Gallacher (Gallagher), Patrick (‘Patsy’) (1891–1953), footballer, was born 16 March 1891 at Milford workhouse, Co. Donegal, one of four boys and three girls of William Gallagher, a post car driver from Ramelton, and his wife Margaret (née Gallagher). When Patsy was three years old, the family emigrated to Clydebank, Scotland, where William Gallagher became a shipyard foreman and adopted the Scottish spelling of his surname – Gallacher. After attending the school of Our Holy Redeemer in Clydebank, Patsy was apprenticed as a shipwright at John S. Brown, Clydebank, and worked there during the first world war. In 1915 he married Mary Josephine Donegan, a housekeeper, with whom he had five sons and a daughter.
Gallacher first played football for juvenile teams, Bellvue, Renfrew St James and Clydebank Juniors, where his talent was noticed by Glasgow Celtic football club, for whom he signed in 1911. Although he was very small for a soccer player, weighing less than 8 stone and standing only 5 feet 7 inches tall, he compensated for his lack of size with great footballing intelligence, superb technical ability, courage, speed, and phenomenal stamina. Indeed so energetic and competitive were his displays that he earned the nickname ‘the Mighty Atom’. He spent fifteen years with Celtic, where he played at inside right forward or midfield, and is remembered as one of the finest players ever to play for the club. Although he was mainly a creator of goal opportunities for others, he had himself an impressive record for an inside forward, scoring 184 times for Celtic in 436 matches, and 19 times for Falkirk in 129 league matches. While playing for Celtic he won six league medals (1914–17, 1919, and 1922) and four Scottish cup medals (1914, 1923, 1925, and 1927).
The 1925 Scottish cup campaign and eventual victory over Dundee in the final immortalised Gallacher. A very disappointing season in the league was redeemed when Celtic beat Rangers, the runaway league leaders, by a resounding 5–0 in the cup semi-final; Gallacher was responsible for a change in Celtic's tactics in the run up to the game, dictating that they play tight at the back and employ his skill in long passing to attack Rangers on the break. However, he is best remembered for scoring an astonishing equalising goal against Dundee in the final. Before the match the Dundee Advertiser had pinpointed Gallacher as the main threat to Dundee's chances: ‘the great Patsy is a marvellous player, and his dribbling and generalship have won many games for his club’ (Campbell and Woods, 85). With only fifteen minutes of the match remaining, Celtic, applying constant pressure on the Dundee goal in an increasingly desperate search for an equaliser, won a free kick just outside the box; the ball was lofted into the packed penalty area, where it fell kindly to Gallacher; in an amazing dribble, he beat four players before he was tackled, and then, according to most commentators, he somersaulted out of the mass of players into the net with the ball stuck between his legs. Jimmy McGrory then scored the winner for Celtic with only three minutes left. The match was remembered as the ‘Gallacher final’ and made him a legend in Celtic lore. During his time with the club he earned eleven caps for Northern Ireland (1920–27), against England, Scotland, and Wales.
Conscious of his own worth, Gallacher was a shrewd negotiator who believed his pay and conditions should be commensurate with his ability. He earned considerably more than fellow Celtic players who were subject to the maximum wage, and was allowed time off from training to pursue business interests. During the first world war he was fined by a sheriff's court for taking unauthorised leave from the shipyard to play football, contrary to wartime regulations. After the war, he insisted on quitting the shipyard to become a publican, an occupation normally prohibited by Celtic to their players. It was said that during a game for Ireland against England in Belfast in 1920, Gallacher refused to take the pitch until his personal terms were met. When officials of the Irish Football Association threatened to drop him, he challenged them to tell 50,000 expectant spectators that their hero would not be playing.
In 1926, in the twilight of his career, Gallacher transferred to Falkirk, with whom he played until 1932. It was while he was a member of Falkirk that he earned his only Irish Free State cap, when on 13 December 1931 he played in a 5–0 home defeat to Spain. Unfortunately by this time he no longer had the pace or stamina for international football, and was chosen primarily as a crowd puller. After he retired from the game Gallacher concentrated on running a wine and spirit shop and the International Bar in Clydebank, and brought up his family (his wife having died in 1929). He died from cancer on 17 June 1953 in Glasgow and was buried at Arkleston cemetery, Paisley. He left an estate of £17,802. Two of his sons played football professionally, Willie for Celtic and Tommy for Dundee, and his grandson Kevin Gallacher played 53 times for Scotland (1988–2001).