19th October 2017

Press Release – Tuesday 2nd October 2017

Ramelton to Commemorate Dave Gallaher Centenary

Members of the public are invited to visit the Dave Gallaher Park in Ramelton for a commemoration on Saturday 21st October at 2pm, to mark 100 years since the first All Blacks captain was killed during World War I. Ramelton-born Gallaher perished in the Battle of Broodseinde on October 4, 1917 along with 491 other New Zealand soldiers who were trying to take a ridge called Gravenstafel Spur in Belgium.

Dave Gallaher Society President, Kevin Shields, outlined the detail of the event.

“Remembrance events to mark the 100th anniversary of Dave Gallaher’s death are taking place in New Zealand and in Belgium where Gallaher is buried, so it is fitting that Ramelton too should mark the occasion. We have partnered with Donegal County Council and several local councillors to provide finance for new artwork which will be unveiled at the commemoration. Big thanks go to Councillor John O’Donnell who brought a proposal to Council that endorsed support for the erection of new commemorative artwork at the Park. Designed by Ramelton teenager James Sweeney, it features Irish and New Zealand symbols entwined within a fern, the national emblem of New Zealand.”

“We are delighted that the High Commissioner for the UK and Ireland, Sir Jerry Mateparae will be travelling to attend the event. Also in attendance will be IRFU President, and ex-Ireland rugby international, Phil Orr. I’m equally delighted that Gallaher descendant Jennifer Brooker is making the 12,000 mile journey to be with us. The event will feature local music, poetry readings and reflections on Gallaher. It’s important that local men who fought and died in WW1 are also acknowledged, and that will happen with a one minute silence and the playing of The Last Post. After the new artwork in revealed, I’m looking forward to showing the guests around our wonderful town before hosting a reception in the Town Hall.”

“I’d like to thank the many volunteers who are giving freely of their time to ensure that the Dave Gallaher 100th commemoration is a success, but in particular I’d like to thank Seamus Gunn of McCloughan Gunn & Co – Solicitors – Letterkenny and Ramelton, for his generous support for the event.”

Gallaher was born David Gallagher in 1873 at Ramelton’s Market Cross; the house is now owned by Drew and Christine Corry and operated as a B&B. Emigrating with his family whilst still a boy, Gallagher sailed to New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty to a small settlement called Katikati. At this time the family name dropped the middle ‘g’ to become Gallaher. The young Dave had problems with stunted muscles in his left leg that went untreated and led to curvature of his spine, but at the age of 8 he had corrective surgery and subsequently began to show some sporting abilities, firstly in cricket.

After the death of his mother Dave moved to Auckland and rose to be a foreman in a Meat Freezing Company. The constant handling of heavy animal carcasses undoubtedly helped to develop his upper body strength. It was there in Auckland that his rugby career began to develop leading to the much celebrated 1905 All Blacks tour that he captained. Acknowledged as a master rugby strategist and tactician, Gallaher’s leadership qualities are often cited as his greatest trait. He co-authored the definitive rugby coaching manual that is still referenced today. Regarded as the founding father of All Blacks rugby, Gallaher set the high standards for discipline and training that all other successors have followed, making the All Blacks the most success sporting team that the world has ever seen. As a measure of Gallaher’s significance, in 2015 a jersey worn by him during the 1905 tour was auctioned in Cardiff for £180,000, smashing the record for a sporting jersey – from any sporting discipline!

Gallaher, already revered as a sporting icon in his adopted country, was catapulted for eternity into the very fabric of the New Zealand psyche when he lost his life in the First World War. Even the manner in which his sacrifice was made is the mark of a virtuous man who believed in honour, loyalty and duty; a man who knew no fear. Gallaher, having served in South Africa with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles during the Anglo-Boer War in 1901, was exempted from conscription to the war in Europe. However, feeling frustrated at home as his two younger brothers Harry and Douglas were conscripted into the army, the now 43 year old Gallaher falsified his age downwards by 3 years so that he could enlist and before long Sergeant Gallaher was posted to Europe where he first saw action at the Battle of Messines on the western front in Belgium with the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment. None of the Gallaher brothers survived the war.

The Passchendaele Offensive (known as the Third Battle of Ypres) took place from July 31 until November 10, 1917. It involved a series of assaults, including the Battle of Broodseinde, against German forces holding the plateau overlooking the city of Ypres, Belgium. On October 4, 1917, the New Zealand Division was tasked with seizing part of the Broodseinde Ridge called Gravenstafel Spur. They were successful in achieving their objectives but success came at a terrible price with the loss of 492 lives. Among the casualties was the Ramelton native and legendary All Black captain, Dave Gallaher. He was one of 13 All Blacks who died during World War I and one of the estimated 18 million who died in the four year war – including 49,000 Irish men and women.

Gallaher is buried at Nine Elms Cemetery in Poperinge, Belgium; the headstone bears the silver fern and his age as 41. He was actually nearly 44. Today his name lives on in New Zealand where the premier tier club rugby competition is contested for the Gallaher Shield. Every time France and New Zealand contest rugby internationals they play for the Dave Gallaher Trophy. In Ramelton, Gallaher’s name lives on too, thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Dave Gallaher Society who have been promoting local and national awareness of Gallaher since 2003.

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