Gallagher: What’s in a name?

Gallagher, a name steeped in musical tradition

Gallagher ranks in top twenty surnames in Ireland, and as such, there are some thirty plus variations of surname. The name is of ancient Gaelic origin, and is derived from word ‘gallchobhar’, meaning ‘foreign help’, and name is first found in County Donegal where family held a seat since ancient times. A senior family of Cenél Conaill (kindred of Conaill), this sept’s territory reached across county of Donegal, although clan is thought to hail originally from Tirhugh near Ballyshannon.

The Gallagher ancestry shows them to be direct descendants of 5th century High King of Ireland Niall Noígíallach, or Niall of Nine Hostages, who is reputed to have brought Saint Patrick to Ireland as a slave. The head of family was chieftain Aodh, and he and chieftains who followed are thought to have ruled in relative peace until Vikings arrived in Donegal Bay during 9th century; clan earned Gallchobhar nickname since chieftain at that time, whose name was not recorded, would have been obliged to provide accommodation to foreign invader.

The family coat of arms depicts a black lion on a silver shield, stepping on a green snake and surrounded by eight green trefoils. The latin motto of clan is Mea gloria Fides, translated to mean ‘faith is my glory’. Many Gallaghers were also among first Irish settlers in America, with records of Charles, David, Francis, James, John, Michael and Thomas Gallagher all arriving in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1865, and there are over 33,000 Gallaghers on passenger lists.

Some noted Gallaghers include most Reverend Redmond Gallagher (1521-1601) a Bishop of Derry who was martyred for aid he rendered to survivors of Spanish Armada; Joseph Gallagher, a British chess international grandmaster and British Champion of 2002, and Canadian geologist John Patrick Gallagher, who founded Dome Petroleum. The name has more of a rock and roll heritage, though, in recent times. Brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher are notorious bad boy rockers who make up phenomenally successful 90s band Oasis, while Rory Gallagher was a legendary Irish blues and rock guitarist.

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  1. My mother was born in Donegal, Ireland and her maiden name was Gallagher. I know there was 7 children. The oldest brother came to United States and was heard from again. I think he settled in Chicago area. It would be nice to be able to get in touch with other members of family. His name was Barney. The rest of family’s names are Catherine or (Cassie ), Charles, Mary (my mother), Margeret, Michael, & Johnny. Any information I could receive would be nice.

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