With the simple wish of leaving the story of her family’s Irish heritage for her grandchildren, author Kay Carter’s new book also details one of the most significant international sporting links the county has.
Last Friday, New Zealand historian and author, Kay, who is the grand niece of the legendary rugby figure Dave Gallaher travelled from her home in Paraparumu in New Zealand’s North Island to launch her new book based on the Gallaher family history.
Titled “Maria Gallaher: Her short life and her children’s stories” was launched in her ancestor’s home town of Ramelton last Friday night.
This is the first of three launches she will have and the others take place in Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks.
Joined last Friday night by her son, daughter-in-law and grandson who was also visiting the county Kay says her launch night was “an excellent, excellent book launch” and she is quick to praise the Dave Gallaher Society who looked after her “exceptionally well”.
Although she had been researching the book from just before her first Irish visit in 2003, her first serious efforts at delving into her families history began in 1953.
In a unique twist of fate on her first visit to Donegal, the B&B she booked into was also the home of her grandfather, grandparents, and grand uncle, All Black legend Dave Gallaher.
“I chose my Bed and Breakfast by the name of the landlady, which was Corry and it was only when I got there they actually found it was the house where David Gallaher was born, where my grand father was born and where James and Maria had their shop, it was absolutely extra-ordinary. My head was spinning after that,” laughed Kay.
During her current trip she made a return to the house at the weekend and gained access to her ancestor’s old shop which she describes as “an amazing feeling”.
Indeed her latest book begins with the life of her great grand parents, James and Maria, who left Ramelton and travelled to the southern hemisphere to create a new life for their family.
Explaining her family tree she states: “David was the seventh child and my grandfather was the ninth. By the time James and Maria came out to New Zealand they had already lost three children and they left their eight week old baby, James Patrick, behind with the Corry family. I got this information from old letters held by the family in New Zealand.”
Speaking about her first interest in her heritage she explains: “It started along time before that (her 2003 visit). In 1953 as a teenager I went to work in Wellington. I had been brought up on a farm in the Waiketa and I went to stay with my mothers cousins. In Wellington she showed my the photograph of James and Maria Gallaher and gave me some copies. She said ‘It is a very sad story, it’s too complicated. No one can ever sort it out’. Well it has taken me a few years but I’ve sorted it out.”
“The reason it was difficult to sort out is that Maria died age 42 leaving ten surviving children, as she had four more when she came to new Zealand, but when they got there with the second plantation they were promised the earth but it wasn’t there when they got there. The land had to be broken in. There was no house for them and James was a haberdasher, he wasn’t a farmer and he was 35 years older than his wife.”
When Maria died she says authorities sought to put four of the children in an orphanage until the older siblings insisted they could look after them, which they did.
Also a large contingent of that generation of the Gallahers travelled to the gold fields of Australia, with the result there is more ancestors there than in New Zealand, Kay added.
Through a painstaking process of advertising in local news papers and using the specific spelling of Gallaher she called many names in the Australian phone book until she had established a new collection of relatives.
She says one of the areas they are struggling to get more information on the extended family of James and Maria is back in Ireland.
“Although we know James must have had sisters we don’t know anything about them. We know he had a brother Joseph, named after his father. But the Reverend Joseph Gallaher, when he was ordained, was referred to as the fifth son of Joseph of Ard na Ri. Now we only have three sons and if he was the fifth son, there is certainly a lot of Gallaher links to David Gallaher in Donegal that I haven’t found yet.”
Her fascinating story gives great insight into the early family history and of Dave Gallaher, who secured a place in sporting history when he became the captain of the first New Zealand rugby team to be termed the ‘All Blacks’.
74-year-old Kay says this is her second book on her family lineage having completed a previous one on her Scottish ancestry. She is still an avid rugby fan and she say she now believes her famous cousin will come to prominence again with the up-coming rugby world cup.