), 22 February.
9 Freeman’s Journal (1877), 28 April and 29 November; (1878) 13 February.
10 National Police Gazette: New York (1885), 5 September, p. 13.
11 Freeman’s Journal (1880), 21 December.
12 Belfast Newsletter (1882), 26 August.