Gallagher – ‘lover of foreigners’

History of the Irish name Gallagher. Image copyright Ireland Calling
History of the Irish name Gallagher. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Gallagher is the 14th most common surname in Ireland and the most common in Co Donegal. It means ‘lover of foreigners’. There are several versions of the name such as Gallacher, Gallaher, Callacher, Galagher and many more besides.

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Gallagher derives from the medieval name O’ Gallchobhair which means ‘male descendent of Gallchobhair’. The feminine equivalent of the surname was ‘Ni Gallchobhair’.

The Faith is my Glory

History of the Irish name Gallagher. Image copyright Ireland CallingThe name Gallchobhair is a mixture of two Gaelic words; Gall, which means foreign, and cabhair, which means ‘help’.

The motto on the Gallagher coat of arms states: ‘Mea Gloria Fides’, which is latin for ‘The Faith is my Glory’.

It is likely that the first Gallaghers in Ireland would have been foreign settlers who leant their support to the local clans.

One line of the Gallagher family was descended from Connall Gulban who himself was descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages. This makes the Gallaghers distant relatives of Niall’s descendants, the O’Neills.

Gulban’s descendants controlled an area of Donegal known as Tír Chonaill, which translated as ‘Connall’s land’.

The Gallaghers traditionally come from Ulster and North Connacht, particularly Co Donegal. This is still where a large number of Gallaghers live.

Video of the story of the Gallagher name

Reverend Redmond O’Gallagher

Reverend Redmond O’Gallagher lived from 1521-1601. He became Bishop of Derry and was executed when he was found helping survivors of the Spanish Armada.

Captain Gallagher was a famous Irish highwayman in the 1700s. He and his band robbed the houses and horse drawn coaches of wealthy landowners. When they robbed the house of a landlord in Killasser, they not only took his valuables but also forced him to eat a number of eviction notices that he had drawn up.

Noel Gallagher. Photo copyright Alterna2 CC2

Noel Gallagher

He was later betrayed and it took an army of nearly 200 men surrounding the house he was staying to make him surrender. He was put on trial and hanged for his crimes.

Famous Gallaghers from around the world

The Gallaghers have a fine musical tradition. Rory Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon in Co Donegal and was a world renowned blues rock guitarist.

Brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher formed the band Oasis in Manchester, UK in the 1990s. They became one of the biggest bands in the world throughout the next two decades and wrote some of the most memorable songs of their era.

Oasis split in 2009 but both brothers continue to make music and have produced three top selling albums between them since going their separate ways.

American slapstick comedian known simply as Gallagher, was born in North Carolina. He had a successful career that spanned four decades before he tried his hand at politics. He ran for Governor of California in 2003 but lost out to Arnold Schwarzenegger.


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