Ignatius per ignotius: the short life and extraordinary times of Frederick Gallaher

4: Life and death in London

There does not seem to be a good reason given in the newspapers or elsewhere to explain why Fred took his family to London and jettisoned his job as Editor of Sport. Ellmann says that “because of some scandal [he] was obliged to go to London”,1 but this may only be inferred from “A Little Cloud” in Dubliners:

In the end he had got mixed up in some shady affair, some money transaction: at least, that was one version of his flight.

D 8.78-80

Was that the reason? Perhaps it was, but there are still occasional positive mentions of him in the Dublin press. The Freeman’s Journal writes, just over a month after Gallaher started work in London:

We are glad to see in the Sportsman’s editorial of the day before yesterday the following complimentary reference to some excellent work in the columns of that paper from the pen of Mr. Fred Gallaher, who has joined the staff of that well-known London sporting daily: -

All readers of the Sportsman who have taste for description of pleasing rural scenes and our racehorses "at home", must have read with pleasure the excellent article in this paper of Saturday last describing a visit to Ballinkeele.

Freeman’s Journal (1890) 26 March

Did his father’s move ahead of him to London, and so many deaths in the family, mean that Fred needed a new start? Had he fallen out with his brother Joe? Had he sought unsuccessfully the editorship of the Freeman? Whatever the case, there was more misfortune to come.

A telegraphic agency

Fred’s father John Blake Gallaher, former Chief Sub-Editor of the Freeman’s Journal had moved to Hammersmith, in West London in the mid 1880s. Fred himself moved about six miles east of him to Lambeth Palace Road, central and just south of the river in 1890. Fred took up his editorial position on the Sportsman, then London’s oldest sporting newspaper.

But he did not last long on the Sportsman. Fred’s run of poor luck was continuing into the 1890s. In May 1891 he had left the Sportsman and was advertising his own telegraphic horse-race forecasting business from an address in Piccadilly in London:

Fred Gallaher’s Telegraphic Anticipations – Fred Gallaher, Journalist, late of Dublin, and Sportsman, London, will wire, any address, his last words on three Races at Kempton, Friday and Saturday, including Jubilee Stakes. Send postal order for 6s[hillings], or stamps. Offices – 224 Piccadilly, London.

Belfast News-Letter (1891) 7 May

Things had reached a pretty pass for the swashbuckling Dublin editor of Sport to be reduced to such a level. At the time of the national census, just a month earlier, he had proudly described himself as “Editorial staff - Sportsman”, living with his wife Sarah, son John, and young daughter Aileen at No 91 Lambeth Palace Road. He gives slightly more information about his situation and his telegraphic venture in another advertisement a month later, directed again at an Irish audience who will remember him:

Fred Gallaher’s Telegraphic Advices. On Friday F. G. closed a highly successful week, wiring the three first winners, Screech Owl (2nd), and Drachenfels, who started favourite, but broke a blood-vessel. Next week, Ascot (four days), commencing Tuesday. Service A comprises morning selections for 10s. Service B includes the same, and also the Special One-horse Telegram, sent about 1 30 pm (English), giving the best thing of the day. For this (B) service remit 20s. Fred Gallaher was for 21 years connected with the Freeman, was 12 years Irish representative of the Sporting Life, and for 9 years edited Sport, and was on the editorial staff of the London Sportsman until he established his Turf Telegraphic Advice Agency. Write early, 224 Piccadilly, London.

Freeman’s Journal (1891) 8 June p. 7

Fred’s twenty-one years connected with the Freeman included his twelve years as a representative for Sporting Life and his nine years at Sport. Two months later Fred’s mother died in Hammersmith, having contracted a cold, apparently, while attending another funeral.2

Mitchell and Slavin

Slowly things started to improve for Fred, as he began to put together a portfolio of work which played to his strengths. Firstly, he was taken on by the Sporting Life, probably not in the full-time editorial staff but with enough influence to allow him to rebuild his tarnished profile. He remembered how successful he had been promoting key sporting events, and guiding runners and boxers through their Irish tours. So it is reassuring to find that by December 1891 he had found work, boxers to manage, and the chance of international travel:

Gallagher Will Look After Mitchell and Slavin.

It is unfortunate that Tommy Conneff sailed on Saturday, for he just missed meeting Fred Gallagher of the London Sporting Life, now on the briny, coming to America on the Britannic. Mr. Gallaher will be Mitchell’s and Slavin’s manager in this country. It was Mr. Gallagher who was mainly responsible for Conneff’s running career, having taken a great interest in the little runner while editor of Dublin Sport.

Sun (New York) (1891) 16 December p. 4

The English boxer Charley Mitchell had been John L. Sullivan’s opponent on that chaotic night at Chantilly outside Paris when Fred had only narrowly escaped arrest. Frank (“Paddy”) Slavin (“The Sydney Cornstalk”) was an Australian heavyweight who was now mounting demonstrations and exhibition bouts on tour with Mitchell. In late December Gallaher announced a six-rounder between his boxer Mitchell and the celebrated American heavyweight James J. (“Gentleman Jim”) Corbett at Madison Square Garden in the spring, but the match did not come off.3 Undaunted, he took Mitchell and Slavin round the sporting centres of the United States at the same time as:

supplying his journal [the Sporting Life] with two weekly letters of 7,000 words each, whilst he sends daily cables of the tour of Slavin and Mitchell.

Columbus (Ohio) Enquirer-Sun (1892), 6 February

At last Fred was back in his element, despite apparently breaking his arm in two places on a sidewalk in Montreal whilst representing Frank Slavin.4 Fred’s exploits with Frank Slavin went beyond the boxing ring, though, and the two men apparently collaborated in a new commercial venture. In late 1892 the minor news columns were keen to publicize the “Pugilist Inventor”. Fred and Frank Slavin had designed a new type of alarm for a fire-engine, and they had the satisfaction of drawing a large and curious crowd to see the invention put to the test:

At one o’clock on Friday a large crowd assembled on the Embankment [in London] to witness the trial of a new automatic fire-engine alarm, to clear the streets for the passage of these life-saving vehicles. The invention, which is a joint effort of F. P. Slavin, the celebrated boxer, and Mr. Fred Gallaher, the journalist, consists of an alarm gong attached near the axle of the engine wheel in such a manner as to be operated upon the revolving strikers at each turn of the spokes. This arrangement is far more effective than the old method of shouting to clear the way, and leaves the men on the engine in better fettle for their work. Experiments proved its efficacy, and it will doubtless prove a success.

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (1892) 9 October

It sounds as if Fred may have been responsible for the text that reached the newspaper offices. The article was syndicated, and turned up as far afield as Taranaki, New Zealand.5

Family concerns

But at the same time Fred was never far away from sadness at this stage of his life. His wife Sarah had been ill for some time, having contracted a heavy cold at the funeral of the Roman Catholic Cardinal Manning at Brompton Oratory on 21 January 1892, and she died in mid June in London.6 At the end of 1893 he suffered another family bereavement as his brother, Joseph, another long-standing editorial stalwart of the Freeman’s Journal, died at the age of 38:

Gallaher – October 19, 1893, at his residence, 17 Stamer street, S.C.R., Joseph John, younger son of John Blake Gallaher, late Editor of the Freeman’s Journal, aged 38 years, fortified by the rites of the Catholic Church.

Irish Times (1893) 28 October p. 8

Joseph’s funeral was very well attended, but the long lists of attenders printed in the Freeman’s Journal and the Evening Herald do not include Fred or his father John.7 His father was unable to attend through ill-health, and he and his daughter “Fan” sent a message of condolence to Joseph’s family (Mrs Joe Gallaher and Ger Gallaher are mentioned in Ulysses). But Fred missed the funeral. He telegraphed the Evening Telegraph on Monday 23 October, the day after the funeral:

Will you be so good and just as to make it known that it was only late this (Sunday) morning at Lowestoft I first heard of the demise of my dear brother. I had not even heard that he ailed.

But Fred immediately made plans to visit his relatives in Dublin, doubtless to see the grave of his brother and to pay his last respects. The newspapers have him sailing back out of the city on the “London and North Western Company’s express passenger steamer” a week later.8 It is possible that James Joyce met up with Fred in the week following the funeral, which both he and his father attended, and used his impressions of Fred from this time in "A Little Cloud".

Fred’s brother Joe lived in Stamer Street. This helps to explain Joyce’s reference to Richie Goulding:

Waltzing in Stamer street with Ignatius Gallaher on a Sunday morning, the landlady’s two hats pinned on his head.

U 6.57-9

The wrong horses

Fred was able to cross regularly to America over the next year or so, still as the special correspondent of the Sporting Life. He took the SS Berlin to New York in December 1893 to be at ringside for the big Mitchell-Corbett fight scheduled to take place in Florida.9 As ever, he had a quotation ready for the newspapers:

No fight in years has attracted the attention this one has in England […] but there has been little betting so far. While Corbett is the favourite with the America contingent, in my opinion a £50 note would make Mitchell first choice.

Buffalo (New York) Courier (1894) 1 January p. 8

Fred was apparently enthusiastic over his old protégé’s Mitchell’s chances, and was expected to spend a week at the English champion’s training quarters. In the event, Fred had backed the wrong horse, and Corbett won by a knock-out in the third round, effectively bringing a curtain down over Mitchell’s illustrious career. There was talk now of Fred managing another handy boxer, Frank Craig, known as the “Harlem Coffee Cooler”, the “Colored Middleweight” champion of America.10 Although the Coffee Cooler did travel to England and Ireland later in the year, settling to live in England, it seems he did not in the end do so under Fred Gallaher’s management.

In mid 1895 Fred picked up his involvement with the racing game, arranging to run American horses belonging to Messrs. Croker and Dwyer at Irish meetings. Again he managed to ensure that the story was picked up quite widely by the Irish press, and a certain amount of publicity was generated on both sides of the Atlantic. But in the end Fred was not able to bring the scheme to fruition, and it fell through.11

Another Invincible ruse

The papers record one last hurrah for Fred Gallaher in 1896, and this time it concerns neither horse-racing nor boxing. Fred reverts to his political persona and attempts one last interview with a survivor of the 1882 Phoenix Park murders.

In September 1896 Patrick Joseph Percy Tynan travelled with a group of extremist colleagues from New York to France, with the intention of disrupting the jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria in Britain. The French authorities arrested the group and on 12 September Tynan was imprisoned in Boulogne-sur-Mer prison.

Back in the 1880s Tynan had been a member of the Invincibles, and was one of those involved in the Phoenix Park murders in Dublin in May 1882. He had slipped out of Ireland in 1883 for Paris, and then sailed for America. In the murder trials he was identified in his absence by the informer Carey (whom Fred Gallaher had interviewed in 1883). As a result of some journalistic confusion, Tynan was referred to in the court reports at the time as “No 1”, and it was popularly considered that he was the leader of the Phoenix Park conspiracy:

Lady Dudley was walking home through the park to see all the trees that were blown down by that cyclone last year and thought she’d buy a view of Dublin. And it turned out to be a commemoration postcard of Joe Brady or Number One or Skin-the-Goat. Right outside the viceregal lodge, imagine!

U 7.700-4

When he heard that the French authorities had detained Tynan, Fred Gallaher conceived a plan to interview him for the newspapers. He already had a reputation for reporting on the Phoenix Park murders, and he knew northern France and Paris well. He rushed with a colleague to Boulogne, and requested an interview with Tynan. The French public prosecutor refused Fred permission to interview Tynan face to face, but did permit him to submit to Tynan a series of questions. This had been Fred’s method of obtaining information in the past: by having the subject complete a question-and-answer sheet, even if only with the answers “yes” and “no”, it was quite possible for an experienced journalist to prepare a convincing (and sensational) piece about the topic in hand.

But this time the method did not work. Tynan was not interested in answering Fred’s questions, and was only concerned with ensuring that he was not extradited to Britain. Fred had to return home empty-handed and Tynan soon sailed back to America. It proved impossible to extradite him to England on the grounds of his involvement with the Phoenix Park murders of 1882 because the crime had lapsed under the French statute of limitations.12

Late Gallaher in Dubliners

Joyce’s “A Little Cloud” describes a meeting between Little Chandler and Ignatius Gallaher in Dublin. The events of the story are supposed to have happened eight years after Gallaher left Ireland for his newspaper job in England. In real terms this would place the events soon after the abortive Patrick Tynan affair. Little Chandler talks of Gallaher in awed tones:

The friend whom he had known under a shabby and necessitous guise had become a brilliant figure on the London Press.

D 8.20-2

Joyce was younger than ten when Fred Gallaher left Dublin for London, and so must have been relying largely on third-party information (mainly from his father, probably) for a sense of Gallaher’s history and character. Maybe Gallaher’s last days in Dublin caused him to appear “shabby and necessitous, though this does not seem to be the personality he promoted during most of his Dublin career. From Dublin Gallaher probably did seem a brilliant figure on the London Press, so Little Chandler’s record of Gallaher seems to be predominantly accurate, as Ellmann states. Certainly Gallaher knew France, for the racing and the night life:

Ignatius Gallaher laughed.

-The Isle of Man! He said. Go to London or Paris: Paris, for choice. That’d do you good.

- Have you seen Paris?

- I should think I have! I’ve knocked about there a little.

D 8.191-5

Little Chandler speaks to Fred as a bachelor and hopes to see him married on his next visit to Dublin. But Fred had been married for many years, until fairly recently widowed:

When you come next year I may have the pleasure of wishing long life and happiness to Mr and Mrs Ignatius Gallaher.

D 8.349-51

Perhaps by now Fred had shaved off his lush beard. Little Chandler describes a clean-shaven man:

Ignatius Gallaher took off his hat and displayed a large closely cropped head. His face was heavy, pale and clean-shaven. His eyes, which were of bluish slate colour, relieved his unhealthy pallor and shone out plainly above the vivid orange tie he wore. Between these rival features the lips appeared very long and shapeless and colourless. He bent his head and felt with two sympathetic fingers the thin hair at the crown.

D 8.152-8

The last days of an erstwhile reporter

By early 1898 Fred’s health was failing. He spent the first half of the year in hospital and then convalesced with friends:

After seven months’ illness Fred Gallaher has been enabled to leave hospital, and is now in search of strength. To secure this, the late editor of Sport, Dublin, is being looked after by some of his friends.

Sporting Times (1898), 20 August

As he attempted to clamber back to health again, he did what he had done when at a low point before, soon after he arrived in London: he tried to establish himself as a tipster, sending regular hot tips to subscribers. The following advertisement appeared in the Illustrated Police News of 18 March 1899, offering to send the names of cast-iron certainties for the “spring double”, the Lincoln and the Grand National:

The newspaper added its own encouragement to the racing world to consider Fred’s new ventures seriously:

P.S. – As will be seen in our issue of to-day, Mr. Fred Gallaher, so long well and favourably known in sporting newspaper circles, is about to show us how to find winners for his patrons "on his own". His announcement is well worthy of perusal, and I trust he will find them; that he will try hard to do so I am convinced.

Fred was always a game trier. But he was not spared to see this venture to success. Less than two months later, on 2 May 1899, he was walking along Farringdon Street in the Fleet Street area of London. As he approached Ludgate Circus, perhaps on his way to visit the offices of the Sporting Life or one of his other journalist haunts, he suffered a cardiac failure and, according to one report,13 was found slumped against a pillar-box:

Mr Gallaher was taken suddenly ill in Farrington street at about 6 o’clock, and was taken to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, close by, but he had breathed his last before aid could be rendered him there. Mr Gallaher had been in ill health for the past couple of years, and had only recently left St Bartholomew’s Hospital after the last of several long spells of illness.

Freeman’s Journal (1899) 4 May

He was buried on 8 May 1899 in a public grave at St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London. His mother had already been buried in a private grave elsewhere in the cemetery (she was joined in 1904 by her husband). So ended the life of Fred Gallaher, one of the most remarkable Dublin journalists of his generation: a friendly and convivial companion, an inveterate race-goer, a well-travelled boxing promoter, an imaginative sporting (and sometimes political) journalist, husband, father, son, uncle, and sometime friend to the Joyces, whose life enhanced the lives of those who knew him but to whom life was sometimes not as generous as it might have been.

John Simpson


1 Richard Ellmann James Joyce (Oxford, 1983), p. 46 note.

2 Irish Times (1891), 13 August p. 5.

3 Sun (New York) (1891), 23 December 3. U 10.1147 has “Jem Corbet”.

4 Lexington Herald (1913), 21 September p. 4.

5 Taranaki Herald (New Zealand) (1892), 25 October.

6 Freeman’s Journal (1892), 15 June.

7 Freeman’s Journal (1893), 23 October.

8 Freeman’s Journal (1893), 30 October.

9 Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (1893), 19 December.

10 Sun (New York) (1894), 24 March 8.

11 Belfast News-Letter (1895), 4 June.

12 Kansas City Star (1896), 18 September p. 1.

13 William Collison The apostle of free labour (1913), ch. 30 p. 301.

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