The Early Years: “Charlie Gallagher a dark-haired handsome youngster with golden feet”

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Celtic great, Charlie Gallagher, passes away

Everyone at Celtic Football Club is extremely sad to hear of the death of Charlie Gallagher, who has passed away at the age of 80, and the thoughts and prayers of the whole Celtic Family are with Charlie’s wife, Mary, his children and grandchildren, and all his family and friends.

Charlie’s contribution to his beloved Celtic over 12 years was immense, and having joined the club in 1958, he would become an integral part of the squad which achieved great things both in Scotland and in Europe under the stewardship of Jock Stein.

He made his debut on August 22, 1958 in a League Cup tie against Raith Rovers, a match that Celtic won 1-0, and it would be the first of 171 appearances he would make for the Hoops, scoring 32 goals in the process before he left in 1970.

Celtic FC Statement

David Potter wrote Charlie Gallagher’s biography Charlie Gallagher? What a Player! which I was privileged to publish. The book was a great seller and if you have a copy treasure it. I got to know Charlie and his lovely wife Mary and both were great company, humble and delighted with the success of the book, which afforded them a wee opportunity to take a well deserved holiday to Italy. I visited Charlie shortly after the news of his illness was diagnosed and while he knew that time was going to be short he was still full of chat about what was going on at Celtic, eager to know if there was any news!

The night Leicester City won the Premier League he was at my home doing a Q&A on a Celtic site and enjoyed the   banter with the supporters immensely. Charlie joined Tommy Gemmell and John Hughes as guests of honour at our Celtic Supporters club – the Tommy Gemmell CSC Dunblane – anniversary dinner shortly before Brendan Rodgers was named as the Celtic manager and just after that semi-final defeat in the Scottish Cup. Charlie that night said that he was a fan of the forward pass, something that he reckoned was missing from the side that season as Ronny’s side lost its way somewhat amid dressing room disharmony.

He’d often be seen outside Celtic Park with his pal John Fallon holding court before the game. One day a wee boy asked if he was famous, Charlie replied “I used to be, son'”  A Celtic legend is how he’ll be remembered and when asked about Charlie Gallagher those who saw him will say: “Charlie Gallagher? What a Player!”

Here is David Potter’s account of Charlie’s early years, with more to follow over the next few days..

Charlie Gallagher? What a Player! – The Beginning

Charles Gallagher was born on 3 November 1940 in the Gorbals in Glasgow, the middle of three children born to Dan and Annie (nee Duffy) Gallagher both of whom had been born in Donegal. The family hailed from near Megaraclogher and Gweedore area of Donegal near Mount Errigal, and Charlie was frequently taken there for his summer holidays. His brother was called Dannie and his sister Eileen. There would be no lack of Gallaghers in that part of Donegal. Everyone seemed to bear that name!

The spelling is Gallagher, not Gallacher which is considered the Scottish spelling. Gallacher was the name of the great Wembley Wizard and ultimately very tragic figure Hughie Gallacher of Airdrie and Newcastle United. Patsy Gallacher of Celtic, on the other hand, really should have his name spelt Gallagher. He was born Gallagher in Donegal in 1891, but when the family moved to Clydebank a few years later, the name was changed, almost by accident, to Gallacher. The story goes that when they arrived and a nameplate had to be put on the door, it was Gallacher. Either Patsy’s parents (they were illiterate) did not notice the mistake made by the Scottish workmen, or they chose deliberately to become Scottish by calling themselves Gallacher.Charlie however is undeniably Gallagher.

The Second World War had been going on for 14 months when Charlie was born. Great Britain had just been saved, temporarily at least, from invasion by the RAF in the skies over Kent in what history has named the Battle of Britain, but the blitz was in full swing in London with the Londoners subjected to nightly bombing raids in an attempt to force the country into submission. It was widely believed that it would only be a matter of time before similar treatment was meted out to Glasgow, although Glasgow was just a little out of range for any sustained assault. This did not, however, save Clydebank in 1941.Charlie’s father Dan was a general labourer, what is called with a touch of condescension perhaps a “navvy”. He worked all over Scotland working on roads in the Highlands, for example, and in the chaotic circumstances of World War II it was never easy to predict where he would be or what he would be doing at any given time.

Charlie’s mother Annie was, like many women of the time, a housewife, feeling that when her children were young, she had enough on her plate to keep them well clad and well fed. She did on occasion do cleaning jobs on a part-time basis, and for a spell was a cleaner in West Nile Street in the offices of Fred Donovan, Secretary of the Scottish Football League. The young Charlie would sometimes go with her and read his books!

The Gorbals is in central Glasgow to the south of the River Clyde. In recent decades, there has been much redevelopment of the area, although some would argue that still more redevelopment is required. It would be fair to say that when Charlie was born there and for a long time after, the Gorbals had a bad reputation, being looked upon in polite genteel society as almost a byword for crime. The 1930s until the early 1950s was the heyday (if that is an appropriate term) for the razor gangs which thrived in the Gorbals and indeed in other parts of Glasgow as well, until the stern policing of Percy Sillitoe, aided by the draconian Scottish justice system, managed to get on top of that particular crime, if not wipe it out altogether.It was in the 1950s and 1960s no uncommon experience to find oneself beside a man at Parkhead or Hampden with a huge scar running down his face.

Some of these were war wounds honourably sustained at Anzio or El Alamein, or even at the Somme or Loos if the man were a little older, but most were the victims of the razor gang culture so prevalent in the Gorbals and other areas of Glasgow.The Gorbals teemed with humanity. It was described as one gigantic slum, and that description is often acknowledged as being none too wide of the mark. Large families would live in one or two rooms of a flat or sometimes even a “single end” which was only one room!

There were no indoor toilets, just outside ones shared by many families, and not even running water in most flats. In these scarcely believable living conditions, the wonder was that people actually put up with it without any great political movements demanding extreme measures like revolutions as for example happened in Russia in 1917. It is no surprise that every social evil that can be imagined could be found in the Gorbals.

Filth, illness, childhood mortality, drunkenness and crime all thrived. In vain did the Churches and other moral guardians thunder against “the demon drink”. Alcohol, readily available, for there were very few streets which did not have at least one public house, was there for those who wished to forget the pointlessness of their existence or the sheer squalor which surrounded them.The phrase “The Boy from the Gorbals” was frequently used of Benny Lynch, the boxer who was born in the Gorbals in 1913 and became World Flyweight Champion in 1936 before lapsing into alcoholism and drinking himself to death in 1946.

He had been a strong Celtic supporter and had always been welcomed at Parkhead by Willie Maley, the Celtic Manager. But there was also a play called “The Boy From The Gorbals” screened by STV in August 1959 about a well-meaning but naïve middle class family who took a boy from the Gorbals with them on holiday. The boy stole from them, got drunk, seduced the daughter and fought with the son and the play was about how the family coped with this intruder into their cosy, sheltered lives. It stigmatised the Gorbals even more than previously, and did the image of the place no good. And yet, that is not the whole story either.

The stereotypes in drama and literature, particularly the classic novel No Mean City by H Kingsley Long and Alexander McArthur, did exist but were not universally true. Many respectable families grew up in the Gorbals and survived. It was a major benefit if the man of the household did not drink. For one thing, there was more money and for another, there was a great deal less of the violent behaviour towards the women and children. Many organisations made a determined effort to help – this was, after all, one of the raisons d’etre of Celtic football club in its early days – and religion too flourished, giving the lie to the commonly held belief that Churches, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, were the province of the well-to-do or the middle class.

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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