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 acclaimed ventriloquist.
Patrick Frederick Gallaher.
The ventriloquist, who delighted audiences throughout Ireland for many years (1800-1863). He was the father of the well-known editor of the Freeman's Journal under Dwyer-Gray’s proprietorship, and whose sons inherited in turn many of the qualities that make journalism "racy of the soil".1
It 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
Patrick 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.
As 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, entitled
The Enchanted Household;
Or, The Randoms of a Ventriloquist.
Which includes Fourteen Characters, all acted and transformed by Mr. Gallaher alone.3
In 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
Patrick 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.
Gallaher 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.
In 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
Patrick Gallaher was an inveterate performer. His ventriloquist act graced Irish stages regularly throughout his career, which lasted until months before his death in 1863.
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,
ON MONDAY, SEP. 5TH, 1836.
Written immediately after his performance.
If the spirit of Momus and Proteus yet
In the frame of one mortal were happily met,
And for mirth-loving souls, by dame nature designed,
'Tis in thee, wondrous Gallaher, all are combined.
O! who that could see thee, as I have, to-night,
But must think on thee long with enraptured delight,
The poor, half-starved Richard lamenting his wrongs,
And curing the toothache, by virtue of tongs.
Thy plethoric Alderman-gouty and gruff-
Imbibing his bottles, his pills, and such stuff.
Whilst his sweet "cara sposa” behind and before,
Tottering in with the gossamer step of four score.
Then the bold dashing Captain - so fond of the fair,
So feathered, and booted, "la militaire”;
In the skirmish of gallantry, who so sublime,
A love-speech to lisp, or, a chimney to climb;
Whilst sweet 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,
Oh! glorious Paul Doherty you surpassed all.
They may talk of Jack Johnson, and some now in vogue,
But for musical richness - for beautiful brogue -
For the smack of the buttermilk, who'd not have hung
Enraptured for years, on each note from his tongue.
And whilst harmony's magic your souls would enthrall,
You'd allow, even Leonard, is rivall'd by Paul;
How delicious the tone of sweet melody drawn
When touching the fiddle with drone like strouncane;
And then - Oh! his lectures on music so fine, -
But 'tis folly to think a description like mine
Could paint half his humours. If any there be
Afflicted with tic-doloreux – gout - ennui,
Or such sweet companions, I'll give them a cure
That their quick convalescence will promptly ensure,
And shed o'er their spirits a flood of delight,
Let them go and see Gallaher every night.
Gems of the Cork Poets, comprising the Complete Works
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: