Daniel Gallagher was born in Derry, Ireland in 1811 and was educated there before coming to Blantyre in 1825. He came to Blantyre especially as his parents were already there and was coming to join them. As a young man he gained employment in the Blantyre Works Mills. He was asked by a young Blantyre mill worker to give tuition in Latin so that the young man could gain entry to Anderson College to study for the Presbyterian ministry, and he readily agreed. Thus began the remarkable friendship with a young man who would become Scotland’s most famous missionary — David Livingstone.
The men parted company and David’s story is well told, but Daniel also went abroad, perhaps inspired by his adventurous former friend. Daniel ended up in Rome in 1834 to study the priesthood and after his studies were completed, he was ordained in 1837, returning to Scotland to become the first priest to serve at St Margarets, Airdrie, which was the first post reformation Catholic Church in Lanarkshire.
He found that his parishioners were very poor and employed in the lowest paid jobs: 54% were labourers and 31% worked in coalmines. His Mission covered most of Lanarkshire and his flock was widely scattered, requiring him to travel great distances on foot. He had to make frequent journeys to bring the Sacraments to the injured and dying, as accidents were a common feature of life at the time. Dr. Mulvey, in his brief historical notes, compiled in 1923, noted that Father Gallagher had covered an area that required 20 priests in 1900. Not surprisingly, his health broke and he was obliged to leave Airdrie in 1841. Despite his poor health, and periods at Rome and Ratisbon for convalescence, Father Gallagher founded a further two parishes, St. Joseph’s, Glasgow, and St. Peter’s, Partick, before his death in 1884.
Pictured is the church of St Margaret’s in Airdrie. Thank you to St Margaret’s for assistance with this article.
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