Dave Gallaher

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Not to be confused with the American writer David Gallaher.
Dave Gallaher
Image of Gallaher wearing his black rugby uniform and clasping a football.
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)
1903, 1905
North Island
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1903–06 New Zealand 36 (14)

David "Dave" Gallaher (30 October 1873 – 4 October 1917) was a New Zealand rugby union footballer, best known as the captain of "The Originals" that toured Europe and North America in 1905 and 1906 – the first New Zealand national rugby union team to be known as the All Blacks. Gallaher was born in Ramelton, Ireland, but emigrated to New Zealand with his family as a child. After moving to Auckland, he initially played rugby for Parnell club, but in 1895 joined Ponsonby RFC. He was first selected to represent Auckland in 1896.

In 1901 Gallaher enlisted to fight in the Second Boer War, and served in served in the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony before returning to New Zealand in August 1902. He continued to play for Ponsonby and Auckland, and was eventually selected for the New Zealand side that toured Australia in 1903. On that tour Gallaher played in New Zealand's first ever Test match – against Australia in Sydney. The following year he played against the touring British Isles side, and was subsequently selected for the historic tour of the British Isles, France, and North America that New Zealand conducted in 1905 and 1906. Gallaher was appointed captain for the tour in which his team lost only one match – a famous and controversial loss to Wales. The team returned to New Zealand having scored 976 points and having conceded only 59.

Gallaher retired from playing rugby on his return from tour, but did become a coach and selector. He was a New Zealand selector between 1907 and 1914. Although exempt from conscription, in 1916 Gallaher enlisted to fight in the First World War. He served with the Auckland Infantry Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and in 1917 was deployed to Europe. Gallaher was killed by shrapnel at the Battle of Passchendaele, and is buried at Nine Elms British Cemetery, Belgium.

A number of memorials exist in Gallaher's honour, including the Gallaher Shield for the premier Auckland club championship, the Dave Gallaher Trophy contested between the national teams of France and New Zealand, the Dave Gallaher Memorial Park near his birthplace in Ireland, and a statue of him outside Eden Park in Auckland.

Early life[edit]

Photograph of a modest two story house.
The birthplace of Dave Gallaher in Ramelton, Ireland. The plaque above the door reads "Birthplace of Dave Gallaher 'The Originals' 30th October 1873. Captain of New Zealand 'All Blacks' 1905".

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 seventh of fourteen children that his parents produced (three of which died in infancy), Joseph (1867), Maria (known as Molly, 1870), Thomas (1872), William (1875), Oswald (1876) and James Patrick(1878–80).[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 eight 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), and Douglas Wallace (1883–3 June 1916).[2]

It was at Katikati that David first began playing rugby. In January 1886 he 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 David 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 mother's 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. David – 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 deployment for the First World War. 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, and he represented his province 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 club championship.

Boer War[edit]

in January 1901 Gallaher put his age back three years when he enlisted with the Sixth of the ten 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 ten games and won the rugby championship 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, aged nearly 30, Gallaher was selected for the New Zealand team which toured Australia. Gallaher played ten matches – the first five as hooker, and the remainder as wing-forward. He was capped when New Zealand played their first ever Test match – against Australia in Sydney. He played in New Zealand's next international, a defeat of 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 : Won 22-3. 13 August 1904 against British Isles : Won 9-3. 18 November 1905 against Scotland : Won 12-7. 2 December 1905 against England : Won 15-0. 16 December 1905 against Wales : Lost 3-0. 1 January 1906 against France : Won 38-8.

1905 tour[edit]

Painting of the aftermath of a rugby scrum, with a player from one team running with the ball towards the opposition goal-line while an opponent runs to intercept him.
Painting by Frank Gillett published in The Graphic following the All Blacks' 15–0 victory over England. Gallaher, wearing black and playing wing-forward, can be seen standing on the far side of the scrum.

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 the British Isles.[3] Eventually the matter was resolved when, under protest, Gallaher repaid 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 for New Zealand's 1905 tour of Europe and North America.

Gallaher was named as the tour captain, with Billy Stead as vice captain.[4] A week into the voyage to Britain aboard the SS Rumutaka, 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 Gallaher and Stead had both been appointed by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), but 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 vice-captain Stead announced he would also resign if Gallaher did.[5] Although the teams' manager refused to accept the resignations, the team still took a vote; 17 to 12 in favour of endorsing the NZRFU's selections.[6]

During the tour Gallaher played 26 matches including four of the five Tests and proved to be an outstanding leader and one of his era's deepest thinkers of the game. The team won 31 out of a program of 32 matches in Britain and Ireland 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, Stead and Gallaher were approached by a publisher to author a book on rugby tactics and play. They were each paid £50 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.[7]

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 provincial team, and 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]

A gravestone with wreath and flowers. The gravestone reads "32513 Serjeant D. Gallaher N.Z. Auckland Regt. 4th October 1917 .
Gallaher's grave at Nine Elms British Cemetery, Belgium.

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 while serving with the 11th Australian Battalion at Laventie near Fromelles on 3 June 1916.[8] Prior to the war Douglas had 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. 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 from New Zealand 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.

Gallaher's 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[9] 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.[10] Nellie Gallaher died in January 1969.[11]


In 1922, the Auckland Rugby Football Union introduced the Gallaher Shield in his honour as the trophy for that union's premier men's club competition.Introduced in 2000, the Dave Gallaher Trophy is contested between New Zealand and France.[12] The trophy is awarded to side that is the winner of the series. Gallaher has been inducted into both the International Rugby Hall of Fame and the IRB Hall of Fame.[13][14]

In 2005 members of the All Blacks witnessed the unveiling of a plaque at Gallaher's birthplace in Ramelton, which was presented in conjunction with the renaming of Letterkenny RFC's home ground to Dave Gallaher Park.[15] The ground was upgraded following its renaming, and in 2012 the Letterkenny section of the ground was opened by former All Black Bryan Williams.[16][17]

In 2011 New Zealand's oldest living All Black, Sir Fred Allen, unveiled a 2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in) high bronze statue of Gallaher besides one of the entrances at Eden Park in Auckland. The statue was created by Malcolm Evans.[18] The description that adorns the statue reads:

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
The father of All Black Rugby.


  1. ^ Elliott 2012, p. 13.
  2. ^ Elliott 2012, p. 32.
  3. ^ Elliott 2012, pp. 126–131.
  4. ^ Ryan 2005, p. 196.
  5. ^ a b Ryan 2005, p. 63.
  6. ^ Ryan 2005, p. 64.
  7. ^ "David Gallaher". rugbyhalloffame.com. Retrieved 12 February 2007. 
  8. ^ Elliott 2012, pp. 258–259.
  9. ^ Elliott 2012, p. 219.
  10. ^ Elliott 2012, p. 239.
  11. ^ Elliott 2012, p. 278.
  12. ^ "Gallaher statue unveiled at Eden Park". sportal.co.nz. 15 July 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2014. 
  13. ^ "2010 Inductee: Dave Gallaher". International Rugby Board. 15 May 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Dave Gallaher". The International Rugby Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. 
  15. ^ Dave Gallaher (NZRU).
  16. ^ "All Blacks legend to unveil plaque at Dave Gallagher Park in Letterkenny". Donegal Democrat. 1 November 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  17. ^ Walsh, Harry (3 November 2012). "All Black legend visits Letterkenny". Derry People Donegal News. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  18. ^ Horrell, Rhiannon (15 July 2011). "Eden Park unveils statue of legend". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 5 September 2014. 


  • 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. 
  • "Dave Gallaher". allblacks.com. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 

External links[edit]