Tommy Gallacher

Tommy Gallacher, footballer and journalist

Born: 13 July, 1922, in Renfrew Died: 24 November, 2001, in Dundee, aged 79

IT WAS hardly surprising that Tommy Gallacher grew up to be a fine football player, for his father was none other than the great Patsy Gallacher of Celtic and Ireland, who was universally agreed to have been the best of his time. It was while I was researching for my biography of Patsy, The Mighty Atom", that I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy. Although he was by this time in indifferent health, he was charming and helpful, clearly as proud of his late father as he was reluctant to speak of his own illustrious football career.

Tommy was only seven years old when his mother died. He was thus brought up by his father, by this stage playing for Falkirk at the end of his career. At one point the thought of the priesthood was a possibility for Tommy, but it was to professional football that he turned in 1947 when he joined Dundee. He had played for Queen’s Park during the war and immediately after, but it was his signing for Dundee that propelled the hitherto moribund Dens Park team into a new era of success. Along with Doug Cowie and Alf Boyd, Tommy formed a mighty half-back line which was the nucleus of sustained success for the Dens Park team.

Yet there was only one medal for Tommy and that was the Scottish League Cup of season 1951-52, when Dundee beat Rangers 3-2 in a breathtaking final. On several occasions the Dens Parkers came close to further honours. They lost the League on the last day of the 1949 season and were defeated in the final of the 1952 Scottish Cup by Motherwell.

Tommy played for Dundee in the game in April 1948 which might have relegated Celtic. Not only was his father watching in the stand, but his brother, Willie, was actually playing for Celtic that day. Perhaps it was just as well for relationships within the Gallacher family that Celtic scraped through 3-2.

Tommy was unlucky not to have been capped for Scotland. One solitary appearance for the Scottish League against the English League at Newcastle in 1949 was his only international honour. The problem was that great Scottish right-halves abounded in these days - the likes of Bobby Evans of Celtic, Ian McColl of Rangers, Tommy Docherty of Preston North End and Jimmy Scoular of Newcastle United. Yet many felt (and not only in Dundee) that Tommy was worth a "cap".

When he retired as a player in 1956, he started working as a journalist for the Dundee Courier, and in this capacity he starred almost as much as he had done as a player. Not only did he follow both the Dundee teams through their ventures in Europe and at home, but he was also much respected in the peripheral areas of St Johnstone, Raith Rovers and Forfar for the encouragement he gave to the smaller teams. He retired from this job in 1985.

He married Cathy in 1952 and they had five children - Brian, Mark, Kevin, Sheila and Patricia. A more famous Kevin Gallacher is Tommy’s nephew, and when Kevin started his footballing career with Dundee United, he owed much to the encouragement of his uncle and aunt. Cathy, in spite of her father-in-law’s connections with Celtic and her husband’s with Dundee, remains a Dundee United supporter. She is kind and hospitable, and was much devoted to the lovely man who was her husband.

Although football (both playing and reporting) can be a tough, unpleasant business, Tommy made many friends. He will be much missed.