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

U 10.41-4: Yes: they were from Belvedere. The little house. Aha. And were they good boys at school? O. That was very good now. And what was his name? Jack Sohan. And his name? Ger. Gallaher. And the other little man? His name was Brunny Lynam.

Ellmann: Brendan Gallaher, who knew him at this time, visited the Joyces one day with his mother.1

Gerard and Brendan Gallaher: the next generation

Fred Gallaher’s younger brother Joe had five children with his wife Louise Powell (“Mrs Joe Gallaher”: U 15.564, etc.). Both Gallaher families knew the Joyces well when they all lived in Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines in the 1880s. Joe Gallaher’s family was struck by tragedy in April 1888 when their first three children, Agnes Frances Mary (“Gypsy”), Fred, and Russell John, died of scarlet fever. Joe and Louise moved house to No 12 Stamer Street, still in south Dublin, but remained in contact with the Joyces. In the following two years they had two further children, Gerald and Brendan.2

Gerald Francis Gallaher was born on 4 January 1889, and was baptized by his uncle Jordan Powell on 14 January. His brother, Brendan Joseph Celestine Gallaher, was born on 19 May 1890, and was baptized, again by his uncle, on 27 May at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Dublin.

The family continued to be dogged by tragedy. In 1893 their father Joe, a popular newspaperman on the Freeman’s Journal, died at the age of 38, leaving his wife and family in straitened circumstances. The Institute of Journalists immediately set up a Memorial Fund to assist the family.

The funeral was extraordinarily well attended, testifying to the regard with which Joe was held both at work and in the community at large. Both boys were amongst the many people whose messages of love and respect (presumably drafted by their mother) were recorded in the extensive newspaper reports of the funeral:

In loving memory of my darling Papa – Gerald

To my darling Papa, from his little Bee.

Freeman’s Journal (1893) 23 October

The next reference to either brother occurs in Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce. Ellmann retells a story supplied to him by Brendan Gallaher in later life:

Brendan Gallaher, who knew him at this time, visited the Joyces one day with his mother. James brought him into the kitchen and produced a red cardboard box. With a mysterious air he showed Brendan, who was six or seven, that it had a hinged front and concealed rollers. Finally he judged his audience ready, and cranked before Brendan’s stage-struck eyes a lordly sequence of colored pictures of the Port of Southampton, the Pyramids of Egypt, and other splendors. He then handed the box over to Brendan and said grandly, "It’s for you, Brennie. Take it home with you."

Richard Ellmann James Joyce (1983) Pt. 1 ch. 4 pp. 45-63

After this, the history of Gerald and Brendan fades from current Joyce studies, but additional information has now come to light.

The 1901 Ireland census finds both boys at boarding school at Banagher, County Offaly (formerly King’s County). The Boys’ Preparatory School at Banagher was run by the nuns of the Convent of La Sainte Union des Sacrés Cœurs, on Main Street, Banagher. Since the 1890s it had taken boys from the ages of four to twelve.4 In 1901 Gerald was twelve and Brendan ten. As their father left an estate of only £500 it is probable that their education was paid for by the Memorial fund or from other sources.5

In the following year the boys moved, as day pupils, to St Vincent’s College, Castleknock, Dublin. The scale of fees here suggests that they might have been accepted on free scholarships, perhaps through the intervention of their uncle Jordan Powell.

Joyce refers to “Ger Gallaher” as one of three Belvedere College schoolboys (see also Brunny Lynam). If we assume that this is the same Gerald Gallaher (there are no other candidates recorded in the 1901 Ireland census), then Joyce is manipulating the details for his own creative purposes.6

When their schooling came to an end, Gerald trained as an electrician and Brendan found work as a bank clerk, working from May 1907 at the Hibernian Bank in Dublin. At the time of the 1911 Ireland census they both lived at No 44 Grosvenor Road, Rathmines with their mother Louisa Gallaher and their aunt Letitia and her two children, in the household of their grandmother Louisa Powell. Gerald (aged 22) states his occupation as “Electrical Engineer” and Brendan as “Bank Clerk”.

The outbreak of the First World War was a turning-point for Brendan. Both he and his brother enlisted in the services and, for Brendan, this marked the beginnings of a long separation from Ireland.

Gerald and Brendan Gallaher

(photograph courtesy of Brendan John Gallaher)

Gerald served in the Army, and Brendan joined the Royal Naval Reserve, appointed to the temporary rank of Assistant Paymaster on 15 May 1915. By 1916 he was serving on the cruiser Edgar and by 1919 had attained the rank of Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant. He was awarded the Star, Victory, and British service medals for his war service.7

After the war, Gerald returned to his work as an electrical engineer in Dublin, and on 1 September 1926 he married Eileen (“Eily”), the daughter of P. M. Short of 72 Leinster Road, at the Church of Our Lady of Refuge, Rathmines.8 The service was conducted by his cousin the Rev. Francis Russell. Gerald and his wife moved to No 41 Mountain View Road, Ranelagh, in southern Dublin. The couple had three daughters, Marie Therese, Carmella, and Colette. Gerald (late of the Electricity Supply Board, Pigeon House, Dublin) died on 25 October, 1946, at his residence, No 41 Mountain View Road, Ranelagh, and was buried at Glasnevin cemetery.9

The brothers had remained in contact after the war, but Brendan’s taste for adventure led him far away from Dublin. When he was demobbed he returned briefly to his job at the Hibernian Bank's office in Granard, Co. Longford, but in early 1920 he travelled to London to join the London and River Plate Bank, embarking for Buenos Aires on 6 February. He worked at the bank for three years and then, perhaps sensing difficult conditions in the banking world in South America, took a job on the Standard, an English-language Anglo-Argentine paper - thus maintaining the family tradition of journalism.

In September 1924 Brendan moved to Valparaíso, in Chile, to work for the South Pacific Mail, an English-language Anglo-Chilean paper. Unfortunately he lost his job there in March 1925, and immediately accepted a post at the Anglo South-American Bank, Valparaíso.

On 24 April 1930 he married Isabel Ann Kellet in Valparaíso, under Chilean civil law (the ceremony was followed by a church wedding on 26 April). Their only son, Brendan John Gallaher, was born in Valparaíso on 26 March 1931.

Brendan Gallaher and Isabel Kellet, Pedro Montt Street, Valparaíso, Chile

(photograph courtesy of Brendan John Gallaher)

The world recession of 1931 made life hard for the young family in Chile, and Brendan lost his job at the bank, returning to Dublin via London in 1932 to stay with his brother, in the hope of finding work there. This proved impossible, and he sailed back to Chile on the SS. Orbita in March 1934. In October 1934 Brendan sailed to Peru, where he obtained a job with Duncan Fox and Co., in Lima. In the evenings he maintained his journalistic career by working for the United Press Association.

In the course of his travels Brendan met Mary (“Mattie”) McMullan, an Anglo-Peruvian who had lived in London and South America for several years. In 1935 they sailed back from Callao in Peru to Plymouth together on the Orduña, Brendan leaving from his wife and son in Chile.

The couple took up residence (it appears) in Kensington but Brendan spent much of his time in France.10 At the time of James Joyce’s death in 1941 Brendan states that he had moved from Paris to Pau in the south of France.11 By 1945 Brendan and Mattie are listed together in the London Electoral Registers at No 62 Fellows Road, Hampstead, where they remain at least until the mid 1950s.

At the time of Brendan’s Sorbonne lecture in 1956 his address is given as No 68 Rue Erlanger, Paris.12 At this point he is apparently teaching in Paris. He died in Paris on 21 September 1962 (“Professor of English”: living at No 14 Rue du Général Delestraint), and he was buried in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin.13

No record has been found to date of his marriage, and Mary (“Mattie”) McMullan returned to live in London (26 Queen’s Gate Gardens, London SW7).14 However at her death on 31 January 1978 her body was removed to Dublin to be buried in the same grave as Brendan Gallaher. In the burial records she is described as “Professor’s Widow”.

John Simpson


1 Richard Ellmann James Joyce (1983), ch. 4 p. 45.

2 I am grateful to (Brendan) John Gallaher, Brendan Gallaher’s son, for much of the personal information about his father’s life in the 1920s and 1930s.

3 Ellmann’s source is a lecture on James Joyce given by Brendan Gallaher at the Sorbonne in (?)1956. The original is held at the University of Tulsa (Ellmann Papers, Series 1, Box 47: Brendan Gallaher file).

4 Freeman’s Journal (1896) 29 January.

5 Joe’s estate at death amounted to £500: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (1894) (Index of Wills and Administrations) p. 144.

6 The likely candidates for the other two boys, Jack Sohan and Brunnie Lynam, were born c1875 and 1880 respectively. As Gerald was born in 1889 they cannot have been three small schoolboys together.

7 Navy List (1915) October p. 457l; Navy List (1916) October p. 394a; Navy List (1919) January p. 1212. His service registration no. was 31964.

8 Irish Times (1926) 6 September.

9 Irish Times (1946) 26 October, p. 12.

10 London Electoral Registers (1937): 9 Ashburn Gardens, Kensington (apparently a confused reference).

11 Ellmann Papers, Series 1, box 47 (University of Tulsa): Brendan Gallaher file, p. 19.

12 Ellmann Papers, Series 1, box 47 (University of Tulsa): Brendan Gallaher file, p. 8.

13 Glasnevin grave records: Dublin New Chapel, EF, 28.5.

14 London Electoral Registers (1964): 26 Queen’s Gate Gardens, Kensington South.

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