Obituary: Hugh Gallacher, footballer

Hugh Gallacher
Hugh Gallacher
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Born: 26 November, 1930, in Vale of Leven. Died: 14 June, 2013 in Clydebank, aged 82.

Hugh Gallacher, who was the leading goal scorer for Dumbarton Football Club during a period of league reconstruction in the 1950s when the club’s future was in jeopardy, has died at the age of 82.

He played a huge part in the revival of the club which had been relegated to “C” Division in 1954 and, after just one season, was elected to “B” Division where, for the first time in many years, they would consistently finish in the top half of the league.

This was thanks mainly to goals scored by Gallacher, who was a local boy, born and brought up in the Vale of Leven and educated in Dumbarton at St Patrick’s High School.

He went from school football to play in the junior ranks for Duntocher Hibs at Glenhead Park and went on to join Arbroath.

However, he was somewhat surprisingly given a free transfer from the Gayfield club, most probably because of his slight build of less than 11 stone and small stature of 5ft 7in.

He was immediately snapped up and brought to Boghead Park by Dumbarton manager Peter McGown, quickly endearing himself to the Sons’ faithful and finding himself in a battle with John Coyle of Dundee United for the Second Division’s top goal scorer title.

Sons, a once proud and highly successful Scottish club formed in 1872, were struggling at the time to pay mounting debts of £2,700.

But a share issue raised £7,000 and allowed them to carry on playing under the chairmanship of James T Fitzgerald, an executive of the giant Burroughs Machines Company, which had opened a factory at Strathleven Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Dumbarton.

The smooth talking American put the board room affairs of the club in order while out on the field of play, in less than eight seasons, Gallacher scored 205 goals in major competitions, making Dumbarton once again a footballing force to be reckoned with.

Hugh Gallacher’s goal scoring achievements were quite remarkable given that he only played a total of 220 games for the club.

The centre forward finished Scotland’s top scorer with 35 goals in the league in 1955. In total that year he scored 46 goals in three major competitions, which is a club record to this day.

Crowds in their thousands flocked to “Fatal Boghead” during that golden era when Gallacher and his team mates turned on the style.

In January, 1957, Celtic came to Boghead to mark the switch on of the floodlights, but Gallacher and his Sons’ colleagues were beaten 5-2 by the First Division club.

Gallacher led a Dumbarton forward line which included Leslie Brown, Tim Whalen, Bob Gibson and John Heaney. Eventually Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld, who had been loaned to Sons by Celtic, joined the squad.

The Scottish Cup was the highlight of that season when they knocked out two leading sides – Queen of the South and Motherwell – before eventually succumbing 
to Raith Rovers, whose line-up included the famous Scotland centre half Willie McNaught.

The match was played in front of a packed crowd of 18,000 fans, a record crowd for Boghead. The 
Fifers coasted to a 4-0 victory in the seventh round tie.

Gallacher suffered a broken ankle in the 1958/59 season, but his goal scoring exploits continued when he returned to fitness.

He scored a remarkable four goals against his old club, Arbroath, but ended up on the losing side when Dave Easson netted all five goals for the home team at Gayfield.

A month later, Gallacher again netted four goals in a 6-3 win over Hamilton Academicals at Boghead.

He was surprisingly sold to Clyde at the end of 1960 and played briefly for Queen of the South before returning to Boghead to play out his career, which ended with him receiving a well-merited benefit match against the Shawfield club.

Hugh Gallacher was a modest, self-effacing individual, a truly quiet man who avoided the limelight at all times. He lived and worked in the Dumbarton area all his life at various factories including Burroughs and Diamond Power.

His first wife, Eileen, died in 1973 and he later married Paddy, who predeceased him last year.

He spent his retirement holidaying from time to time in Donegal with Paddy, gardening and playing golf at Dumbarton Golf Club, where he was a keen member for many years. He did lots of work for charity and was an accomplished handyman who could turn his hand from plastering to decorating or whatever.

Hugh had been ill for some time after being diagnosed with leukaemia and died at the St Margaret of Scotland Hospice in Clydebank.

The respect and affection in which he was widely held in Dumbarton was reflected in the large attendance of friends, family, football officials and fans at his Requiem Mass which was concelebrated by Monsignor James Clancy, Father Eddie Kelly and Father Alfred McKenzie at St Michael’s RC Church and funeral thereafter at Dumbarton Cemetery.