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Gallagher -- Where did we originally come from ? 

Highlights from the Gallagher Discussion Forum

By Mark A. Gallagher on Tuesday, September 26, 2000 - 04:08 pm:

Originally, we were from Arien Tribes from Southern Germany called the Celts who had smaller tribes which included some called the Picts, Scots and we were called the Gales.

The Gales left out of Southern Germany and went west into Ireland and settled there. They had problems with the locals and Vikings (mainly from Denmark) and enlisted the help of their brother Celts, the Picts. The Gales told them that if they help them settle the place, they could stay with the Gales. So the Picts helped the Gales out.

However, when it came time to settle the Picts, the Gales had another idea. They said that they had a place called "Alba" across the water a ways and sent them there. The Picts named the place after an Irish Princess named "Scotia." It later became Scotland with the Picts mainly in the highlands and the Scotts in the lowlands.

The Gallaghers were mostly from tribes in the northwest of Ireland. The name may have come from two Irish words, gale and gall. The locals were called Gales. Foreigners were called Galls. Where the locals intermarried with the foreigners they were called the Gallgale or Gallgalers. Given a few hunderd years we get Gallagher.

This may have some truth to it but I am not sure. Anyway, my understanding is that most of the Gallaghers in Ireland can still be found in the North West of Ireland, mainly in Co. Donegal. (formerly called Tirconaill) My parents are from Donegal. (Dungloe and Downings) I have been there many times and it is my favorite county in Ireland. I highly recomend a visit to Donegal for all Gallaghers throughout the world.

Mark A. Gallagher, Esq.

By Hu Gallagher on Thursday, October 05, 2000 - 03:59 pm:

Here is a bit more information...The O'Gallaghers were a sept of the O' Donnells and were traditionally the Marshalls of their 'troops'. The Gaelic form of Gallagher is O'Gallochobar meaning roughly Foreign Troops.. probably because many of them found employment as mercenaries in various parts of the World.

Certainly they were allied to the Mc Donalds in Scotland and fought with them on the Stewart side during the 1715 and 1745 rebellions.. Sadly they were on the losing side!! there is quite a bit more info available but I do not have access to the relevant books at the moment and am writing from memory .. Good wishes for more info

From Hu Gallagher (Rev) Isle of Arran Scotland.

By ogollaher on Monday, October 23, 2000 - 04:14 pm:

Well, most of you have it all wrong ... {sheesh} :D. The name Gallagher in old Irish is Ghallchobhar and the Clann O'Gallchobhair is considered the most senior and loyal sept of the Cenel Chonaill (kindred of Conal), or King Conal Ghulban. He was a son of Niall Noigiallach (of the Nine Hostages) and his lands became known as the Tir Chonaill (Land of Conal) which are now roughly County Donegal and Innis Owen.

The surname means, literally, "foreign help" from the Irish words Gall (foreigner, stranger) and cabhair (help, aid, succor).

Though the name does not appear in the annals until about the mid 12th century, Fr. Walsh and others consider it to go back to about the time the Vikings began to raid the coasts of Ireland.

Fr. Walsh considers the name to be indicative of a Norseman who aligned with the northern Ui Niell to combat the Danish raids. The Norse were known as the fine gall ("fair foreigners") and the Danes the dub gall (dark or black foreigners).

The most likely senario is that a Norseman married one of the daughters of one of the early O'Donnell chiefs, and hence the name "Gallcobhar" or "foreign help."

While the earliest O'Gallchobhairs were military marshalls (cavalry) of O'Donnells forces in NW Ireland, they quickly distinguished themselves in the clergy, with at least 6 becoming Bishop of Raphoe alone.

The clan history pages are at:

There is a Gallagher Clan history list at called GALLAGHER-HISTORY you can subscribe to as well.


Michael Gollaher

By Cait NiGhallachoir on Wednesday, October 25, 2000 - 10:34 pm: Edit

Okay,another history lesson for ye.

Firstly i am a fluent irish speaker and teacher from Ireland,so you can trust me on this...

Gallagher is derived from the word(s)gall-cobhair cobhair is the Irish word for help,although now spelt comhair,but pronounced the same.

The gallcobhair (or the galloglaic in some regions)were scottish troops sent to ireland between 1200 and 1600 to aid the irish against their common enemy;the english. The name did not exist until this time.

Most of the gallcobhair married and settled in Ireland,thus the name came about from the gaelic naming system which still exists today that is:

NiGhallachoir,pronounced;nee yallacore,meaning the daughter of gallagher(which is what i go by personally)

The male is oGallachoir,meaning 'from' or 'out of'the gallagher.

when a woman marries a gallagher you become uiGallachoir,meaning 'onto' or 'wed to' gallagher.

The original gallcobhair came from many many different scottish clans,including macs,o's etc...

The reason for the high population of Gallaghers in Donegal is that,they(the first gallcobhairs) were part of a dowry of an ulster(donegal)princess!!and so the earliest gallcobhair settled there.

Again you may take my word on this. I have to teach it every year!!!!

slan agus beanacht libh,


By Seamus Gallagher on Friday, May 17, 2002 - 10:52 am: Edit

Dia dhibh go léir, - Gaelic for "god be with you all" or the old Irish "hello"

My name is Séamus Ó Gallc(h)ob(h)air [Seamus Gallagher] - I live in London now but was born in Ireland of parents from north Donegal. My father lived in the same farm as his family had for hundreds of years and we were regarded by many in the area as "the" O Gallchobhair - I never had the time to research that but would like to in the near future.

Growing up I spoke Gaelic [we just refer to gaelic as "Irish"] and English and never noticed the difference - truly bi-lingual, except my mother spoke very little so we always spoke English to her or when she was around. I had great difficulty with Grammar in school as I just knew instinctively what was correct and could never be bothered to learn formal grammar.

Also, I grew up in the south of the country and the teachers spoke two southern dialects and I spoke Donegal Irish - they could never understand me as I spoke very fast and with a much different pronunciation and punctuation. I am explaining this as to understand Gaelic names & pronunciation it is necessary to know a number of dialects and also "Old" Irish.

The aspiration on consonants are merely accents and nothing to do with spirituality of language or anything else. Originally in Gaelic the "c" & the "b" in Gallchobhair were aspirated [as the English have decided to call it] - it was only in the 50's & 60's that the h was substituted to make it easy to print the language on typewriters [fact !] [The other accent - síne fada or long accent - was generally written in manually.] In Gaelic it was termed "séibhú" or "buailte" - literally "beaten".

It is a accent that is applied after a vowel to some consonants. The sounds of the consonants vary depending on the individual usage so it can be confusing unless you do learn Gaelic. "Bh" can be a "V" or a "W" and there is some regional variation in the pronunciation also. "Ch" is a special sound to Gaelic and also has slight variations depending on usage and region. I will ask my sister to give me a more formal rule for the usage of accents in Gaelic and will post it in the future.

The name Gall[-a-]chobhair [the a was not used in Gaelic but implied] in the context of foreign helper translates properly as "the foreigner that helped". "Foreign Helper" would translate as "Cabhaireoir gallach".

There is another reasonable explanation for the name Gallchobhair and that is a derivation from Latin. The origin of the Celt or the Gael are parallel - not exactly the same but parallel. The first inhabitants of Europe after the deluge were the Celts [from Greek "Keltoi" - meaning other or different people] who were descended from Japhet as were the Gaels. The Celts were descended from Gomer and the Gaels from Magog and those who crossed from Northern Spain [Galicia] were of the houses of Heber, Ith, Ir & Heremon.

The Romans referred to the Celts as "Galli" - so it is the proposition that the Gallaghers were no foreign imports but Irish mercenary exports - masters of tactical fighting that the Britons and Picts hired to help them defeat the Romans. Claudian, speaking of the battles of the Roman general Stilico with the Britons and Picts, in the latter end of the fourth century, says - "Totam cum Scotus Irenem, Movit et infesto spumavit remige Tethys" - "When the Scot moved all Ireland against us, and the ocean foamed with his hostile oars." 

The Irish were called "scotus" by the Romans, much later the northern Irish chiefs invaded Scotland and routed the Picts. Note: the Gaelic "c" is pronounced harshly, almost but not quite like a "k" in English [not "selt" as in Glasgow Celtic Football Club. The Romans failed to make any attempts to conquer Ireland. "Leagued with their countrymen in Scotland, and with the Picts" writes de Vere, "the ancient Irish had repeatedly driven back the Romans behind their further wall, till they left the land defenceless".

Thus pagan Rome hated Ireland and its belongings and following in the footsteps of their masters, the Roman-conquered nations learned to frown not only on the language of Ireland but on Ireland's admirable Philosophy. Ireland was an Eastern nation in the west; her civilization was not military, it was patriarchal - whose type was the family and not the army; it was a civilization of Clans.

Seamus Gallagher

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