Topic: David Gallaher (1873-1917)

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In 1905/06 Dave Gallaher captained 'The Originals', the first New Zealand national rugby union team to be known as the 'All Blacks'. Sergeant David Gallaher died on 4 October 1917 from wounds he received at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I. Biography by Katikati Historian Ellen McCormack (2008).

David Gallaher (1873-1917)

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David (Dave) Galla[g]her, captain of the 1905 All Blacks, was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland on 30 October 1873. His parents were James Henry and Maria Hardy Galla[g]her (nee McCloskie) who married on 19 July 1866 at the Ramelton First Presbyterian Church. James was a shopkeeper and Maria a schoolteacher.

In 1878 James and Maria, along with their six children, sailed on the Lady Jocelyn to settle at Katikati as part of George Vesey Stewart's plan for an Ulster Plantation. They were part of the second party of settlers.

Lord George Hill sponsored the Gallahers immigration to Katikati so that they could start a new branch of the Donegal Woollen Mills. Unfortunately Lord Hill died shortly after the Gallahers arrived in Katikati and his heir decided not to continue with the venture.

James Gallaher initially received an allocation of 60 acres of land in the vicinity of what is now known as the Highfields subdivision but James was in his late 60’s and the acreage was too small to support a family of eight.

In 1879 the Katikati No. 2 School in Beach Road was built and so it was Maria who, being many years younger than James, used her talents and became the first teacher of the school. The Gallaher family moved into the schoolhouse in Beach Road. David was aged six years old when he was enrolled in the school.

In Katikati, Maria had four more children, including twins Charles and Henry. She continued teaching and was the breadwinner for the family as well as supporting many of the activities in the town. Unfortunately Maria died suddenly, aged 42, in 1887 (reg. 1887/3221). The family moved to Auckland in 1889.

Even though David’s name is not mentioned in any of the early football teams there is no doubt learnt to play football in Katikati. In the 1890s the family moved to Auckland where David continued playing rugby. In 1896 he was selected for the Auckland provincial team.

This year [2008] is the 125th anniversary of the formation of the Katikati Football Club as it was then called. Throughout the clubs history the Bay of Plenty Times has provided very long and descriptive reports of the matches with great detail to the actual play. Alexander Ralston was the Captain for the first ever football game held on 28 June 1880 in Hunter’s paddock. The rest of the team consisted of three Tanner’s, two Stewart’s, Butterworth, Ellis, Good, Gledstanes, Hoyle, Hunter and Johnston. The Tauranga team had arrived two members short so the Katikati team elected to play two members short to equal the numbers. By 1904 there were three rugby clubs in Katikati; one at Knight's Mill, another at Bond’s Mill, and the local club. It was resolved that the three clubs form a union which they named the Katikati Rugby Union. By 1905 the Uretara Domain was being established and it was reported to have 'the best football ground in the Province, as from the contour of the ground, its porous nature and natural drainage it never can be flooded or unfit for use and has two dressing rooms for the rival teams.'

David Gallaher worked as a foreman for the Auckland Farmers' Freezing Company. He embarked for the South African War (Boer War) (1899-1902) on 30 January 1901 (Service No. 3229). His farewell from the Ponsonby District Football Club was recorded in the Observer on 2 February 1901:

A very large crowd of the members and enthusiasts of the Ponsonby District Football Club assembled at the Ponsonby Club Hotel on Saturday night to say farewell to Corporal ‘Dave’ Gallaher, the well-known footballer, who left with the Sixth Contingent for South Africa this week. Mr S. D. Hanna was in the chair, and proposed the health of the guest in a very happy manner. Several other well-known members spoke as to ‘Dave’s’ good qualities, and the chairman then presented him with a well-filled purse of sovereigns. Corporal Gallaher replied very feelingly, and thanked all his old comrades for the kind way they had treated him. At the camp in the Domain ‘Dave’ was very popular amongst his comrades. (Observer, 2 February 1901, p. 11)

David served with the 6th and 10th New Zealand Contingents of the Mounted Rifles (Serial No. 3229) rising to the rank of Regimental Sergeant-Major. At the time he enlisted he lived at 5 Church Street, Ponsonby, Auckland. His physical description was:

  • Height: 5 foot 11 inches.
  • Weight: 11 stone 12 pounds.
  • Eyes: brown.
  • Hair: brown.

Upon his return to New Zealand, Dave Gallaher continued playing rugby. He was the Captain of the first All Black team which toured Britain and France in 1905/06.

On 10 October 1906 (reg. 1906/5736) David married Ellen Ivy May Francis in All Saints, Ponsonby, Auckland. Ellen was born in 1884 (reg. 1884/14611) to John Patterson Emilius and Nora Francis. She was the sister of fellow All Black Arthur (Bolla) H. Francis. The wedding was reported in the Observer on 20 October 1906:

The marriage of Miss Nellie A. V. Francis, third daughter of Mrs Francis, of Ponsonby, and the late Mr J. P. E. Francis, M.A., for many years one of the masters of the Auckland College and Grammar School, with Mr David Gallaher, the popular captain of the “All Blacks,” who triumphantly toured Great Britain last year, was solemnized on Wednesday, October the 10th, in All Saints Church. The marriage occasioned a great amount of interest, and the crowded congregation was an evidence of the esteem in which the young couple are held by their many friends. The chancel was prettily decorated and a floral wedding-bell suspended, under which the ceremony took place. The Ven. Archdeacon Calder officiated, and the service was choral, in compliment to the bride and bridegroom, who were members of the choir for many years.

The bride was given away by her eldest brother, Mr Jack Francis, and looked very winsome and charming in a graceful trained dress of white crepe dc chine over glace silk, tastefully trimmed with silk Maltese lace and chiffon. An embroidered tulle veil was becomingly arranged over a coronet of orange blossoms, and she carried an exquisite shower bouquet, the gift of a girl friend. The bridesmaids were Miss M. Gannon, Miss Weston, and a tiny niece of the bridegroom, daintily frocked in white, and carrying a basket of flowers. The elder bridesmaids wore very pretty dresses of flowered chiffon muslin, Miss Gannon's being pink and Miss Weston's pale blue, -smart hats trimmed to correspond, and they carried beautiful bouquets, the gifts of the bridegroom, who also presented them with gold Nellie Stewart bracelets. Mr D. W. Dunlop acted as best man, and Mr Arthur Francis as groomsman.

A reception was later held by Mrs Francis at her residence in Church Street, where a number of friends were very hospitably entertained, and the customary toasts duly proposed and responded to. The hostess wore a handsome black voile gown with creme vest, and black and heliotrope bonnet. Mr and Mrs Gallaher departed to spend their honeymoon at Rotorua, the bride going away in a smart green costume relieved with creme, and hat to correspond. The presents were very numerous and valuable, and included several cheques for substantial amounts. A party was given in the evening in the Ponsonby Hall, which was attended by numerous friends, who spent a most enjoyable time. (Observer, 20 October 1906, p. 8)

David and Ellen had one child together:

  1. Nora Tahatu Gallaher (1908-1998). Born in Auckland in 1908 (reg. 1908/18188). In 1937 she married Kenneth McGregor Simpson (1905-1990). Nora died in Auckland on 2 December 1998 and was buried in Purewa Cemetery.

Although he was well past 40 when war was declared in 1914, Gallaher volunteered in July 1916 after his younger brother, Douglas Wallace Gallaher was killed in action on 3 June 1916. In 16 February 1917 he sailed again for Europe aboard the Aparima and in June became a sergeant in the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force (Service No. 32513). His address on enlistment was 10 King Street, Ponsonby, Auckland.

He saw action at Ypres, and was was shot in the face during the attack on Gravenstafel Spur on the Flanders line on 3 October 1917, during the Passchendaele offensive.

Sergeant David Gallaher died of his wounds the following day at the No 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station in Flanders, Belgium. The Casualty Clearing Station was little more than a tunnel attached to one of the trenches. 

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.

David is buried at Nine Elms Cemetery, Poperinge, where his gravestone bears the silver fern. Five Gallaher brothers served during World War I (Charles, David, Douglas, Henry, William) and of those, three were killed in France (David, Douglas, Henry). David Gallaher's obituary appeared in the Auckland Weekly News on 18 October 1917:

Obituary: Advice was received in Auckland on Friday that Mr. 'Dave' Gallaher, the well-known and popular athlete, had died of wounds received in France. Mr. Gallaher was born in Belfast, about 46 years ago, and came to New Zealand, as a child, with the Vasey Stewart immigrants. For some time he lived with his parents at Tauranga, but later came to Auckland. He was employed by the local freezing works, where, prior to departing for the front, he was foreman of the department. From his boyhood he was recognised as a capable athlete, his prowess being exhibited chiefly in Rugby football. Mr. Gallaher was for many years sole selector for the Auckland Rugby Union, and was the captain of the All Blacks team which toured England in 1905-6. He saw service in the Boer War, and on the outbreak of the present war was eager to join the forces, but was for some time detained on account of family ties. When his brother was killed in action, he felt that it was his turn to go, consequently, he enlisted in the twenty-second reinforcements, and left New Zealand about 12 months ago. Mr. Gallaher is survived by his wife and child, who are at present in Sydney. (Auckland Weekly News, 18 October 1917, p. 20)

In 1922 the Gallaher Shield was created, and in 2000 the Dave Gallaher Trophy.

David's wife, Ellen Ivy May Gallaher, died in January 1969, aged 84 (reg. 1969/25166). She was cremated at Purewa Cemetery in Auckland.

by Ellen  McCormack (2008).


Note: In 2010 the Dave Gallaher Memorial Park in Ireland was named which is situated near to his birthplace, Ramelton. There is also a Dave Gallaher Society.



Archives New Zealand: Military Personnel File.

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record.

Bay of Plenty Times.

Births, Deaths & Marriages.

McLean, Denis. David Gallaher 1873-1917. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 1 September 2012.

Passchendaele Casualty form.


This article was archived at Perma CC on Augut 10, 2016 ( 

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David Gallaher (1873-1917)

Note:Service Number: 32513
First Names:David
Last Name:Gallaher
Date of Birth:30 October 1873
Place of Birth:Ramelton, County Donegal
Country of birth:Ireland
Date of death:4 October 1917
Place of death:Passchendaele, Belgium
Place of burial:Nine Elms Cemetery, Poperinge
Occupation:New Zealand All Black
Spouses name:Ellen Ivy May Francis
Spouses date of birth:1884
Spouses place of birth:New Zealand
Spouses date of death:January 1969
Spouses place of death:New Zealand
Spouses place of burial:Purewa Cemetery, Auckland
Date of marriage:10 October 1906
Place of marriage: All Saints, Ponsonby, Auckland
Fathers name:James Henry Gallaher
Fathers date of birth:1812
Fathers place of birth:Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland
Fathers date of death: 30 November 1894
Fathers place of death:Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand
Mothers name:Anna Maria Hardy McCloskie
Mothers date of birth:1844
Mothers place of birth:Belfast, Antrim, Ireland
Mothers date of death: 9 September 1887
Mothers place of death:Auckland, New Zealand
Name of the children:Nora Tahatu Gallaher
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)