Hughie Gallacher

Hughie Gallacher
Personal information
Full name Hugh Kilpatrick Gallacher
Date of birth (1903-02-02)2 February 1903
Place of birth Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland
Date of death 11 June 1957(1957-06-11) (aged 54)
Place of death Gateshead, England
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Playing position Centre forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1921 Queen of the South 9 (19)
1921–1925 Airdrieonians 111 (91)
1925–1930 Newcastle United 160 (133)
1930–1934 Chelsea 132 (72)
1934–1936 Derby County 51 (38)
1936–1937 Notts County 45 (32)
1937–1938 Grimsby Town 12 (3)
1938–1939 Gateshead 34 (18)
Total 554 (406)
National team
1924–1935 Scotland 20 (24)
1925 Scottish League XI 2 (6)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Hugh Kilpatrick "Hughie" Gallacher (2 February 1903 – 11 June 1957) was a Scottish football player in the 1920s and 1930s. In 624 senior games, Gallacher scored 463 times.[1]

Gallacher lacked height and weight. However, he had excellent ball control, guile and instinct, being able to go past opposing defenders with ease. Although a mere 5' 5", he was a huge threat for any defence as he possessed grand strike power. Gallacher could shoot with either foot, dribble with the ball, head, tackle and forage. There were four occasions when he scored five goals in a game. He also created chances for other players.[1]

He is one of the Scotland national football team's most prolific goalscorers with 24 goals from his 20 internationals, a remarkable strike rate of more than a goal a game. Gallacher was one of the Wembley Wizards who beat England 5–1 at Wembley Stadium in 1928.[1]

Football career

Early life

Gallacher was born in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire in 1903. He started "biffing a twopenny ball" almost as soon as he could walk.[1] Gallacher began a long friendship with Alex James when at Bellshill Academy.[2] He had been down the Hattonrig Pit at the age of 15, working 10-hour shifts. Aged 16 he left Lanarkshire junior league side Tannochside Athletic to join Hattonrigg Thistle. However fate played a part in his next move up the football ladder. As a spectator he attended to watch Bellshill Athletic play St Mirren juniors. However Bellshill were a man short and Gallacher was asked to play. After hitting his side's goal in the 1–1 draw he was asked to join the club.[1]

He was barely 17 when he met and married Annie McIlvaney, a girl who worked at the pit where he worked as a miner. They had two children Hughie, who died before his first birthday and Catherine. They were divorced in acrimonious circumstances.[3]

Queen of the South

In December 1920, Gallacher was picked for the Scottish junior side to play against Ireland at Shawfield. Gallacher hit the Scotland equaliser with a fine header with two minutes remaining in the 1–1 draw. Among those at the game was James Jolly, secretary of Dumfries club Queen of the South.[1]

Jolly approached Gallacher after the game and offered him a trial at Queens with the prospect of a £30 signing on fee and £5 per week plus expenses should he do well in the trial. At the time Queens were in their second season after formation and cup games aside played only local fixtures. However professional football was professional football and that was good enough for Gallacher.[1]

Rejecting the opportunity of an international trial game at Methil, Gallacher made his Queen of the South debut aged 17 against St Cuthbert Wanderers on 29 January 1921. Gallacher scored four goals in a 7–0 victory.[1] The Herald and Courier wrote after the game, "Gallacher was the pick of the front line. He is only a young player but knows all that is required of him in the centre. He gathers the ball to perfection and possesses a first time shot of a deadly nature. His four goals were all well taken and it was not his fault that he did not have more". The contract was waiting for Gallacher after the game.[1]

Gallacher's next game was his senior debut, a Scottish Cup second round tie against Nithsdale Wanderers. Queens lost 3–1.[1]

In the 5–2 victory over Dumbarton the Herald and Courier gushed of Gallacher, "From the first kick until the last, he showed exceptional dash and had the unusual record of scoring all five goals. He was continuously the source of great danger and showed no mercy with his rocket shooting".[1]

Gallacher then hit four against a Glasgow Railway Select and another four against a Queens Park XI. His next goal was in the 3–1 defeat to Airdrie Reserves with the Herald and Courier covering another Gallacher virtuoso performance, "Gray's beautiful cross enabled Gallacher to score one of the bravest goals imaginable. Although Gallacher had his back to goal and with a defender bearing down on him, he quickly saw the danger and scored with an overhead kick. A goal that would have impossible for most players and the cheering continued when the game was in motion again". This magnificent moment would later hit Queens hard.[1]

Gallacher's next goal was against Hawick Royal Albert. A few days later while enjoying a holiday in Dumfries things turned sour when he took ill with double pneumonia. Doctors believed that he would never play football again, but a week later he was said to be recovering well. While in Dumfries Infirmary he was approached by directors of Airdrieonians who had noted his performance in the recent challenge game. At this time if a player was not playing league football at any time then he was free to sign for whoever offered a contract. Airdrie offered Gallacher a contract and Gallacher signed without a second thought.[1]

At Queens Gallacher's name on the team sheet replaced Ian Dickson who was on his way to Aston Villa.[1] They were two of the four players to play in fledgling Queens first three seasons before moving on to successful careers in England's top division. The others were Dave Halliday and Willie Ferguson.

In his nine games Gallacher hit 19 goals with the game against Hawick on 13 April 1921 being his last. Gallacher however returned to Palmerston many times to play in and referee charity matches. Gallacher was also among the jubilant crowd who watched Queens win in their 1929–30 season ending 2–1 Charity Cup final win against Mid-Annandale.[1]

In the week prior to Queen of the South appearing in the 2008 Scottish Cup Final the club office took a phone call from Gallacher's son who phoned to wish Queens all the best and said his father had always spoken fondly of his time at Queen of the South.


He moved back to North Lanarkshire with the transfer to Airdrieonians. On 19 September 1921 Gallacher made his senior Scottish League debut in the 2–0 defeat to Raith Rovers. Gallacher was selected for the first team 15 times that season and hit seven goals. He also helped Airdrie reserves to the Second XI Cup. The following season Gallacher became a first team main stay as the club finished second. The next season Airdrie finished second again with Gallacher hitting five in the 6–1 win over Clyde that briefly had Airdrie top of the league. Silverware arrived when Airdrie beat Hibs 2–0 in the Scottish Cup final, the club's first senior trophy.[1]

On 1 March 1924 in the 2–0 victory against Northern Ireland Gallacher was awarded his first international cap.[1]

In 1924–25 Airdrie had their third straight second place league finish. Gallacher was credited with 35 goals. In November 1925 Gallacher hit five in the Scottish League 7–3 victory over the Irish League. Two weeks later a Gallacher double followed in the 2–0 win against the English League.[1]

He was only 5 ft 5 ins tall and was often on the receiving end of rough treatment. However, because he tended to seek his own retribution, he was often in trouble with the authorities. There was much speculation about a number of English clubs that were out to sign him. The Airdrie fans were incensed and threatened to burn the wooden stand down if he was sold. His last game for the club came on 5 December 1925 in the 2–1 defeat to Morton. In 129 games for Airdrie Gallacher hit 100 goals.[1]

Newcastle United

Newcastle United's desperation for their new centre-forward meant that they were willing to pay £6,500 to capture him. Gallacher signed on 8 December 1925.[1]

At Newcastle United Gallacher made an immediate impact, scoring two goals on his debut four days after signing in the 3–3 home draw against Everton (Dixie Dean hit an Everton hat trick) and scoring 15 goals in his first nine games. He ended the season with 23 league goals in 19 games, ending up as the club's top scorer despite signing halfway through the season.[1]

From the very first match he played in England he was a marked man, hacked and elbowed and gouged by defenders acting on instructions to stop him scoring at all costs. One team- mate described how Gallacher would sit in the dressing room, with pieces of flesh hanging from his legs and his socks and boots soaked in blood.[1]

The following season, 1926–27, 23-year-old Gallacher was given the captaincy, and his powerful leadership qualities took Newcastle to the League Championship for the first time since 1909, although his criticism of some of the less talented players in the team did not go unnoticed. Sunderland were still in contention until they were beaten 1–0 at St James’ Park on 19 March before a then record crowd of 67,211. The goalscorer was Gallacher, still widely rated today as Newcastle's finest ever player.[4] He scored 36 league goals in 38 appearances, still the highest number of league goals in one season by a Newcastle player

In the 1927–28 season he scored 21 league goals in 32 appearances. In the 1928–29 season he scored 24 league goals in 33 appearances. In the 1929–30 season he scored 29 league goals in 38 appearances.[1]

Within a few months of coming to Newcastle he met and fell in love with Hannah Anderson, the 17-year-old daughter of the landlord of one of his favourite pubs. That caused gossip in the town, and he was threatened several times by her relatives. But Hannah was the only girl for Gallacher, although it wasn't until 1934, when he was finally able to divorce, that he was able to marry her. She was to become the core of Gallacher's life, and they had three sons together.[3]

Whilst at Newcastle United, he scored 143 league and cup goals in 174 appearances. His strike rate of over 82% is the most prolific in Newcastle FC history.[1]

A chant reportedly once sung at St James' Park in relation to Hughie went as follows;

"Do ye ken hughie gallacher the wee scots lad,
The best centre forward Newcastle ever had,
If he doesn't score a goal then wu'll put him on the dole,
and wu'll send him back to Scotland where he came from."


Gallacher joined David Calderhead's Chelsea as part of a £25,000 spending spree which also saw the club sign his fellow Scottish forwards Alex Jackson and Alec Cheyne; such was his popularity at Newcastle, when Chelsea visited St James' Park, the home of Newcastle United, that season the attendance was a record 68,386 with several thousand more locked out. Gallacher scored 81 goals in 144 games and was Chelsea's top scorer in each of his four seasons in west London. The team sometimes clicked, such as in a 6–2 win over Manchester United and a 5–0 win over Sunderland but trophies remained elusive.[1]

The FA Cup was to be the closest the club came to silverware. In 1932, the team secured impressive wins over Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday, and were drawn against Newcastle United in the semi-finals. Tommy Lang inspired Newcastle to a 2–0 lead, before Gallacher pulled one back for Chelsea. The Blues laid siege to the United goal in the second half, but were unable to make a breakthrough and the Geordies went on to lift the trophy.[1]

Gallacher's time there was also marred by suspensions for indiscipline – including a two-month ban for swearing at a referee – and off-pitch controversies. In 1934 he ended up in the bankruptcy court due to prolonged and acrimonious divorce. In November 1934 he was sold to Derby County for £2,750.[1]

Later career

Gallacher was transferred to Derby County in 1934 for £2,750. He was taken under the wing of fellow Scotsmen Dally Duncan and an old Newcastle United friend, Jimmy Boyd, and was said to have been as good as gold during his Baseball Ground days.[1] His 38 goals in 51 league games helped Derby finish second in the league to Sunderland in 1935–36, a finish the club have surpassed only twice (both times in the 1970s under the influence of Brian Clough and Dave Mackay).[1] Gallacher hit 40 goals in his 55 games for Derby.

Later in 1941, when the club were investigated by the F.A. over suspected financial irregularities, one of the accusations being that manager George Jobey had paid Gallacher illegal signing on fees. The player refused to admit it, but Jobey, manager of the Rams since 1925, received a stunning ten-year suspension for his part in the scandal.

The following season he moved to Notts County for £2,000. His impressive 32 goals in 45 games helped County to a second-place finish in England's third division.[1]

In January 1938 he moved to Grimsby Town for £1,000, hitting three goals in his 12 games.[1]

Later in 1938, Gateshead, a modest team languishing in the bottom division, paid £500 for him. "It's grand to be back on Tyneside," said an emotional Gallacher, when he climbed off the train. "My heart has been here ever since I left United eight years ago. I intend to spend the rest of my life with my adopted folk in Gateshead."[3]

Crowds at the Gateshead ground soared to 20,000 a week. He hit 18 league goals for the club before retiring from football with the outbreak of World War II.

Retirement and death

Gallacher continued to live in Gateshead, trying a number of careers, one of them being a sports journalist, a role that led to him being banned from St James’ Park for his outspoken remarks about Newcastle United. However he continued to be a popular character on Tyneside. Gallacher turned out in charity matches even at the age of 52.[2][3]

With no savings from his footballing days, Gallacher took numerous unremarkable jobs, often menial, to earn a living to support his family. After the sudden death of his wife in December 1950 from a heart complaint, Gallacher became very depressed and lonely.

One evening in May 1957, Hughie went home after a few drinks. His youngest son Mathew (aged 14) was at home reading a newspaper. When Mattie, as he was known, ignored him, he picked up a heavy ornament or ashtray and threw it at the newspaper. It bounced off the top of Mattie's head, drawing blood. Matthew left the house and went to a neighbour's, attempting to find his big brother Hughie Junior. Later when Hughie Junior arrived, he saw the blood and hurried home to confront his father. An altercation took place and as a result the police were summoned. The police reported the assault on young Mattie to the authorities. Mattie was taken into his Aunt Dolly's care and was prevented from returning home until the assault charge could be resolved.

For weeks after the alleged assault, Gallacher began wandering the streets. Many people spoke to him including Newcastle players and staff offering support and assuring him that no one would believe the press and their scandalous statements. Many offered to speak on his behalf.[3]

Denied access to his son and with the court appearance looming, Gallacher began to get increasingly irrational. A local reporter friend said he looked like ‘a traumatised man walking in a glassy-eyed dream’. Gallacher said to a friend, ‘It's no good fighting this thing now. They have got me on this one. My life is finished. It's no use fighting when you know you can’t win.’ He was summoned to Gateshead Magistrates Court for Wednesday 12 June 1957.[3]

On 11 June, he posted a short message to the Gateshead Coroner expressing his regrets at what he had caused, adding that ‘if he had lived to be 100 he would never be able to forgive himself for having hurt Mattie’. He then wandered aimlessly through the streets ignoring the greetings of several people.[3]

On the day of his death, two young trainspotters watched him for half an hour pacing backwards and forwards on a footbridge over the London-Edinburgh railway line at Low Fell, Gateshead. He was openly weeping, talking to himself and occasionally pounding the bridge rail with his fists. He stepped down from the bridge and killed himself by walking in front of an oncoming express train.

When the effects of the tragedy of his father's suicide had subsided Mattie returned home to stay with his elder brother Hughie, before moving to South Africa in 1965.[3]


At full level Gallacher represented Scotland 20 times hitting 24 goals.[5] Only two players, Denis Law and Kenny Dalglish with 30 each, have scored more goals for the full Scotland international team than Gallacher's 24. Gallacher averaged 1.2 goals per game from his 20 caps.[1]

Scotland won all 6 games when Gallacher and Alex James were both selected to play. This included the 1928 'Wembley Wizards' 5–1 defeat of England when James netted twice.[1]

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 14 February 1925 Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh  Wales 2–0 3–1 BHC
2 14 February 1925 Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh  Wales 3–1 3–1 BHC
3 28 February 1925 Windsor Park, Belfast  Northern Ireland 2–0 3–0 BHC
4 4 April 1925 Hampden Park, Glasgow  England 1–0 2–0 BHC
5 4 April 1925 Hampden Park, Glasgow  England 2–0 2–0 BHC
6 27 February 1926 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Northern Ireland 1–0 4–0 BHC
7 27 February 1926 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Northern Ireland 3–0 4–0 BHC
8 27 February 1926 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Northern Ireland 4–0 4–0 BHC
9 30 October 1926 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Wales 1–0 3–0 BHC
10 29 October 1927 The Racecourse, Wrexham  Wales 1–0 2–2 BHC
11 27 October 1928 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Wales 1–1 4–2 BHC
12 27 October 1928 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Wales 2–1 4–2 BHC
13 27 October 1928 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Wales 3–1 4–2 BHC
14 23 February 1929 Windsor Park, Belfast  Northern Ireland 1–0 7–3 BHC
15 23 February 1929 Windsor Park, Belfast  Northern Ireland 2–0 7–3 BHC
16 23 February 1929 Windsor Park, Belfast  Northern Ireland 3–0 7–3 BHC
17 23 February 1929 Windsor Park, Belfast  Northern Ireland 5–2 7–3 BHC
18 23 February 1929 Windsor Park, Belfast  Northern Ireland 6–3 7–3 BHC
19 26 October 1929 Ninian Park, Cardiff  Wales 1–0 4–2 BHC
20 26 October 1929 Ninian Park, Cardiff  Wales 2–0 4–2 BHC
21 22 February 1930 Celtic Park, Glasgow  Northern Ireland 1–0 3–1 BHC
22 22 February 1930 Celtic Park, Glasgow  Northern Ireland 2–1 3–1 BHC
23 18 May 1930 Stade Olympique, Paris  France 1–0 2–0 Friendly
24 18 May 1930 Stade Olympique, Paris  France 2–0 2–0 Friendly



  • Paul Joannou, "The Black and White Alphabet", 1996, Polar Print Group Ltd, ISBN 1 899538 03 8
  • Paul Joannou, "United, The First 100 Years", 1991, Polar Print Group Ltd, ISBN 1 899538 10 0
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