The Gallagher or O’Gallagher Family

Gallagher or O’Gallagher family crest

(Crest No. 59. Plate 51.)

THE Gallagher family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Conal Gulban, ancestor of the Northern Hy Nials, and son of Nial Noy Giollach, or Nial of the Nine Hostages.

The name Gallagher, Irish O’Gallchobhair, signifies “Ambition of Valor,” and was derived from one of the warriors of the family of that name, A. D. 950. The head of the sept was styled Chief of the Fews.

The possessions of the Gallaghers were located in the present County of Fermanagh and in the baronies of Raphoe and Tir Hugh, in the County of Donegal. They had a castle at Ballyshannon, and also possessed the Castle of Lifford. They were commanders of O’Donnell’s Cavalry, and, says Dr. O’Donovan, they were the senior and most royal family of all the Kinel-Connell.

After the overthrow of the O’Donnells the O’Gallaghers lost their possessions, and suffered severely during the protracted wars and confiscations of Ulster. About 1585 Tirconnell was formed into a county by the Lord Deputy, Perrot, and the lands of the original owners were parceled out during the reign of King James the First among a horde of greedy English and Scotch adventurers.

Among the victims of the atrocious religious persecution of the sixteenth century was the saintly Redmond O’Gallagher, Bishop of Derry. Having been expelled from his see, this zealous and fearless prelate wandered in secret through the mountains ministering to the needs of his persecuted people until he was finally betrayed and seized by a band of soldiers, who tortured him to death.

The O’Gallaghers have contributed many learned men to Irish history, and several of the name have acquired distinction abroad. In the hall of the Royal Dublin Society is a magnificent group in marble—Adam and Eve lamenting over the body of Abel, by the sculptor Gallagher, one of the students of that famous institution.

In the United States Lieutenant Gallagher ranks honorably among the naval officers of the War of 1812-15, having received the especial praise and commendation of Decatur, and among our churchmen the learned and eloquent Dr. Gallagher of Charleston is distinguished as the precursor of Dr. England and the founder of the Church in that diocese.

W. D. Gallagher of Cincinnati, a journalist and writer of high merit, and the author of many exquisite poems, was also a scion of this old Tirconnell family. The name is still numerous in Ireland and America. Among the latter may be mentioned Mr. Felix Gallagher of Brooklyn, N. Y., Mr. M. D. Gallagher of New York City, and Mr. Thomas Gallacher of Newark, N. J., a prominent member of the Catholic Benevolent Legion.