Dave Gallaher

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Not to be confused with the American writer David Gallaher.
Dave Gallaher
Dave Gallaher.jpg
Gallaher in 1905 during
the Original All Blacks tour.
Full name David Gallaher
Date of birth 30 October 1873
Place of birth Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland
Date of death 4 October 1917(1917-10-04) (aged 43)
Place of death Passchendaele, Belgium
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Weight 84 kg (13.2 st)
School Katikati School
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position hooker, wing-forward
New Zealand No. 97
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team
1896–1909 Ponsonby
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1896–1909 Auckland 26
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1903–1906 All Blacks 36 (14)
correct as of 2007-03-12.

David "Dave" Gallaher (30 October 1873 – 4 October 1917) was a New Zealand rugby union footballer, best known as the captain of "The Originals", the first New Zealand national rugby union team to be known as the All Blacks.

Early life[edit]

David Gallagher (later Gallaher) was born at Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland, on 30 October 1873, the son of James Henry Gallagher (1812–94), a shopkeeper who was 69 at the time and his wife, Maria Hardy McCloskie (1844–87) who was 29 at the time and a teacher. James was a widower and had two sons from his first marriage. David was baptised in the First Ramelton Meeting House on 8 January 1874. He was the 7th of 14 children that his parents produced (3 of which died in infancy), Joseph (1867 -), Maria (known as Molly, 1870 - ), Thomas (1872 - ), William (1875 - ), Oswald (1876 -) and James Patrick(1878 - 1880).[1]

In May 1878 the Gallaghers mother, father and six children sailed from Belfast 1888 on the Lady Jocelyn in the second party of emigrants for George Vesey Stewart's Special Settlement at Katikati in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. One infant brother, James Patrick who was 8 weeks old and sickly was left at home.

On arriving in New Zealand, the family altered the spelling of their name from Gallagher to Gallaher to avoid confusion over spelling and pronunciation.

It had initially been hoped that James would be employed as the agent for the Donegal Knitting Company in New Zealand but their patron Lord Hill died unexpectedly and his successor did not support the initiative. The poor quality land was insufficient to make a living from. Maria soon became the chief breadwinner after she obtained a position teaching for £2 a week at the new No.2 school on Beach Road.

Four more children were born to the couple in Katikati: George (1879 - ) twins Henry Fletcher (1881 - 24 April 1917) and Charles Canning (1881 - 1950), Douglas Wallace (1883 - 3 June 1916).[2] It was at Katikati that Gallaher first began playing rugby. In Jan 1886 David spent time in Auckland hospital being treated for stunted muscles in his left leg which had led to curvature of his spine. His mother became sick and lost her teaching position. With his father in his seventies Gallaher left school at 13 and took a job working for a local stock and station agent to assist his older brothers in supporting the family. His mothers condition worsened and she died of cancer on 9 September 1887. The older children kept the family together which avoided the younger ones being put up for adoption. In 1889 while William remained in Katikati the rest of the family moved to join Joseph who had obtained work in Auckland. Gallaher who was by now 17 years old was able to obtain work at the Northern Roller Mills Company and was soon a member of the junior cricket team recruited from the firm's workers. Initially he played junior rugby for the Parnell club but when the family moved to Freemans Bay in 1894 after the marriage of his brother Joseph to Nell Burchell he joined the "Ponsonby District Rugby Football Club" in 1895.

In the late 1890s Gallaher took employment at the Auckland Farmers' Freezing Company as a labourer and had risen to the position of foreman by the time of his departure to World War 1. The constant handling of heavy animal carcasses built up his upper body strength and kept him fit. Gallaher made his debut for the Auckland provincial rugby side against the touring Queensland team on 8 August 1896 for whom he played a total of 26 times between 1903 and 1906. In 1897, he was a member of the Auckland team that defeated New Zealand 11-10. In 1897 Gallaher was member of the Ponsonby team that won the Auckland Championship.

Boer War[edit]

in January 1901 Gallaher put his age back 3 years when he enlisted with the Sixth of the 10 New Zealand Contingents of Mounted Rifles in the Boer War. For nearly 1½ years he served in the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony (Cape Province), reaching the rank of squadron sergeant major. While in South Africa he captained the New Zealand military team that played 10 games and won the rugby championship in the army matches promoted among the English and Colonial forces during the campaign. For his service Gallaher received the Imperial South African War medal.

Resumption of his rugby career[edit]

Gallaher arrived back in Auckland with the Tenth Contingent on 23 August 1902. He returned to playing rugby and was selected for the Auckland team. On 6 August 1903 Gallaher played in the maiden Ranfurly Shield match which Auckland lost to Wellington 6–3.

In 1903, when nearly 30, Gallaher was selected for the New Zealand team which toured Australia that year. Gallaher played ten matches—the first five as hooker, and the remainder as wing-forward. He was capped internationally for the first time when New Zealand played its first ever Test match—against Australia in Sydney. In his second international New Zealand defeated the touring British Isles side at Athletic Park, Wellington, in 1904. A week later he played for Auckland against the tourists and scored one of the tries in their 13–0 victory.

Gallaher represented New Zealand 36 times, playing six tests, and scoring 14 points (six tries and a single conversion). The Tests Gallaher played were: 15 August 1903 against Australia (Forward). Won 22-3. 13 August 1904 against British Isles (Forward). Won 9-3. 18 November 1905 against Scotland (Forward). Won 12-7. 2 December 1905 against England (Forward). Won 15-0. 16 December 1905 against Wales (Forward). Lost 3-0. 1 January 1906 against France (Forward). Won 38-8.

1905 tour[edit]

At the end of the 1904 season the Management Committee of Rugby Union suspended him from playing in a disagreement over a claim for expenses he had submitted to the Auckland Rugby Football Union for travel to play in the match against Great Britain.[3] Eventually the matter was resolved when Gallaher repaid under protest the disputed amount. This settlement coupled with his performance in 26-0 North Island win over the South Island in the pre-tour trial allowed Gallaher to be considered for selection in the "Originals".

Gallaher was named as the tour captain, with Billy Stead as vice captain.[4] On the voyage to Britain on the SS Rumutaka, a week after departure from Wellington the Otago, Canterbury and Wellington players announced that they were not happy with what they perceived as an Auckland bias in the squad and the appointment of Gallaher. Both he and Stead had both been appointed by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), whereas many of the players believed that the appointments should have been chosen by a team vote as per the practice on the 1897 and 1903 tours to Australia.[5] Gallaher offered to resign and then Stead said he would also resign as vice captain if Gallaher did.[6] Although the teams' manager refused to accept the resignations, the team still took a vote; 17-12 in favour of endorsing the NZRFU's selections.[7]

During the tour Gallaher played 26 matches including 4 of the 5 tests and proved to be an outstanding leader and one of the deepest thinkers of the game in his era. The team won 31 out of a program of 32 matches in the United Kingdom and scored 830 points, while their opponents registered only 39 points against them. The team's only loss was the historic match against Wales. The team then travelled to Paris and played against France, and returned home via the United States where they played two matches against British Columbia. In total, the team scored 976 points and had 59 scored against them

The Complete Rugby Footballer[edit]

Before the squad departed Britain for North America, Billy Stead and Gallaher were approached by a publisher to author a book on rugby tactics and play. They were each paid £50 each and completed the book in less than two weeks. The book, The Complete Rugby Footballer was mainly authored by Stead, a bootmaker, with Gallaher contributing most of the diagrams. The 322 page book is regarded as one of the most influential in rugby literature.[8]

Auckland selector[edit]

He retired from playing after the 1905-06 tour and commenced coaching Ponsonby age grade rugby teams. In 1906 succeeded Fred Murray as sole selector of the Auckland rugby team. He remained in that position until 1916. During his time as selector the Auckland team played 65 games, won 48, lost 11 and drew 6. Gallaher's last game of rugby was unplanned. As selector of an Auckland team under strength due to injuries, he turned out against Marlborough at Blenheim in 1909; Marlborough won 8–3.

All Black selector[edit]

He was a national selector from 1907 to 1914. During this period the All Blacks played 50 games (including 16 tests), won 44, lost 4 and drew 2. His teams won 13 tests, drawing two and losing one.

While selector he still found time to coach the Auckland Grammar School rugby team.

First World War[edit]

Although exempt from conscription due to his age Gallaher enlisted on 25 July 1916. While awaiting for his callup to begin training he learnt that his younger brother Company Sergeant Major Douglas Wallace Gallaher was killed at the age of 32 while serving with the 11th Australian Battalion at Laventie near Fromelles on 3 June 1916.[9] Douglas had prior to the war been living in Perth, Australia and had previously been wounded at Gallipoli. On enlisting Gallaher gave his date of birth as 31 Oct 1876 making him appear three years younger (see link to the NZEF form below). Because of his past experience he was given the rank of Corporal in the 2nd Battalion of the Auckland Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. On the 16 October 1916 he was promoted to Sergeant and by 20 January 1917 he was Company Sergeant Major. On 16 February 1917 he sailed aboard the Aparima. The force reached Devonport, Plymouth on 2 June, where he reverted to rank of Temporary Sergeant and was dispatched to Sling Camp for further training. On 1 June 1917 his rank was confirmed as Sergeant. On June 26, 1917 Gallaher's unit went in action in the Third Battle for Ypres, fighting near La Basse Ville. In August his unit began training for the upcoming Passchendaele offensive. In the attack on Gravenstafel Spur on 4 October 1917, Gallaher was wounded by a piece of shrapnel that penetrated through his helmet and died later that day at No 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, Gravenstafel Spur, aged almost 44. He is buried in grave No. 32513 at Nine Elms British Cemetery, which is located west of Poperinge on the Helleketelweg, a road leading from the R33 Poperinge ring road in Belgium. His regulation gravestone bears the silver fern – and gives his age as 41. His brother Henry who was a miner served with the 51st Australian battalion and was killed on 24 April 1917. Henry's twin brother, Charles also served, survived being badly wounded at Gallipoli and died in 1950.

His military awards include: Queen's South Africa Medal (Cape Colony, Orange Free State, and Transvaal Clasps). King's South Africa Medal (South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902 Clasps). British War Medal (1914-1920). Victory Medal.

Personal life[edit]

On the 10 October 1906 he married "Nellie" Ellen Ivy May Francis at All Saints Anglican Church, Ponsonby, Auckland.[10] Nellie who was born in 1884 was the daughter of John Patterson Emilius and Nora Francis and the sister of New Zealand dual-code rugby international Arthur Francis. For many years prior to the marriage he had boarded at the Francis family home, where he had come to know Nellie who was 11 years younger than him. Both had also attended the All Saints Anglican Church where Nellie sang in the choir. With his limited income and frequent absences from work playing rugby he found boarding his best accommodation option.

On 28 September 1908 their daughter Nora Tahatu (later Nora Simpson) was born.[11] Nellie Gallaher died in January 1969.[12]


In 1922, the Auckland union introduced the Gallaher Shield in his honour as the trophy for that union's premier men's competition.

Introduced in 2000, the Dave Gallaher Trophy is contested between New Zealand and France. The trophy is awarded to side that is the winner of the series.[13] If the series is drawn, as it was in 2009, then the trophy is awarded to the side with the better points differential over the course of the series.[14] So far it has been contested eight times, with the All Blacks victorious in 2000 and 2001, retaining the trophy after a 20-all draw in 2002, and winning again in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. France won the trophy for the first time in 2009, although the All Blacks reclaimed the trophy again on the 28 November 2009 after defeating France 39–12 in Marseille.

In 2005, Letterkenny RFC, the club closest to Gallaher's birthplace in Ramelton, chose to name its home ground the “Dave Gallaher Memorial Park” and unveiled a plaque at his birthplace. Members of the 2005 All Blacks, led by captain Tana Umaga, attended the unveiling.

On 30 November 2006, a film/documentary was launched in Century Cinema's Letterkenny, called Dave Gallaher, Legacy of an Irish Original, the film/documentary produced by Letterkenny Rugby Club and directed/edited by Wallace Media Studios, Donegal, outlines the history of Dave Gallaher, from his birth to his death, how the All Blacks trip to Donegal came about, exclusive footage and interviews with the All Blacks and how Gallaher's legacy has helped and will continue to help in the development of rugby union in Donegal.

Letterkenny based rugby player Jeremy Worth wrote a poem in honour of Dave Gallaher.[15]

In 2010, the Dave Gallaher Park was opened in Ramelton. The centrepiece is shaped as a rugby ball oval and contains decorative limestone benches depicting scenes from local history. The Dave Gallaher Society raised €230,000 though various European and state agencies to develop the park which is a popular attraction for tourists visiting Gallaher's birthplace.

In 2005 Gallaher was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.

In 2011 New Zealand's oldest living All Black, Sir Fred Allen, unveiled a 2.7 metre high bronze statue of Gallaher besides one of the entrances at Eden Park in Auckland. The statue was created by Malcolm Evans. The statue bears the description:

"DAVE GALLAHER 1873 – 1917

Born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland, moved to Katikati at 2 years of age and then to Auckland at 17 years of age following the death of his mother. Played for Ponsonby from 1896 (after a short period at the long defunct Parnell Club). Played for Auckland at 23 years of age. Hooker but then most famously wing-forward when scrums were 2/3/2. Captained the “Originals”, the 1905 All Black team that took the world by storm and established the All Blacks by name and as the team to beat – he played at wing forward and his team won all 23 games bar one, a 0-3 loss to Wales where a winning All Black try was disallowed because the referee was too far behind the play and the Welsh players had dragged the try scorer (Robbie Deans’ great grandfather) back from the line by the time he arrived. Sole selector for Auckland between 1906 and 1916 and selector for the All Blacks between 1907 and 1914. Wrote “The Complete Rugby Footballer”, a coaching manual still consulted today. Served in the Boer War between 1901 and 1902 and, despite his age, enlisted to serve in the Great War. Killed in action at Passchendaele in 1917 at 43 years of age. Buried in Belgium. Described as the most famous man in the British Empire in the aftermath of the “Originals” tour. The first of a line of illustrious “All Black” captains. The first Ponsonby “All Black”. Hailed then and ever since as one of the deepest thinkers in the game – of uncommon ability, strength and tactical awareness. Honoured locally by the naming after him in 1922 of the premier Auckland Club trophy, the Gallaher Shield. Honoured internationally in Letterkenny, near Ramelton, where its new ground is named “The Dave Gallaher Memorial Park” in deference to Ramelton as his birthplace and his contribution to the game of rugby. Honoured internationally by the 2005 All Blacks, led by Tana Umaga, who all visited Letterkenny. Honoured internationally by the establishment of the Gallaher Trophy in 2000 in deference to his death in Europe and his contribution to rugby - France and the All Blacks compete for the Gallaher Trophy in non Rugby World Cup games. The father of All Black Rugby."

In 2012, Matt Elliott's biography of Gallaher - Dave Gallaher: the original All Black captain - was released in New Zealand, Australia and Ireland. Fittingly, it was officially launched at the Ponsonby Rugby Club.


  1. ^ Elliott. Page 13.
  2. ^ Elliott. Page 32.
  3. ^ Elliott. Pages 126 - 131.
  4. ^ Ryan. Page 196
  5. ^ Ryan. Page 63
  6. ^ Ryan. Page 63.
  7. ^ Ryan. Page 64.
  8. ^ "David Gallaher". rugbyhalloffame.com. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  9. ^ Elliott. Pages 258-259.
  10. ^ Elliott. Page 219.
  11. ^ Elliott. Page 239.
  12. ^ Elliott. Page 278.
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Robson, Toby (22 June 2009). "When a win's not a win". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  15. ^ Dave Gallaher – Tribute to a Legend at www.davegallaher.com

See also[edit]


  • Elliott, Matt (2012). Dave Gallaher – The Original All Black Captain (paperback). London: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-1-86950-968-2. 
  • Ryan, Greg (2005). The Contest for Rugby Supremacy – Accounting for the 1905 All Blacks. Canterbury University Press. ISBN 1-877257-36-2. 
  • Tobin, Christopher (2005). The Original All Blacks 1905–06. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder Moa Beckett. ISBN 1-86958-995-5. 
  • Carter, A. Kay (2011). Maria Gallaher – Her Short Life and Her Children's Stories. Paraparaumu. ISBN 9780987653802. 
  • McCarthy, Winston (1968). Haka! The All Blacks Story. London: Pelham Books. 

External links[edit]

. Accessed March 17, 2013.