Gallagher, James (Ó Gallchobhair, Séamus) (c.1684–1751), catholic bishop and author of published sermons in Irish, was born in the diocese of Kilmore; nothing is known of his parents. He was most likely ordained in Ireland around 1709 before being sent to the Continent to study. He received his MA in Paris (2 August 1715), and then went to Rome, perhaps taking his doctorate there.
On his return to Ireland he became a vicar-general in the diocese of Raphoe, Co. Donegal. He was appointed bishop of Raphoe on 10/21 July 1725 and was consecrated in Drogheda on 14 November that year. He was later briefly given charge of the diocese of Ardagh when the bishop there, Thomas Flynn (d. 1730), was interdicted for misbehaviour in 1729.
On his appointment to Raphoe, Gallagher became the first bishop to reside in the diocese since 1661. His situation in Raphoe was precarious: in addition to being afforded only very modest means by the diocese, he was often on the run from the civil authorities. In 1734 a rogue priest incited them against him, and Gallagher was forced to leave his diocese. He is said to have sought refuge on an island on Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, and to have stayed there for a year, using his time to rewrite and prepare for press various sermons.
He functioned as an intermediary of sorts between the Irish clergy and Rome for a period before the death of the archbishop of Armagh, Hugh MacMahon (qv), in 1737. Gallagher was transferred to the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin on 18 May that year, and held this position for the remainder of his life.
In 1736 he published in Dublin Sixteen sermons in an easy and familiar stile. Written with his fellow priests in mind, it gives the basic tenets of catholic teaching in a manner relevant to the general population. In addition, Roman type is used and an English translation is given on the facing page. It was one of the few books printed in Irish during the period of the penal laws, and proved to be very popular, going into over twenty editions by the end of the nineteenth century. A bibliography of the various editions is given in Fr Pól Breathnach's Irish-only edition (1911), which appeared as the fourth volume of Seanmóirí Muighe Nuadhad. It has been suggested that the sermons may have been adapted from French works.
Gallagher read and gave approval in 1741 to a catechism in Irish and English by Andrew Donlevy (qv), director of the Irish community at Paris. The catechism was published in Paris the following year as An teagasg Críosdaidhe, with the approbation of Gallagher and others printed at the beginning.
Gallagher is believed to have lived at Allen, Co. Kildare, during the latter part of his life. He died in May 1751. His place of burial is uncertain: Crosspatrick cemetery, near Kilmeage, Co. Kildare, and the nearby Allen cemetery, are both mentioned as his final place of rest.