Gallagher, Hugh Patrick (1815–82), educator and priest in the USA, was born 26 March 1815 at Killygordon, Co. Donegal, eldest of at least two sons of a Roman Catholic farmer; nothing else is known of his family. Educated locally, he studied theology and philosophy and in 1837 emigrated to the USA. Joining the seminary of St Charles Borromeo at Overbrook, Pennsylvania, he was ordained priest (27 September 1840) by Bishop Francis P. Kenrick (qv). Briefly professor of classics at the seminary, he was sent to the parish of Pottsville, in Pittsburgh, and established a temperance society to combat the rampant problem of alcohol abuse; it soon had 5,000 members. In 1843 he invited the Sisters of Mercy to set up schools in the diocese, and a year later he was elected president of the theological seminary; he also established a newspaper, the Pittsburgh Catholic (1844). Gallagher assisted in the administration of St Peter's church in Butler, Pennsylvania, and was the driving force behind the construction of a church in Loretto, Pennsylvania; this was completed by his brother, Fr Joseph A. Gallagher. After impressing as the official theologian at the first plenary council of Baltimore, he was invited to join Bishop Alemany in California and accepted the challenge.
Known affectionately as ‘Father Hugh’, he played a major role in the development of the catholic church on the frontier. He was responsible for the construction of at least nine churches and chapels, as well as a cathedral, St Mary's, in San Francisco. To propagate the faith, he established the Catholic Standard in 1853, the pioneer Roman Catholic newspaper on the Pacific coast. Also involved in educational concerns, he set up schools, orphanages, and several hospitals. Visiting Ireland in 1854, he persuaded a number of nuns and priests to accompany him back to America. It is an indication of just how highly he was regarded that in 1855 when the gold miners were left without a bank they entrusted their savings, totalling over a million dollars, to Gallagher. In 1861 he established St Joseph's parish, San Francisco, and also gave it its own church and school system. In San Francisco he also helped found St Mary's hospital and a Magdalen home for prostitutes (1865), which he entrusted to the Sisters of Mercy. His health gave way in the 1870s and he embarked on various pilgrimages to Europe, raising large amounts of money for his work in America. He visited Ireland one final time around 1881 before returning to California. He died of pneumonia at St Mary's Hospital, San Francisco, on 10 March 1882.