Celtic legend’s family revisit where it all started

Paddy Walsh

Reporter:

Paddy Walsh

A host of memorabilia and memories accompanied the members of the Gallacher family who travelled to Donegal this week to mark the lifetime and career of one of Scottish football’s greatest ever players.

A host of memorabilia and memories accompanied the members of the Gallacher family who travelled to Donegal this week to mark the lifetime and career of one of Scottish football’s greatest ever players.

For Bernard Gallacher Senior, approaching his 85th year, there is, where the competitive game is concerned, only one lasting image of his famous father’s time on the pitch and it came when he was wearing the colours of Falkirk and not with the club where the Donegal born Patsy Gallacher truly made his mark, Glasgow Celtic.

“I was only a wee tot at the time and all I can remember is a player kicking my da and I started crying,” Bernard relates.

Born in a workhouse in Milford - Ramelton, of course, lays serious claim to him - Patsy made his debut for Celtic against St. Mirren in November 1911, a year before the sinking of the Titanic. He went on to claim seven Scottish League Championship medals with the Glasgow giants and a quartet of Scottish Cup medals.

And some of those medals and a selection of photographs were in the luggage of his son, grandson and great-grandson when they paid a flying visit to the North-West this week. Grandson, Bernard jnr. in addition brought along an international jersey worn by the player - dubbed ‘The Mighty Atom’ - in his international appearances for Ireland.

An original letter from the Irish Football Association - Gallacher turned out on twelve occasions for the latter and once under the umbrella of the F.A.I. - announcing his selection for one of these internationals also holds pride of place in the family haul.

Sent by I.F.A. Secretary, Chas. Watson and dated April 4th, 1923, it states:

“Dear Sir,

“I have pleasure in informing you that you have been selected to play as inside right in the international match Ireland v. Wales, to be played at Wrexham on Saturday 14th April, You will please arrange to report at the Wynstay Hotel, Wrexham, on Friday 13th April, at which Hotel we will arrive at 8 o’clock on that morning, travelling from Birhenhead on the train leaving that Station at 8 o’clock.

“You will require to bring with you your own boots and stockings, this Association will provide jersey and pants.

“As time is very limited I must ask you to let me have a reply by return as to whether you will be able to accept the honour,” the letter ended.

Changes times indeed where internationals today are cotton woolled when they turn out for their countries. Gallacher made his international debut before 50,000 fans at Windsor Park, Belfast, when England were their opponents.

The medal collection and other memorabilia was unveiled in Letterkenny’s Station House Hotel on Tuesday where proprietor, Brian Gallagher, took a particular interest.

In club terms, the Ramelton man was the sixth highest goalscorer in the Scottish Football League - one of his most spectacular strikes coming in the Cup Final when he somersaulted over the line with the ball between his feet.

Bernard Snr. recalls working in the International Bar in Clydebank which his father ran and the friendships forged with the blue half of Glasgow. “I was in the pub when Alan Morton came in to have a chat with my da.” The Rangers star consistently described Patsy Gallacher as one of the greatest footballers he had ever seen in action.

It was Bernard’s third visit to Donegal - he and other members of the family were present when a special plaque was unveiled in Ramelton honouring the legendary local son of the soil back in 2007.

Bernard Jnr. is also no stranger to Donegal and revealed that they were hoping to mount an exhibition in Ramelton detailing his grandfather’s outstanding career.

“I have to say there is great enthusiasm among the likes of Danny Cullen and Johnny McCollum and it’d be a nice thing to do,” said Bernard whose younger brother, Kevin, is a former Scottish international who also enjoyed a fruitful career with Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Coventry City and Dundee United.

Patsy Gallacher’s great-grandson, James, a fanatical Celtic fan, was making his first trip to Donegal and was duly impressed with the high regard the former is held in. “I’m loving it here and it’s great to see the interest in my great-grandfather.”

Also on the trip was Bernard Jnr.’s wife, Florence, who admitted to a necessary kindling of some interest in football through her associations with the family!

For Bernard Snr., who himself ran a bar near Parkhead for twenty years, there’s a glowing recollection of travelling to Portugal to watch the Lisbon Lions, aka Celtic, claim the European Cup in 1967 with a 2-1 win over Inter Milan.

Patsy Gallacher passed away at the age of 63 in 1953 - but there’s no doubt he was a lion from a different era and one who deserves to be immortalised in any exhibitions and musuems devoted to true sporting legends.