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The DIB and the Rugby World Cup 2019: Ireland's All Black

18 October 2019

To mark Ireland meeting New Zealand on Saturday 19 October, in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup 2019, we are publishing the DIB entry on Dave Gallaher, the first captain of the New Zealand All Blacks, by Nicholas Allen.

Gallaher, David (Dave) (1873–1917), rugby footballer, was born 30 October 1873 at Ramelton, Co. Donegal. Emigrating to New Zealand with his family in 1878, he lived at Tauranga before settling in Auckland. Educated at Katikati School, he showed an early aptitude for rugby and, at 6 ft tall and thirteen stone (82.5 kg), soon played for club side Ponsonby. A wing forward, or rover, in a scrum system only employed by New Zealand rugby teams, he moved between backs and forwards at will, giving the feed to scrums and taking part in lineouts. With twenty-six appearances for Auckland from 1896 to 1909, he interrupted his career to volunteer for the Boer war in 1901, returning to New Zealand with the rank of regimental sergeant major in 1902. A taciturn pipe-smoker with a bull neck, he imposed military discipline on his teams. He was captain of New Zealand in their first ever rugby international, played against All Australia at the Sydney cricket ground, 15 August 1903. New Zealand won 22–3. He took his motto of ‘Give nothing away, take no chances’ to Great Britain, Ireland, and France as captain of New Zealand's first touring side, leaving Wellington on the liner Rimutaka on 30 July 1905. Earning themselves the name of All Blacks because of their kit, New Zealand lost only one of their thirty-five tour matches under Gallaher's captaincy, a 3–0 defeat to Wales (16 December 1905). He was deeply disappointed to be injured and miss the test against Ireland (25 November 1905), a 15–0 victory for New Zealand and the world's first all-ticket international match due to the visitors' popularity. The team's return journey included exhibition matches in Brooklyn, Berkeley, and San Francisco, all of which they won. His sixth and last international appearance was against North America in 1906. A selector for the New Zealand rugby team from 1907 to 1914, he was selector coach for Auckland from 1909 to 1915 and a coach for Auckland Grammar school. A freezing-works foreman by profession, he enlisted in the Auckland Battalion (22nd Reinforcements) in 1915, on the day he heard of his brother's death on active service. He died of wounds during the third battle of Ypres on 4 October 1917 and is buried at Nine Elms cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium. His wife (sister of rugby international Bolla Francis) and at least one daughter survived him; his letters are collected at Wellington's Turnbull Library. Ponsonby Rugby Club inaugurated the Gallaher cup in his memory in 1922 and it became Auckland's premier club rugby competition. The All Blacks played France in Paris on 11 November 2000 in memory of Gallaher and all his fellow New Zealand first world war casualties. This game inaugurated the Dave Gallaher trophy which is awarded to the winner of the first match between France and New Zealand in any year. On 9 November 2005 a party from the All Blacks centenary touring side led by the team captain Tana Umaga visited Ramelton and unveiled a plaque at Gallaher's birthplace and another at Letterkenny RFC's new ground which was named Dave Gallaher Memorial Park. 

E. H. D. Sewell, The rugby football internationals' roll of honour (1919); id., Rugby football up to date (1921); id., Rugby football to-day (1931); id., Rugger (1944); Sean Diffley, The men in green (1973); Graeme Barrow, All Blacks versus Springboks (1981); Edmund Van Esbeck, The story of Irish rugby (1986); Terry Godwin, The complete who's who of international rugby (1987); David Guiney, Ireland v New Zealand (1989); Robin McConnell, Inside the All Blacks (1999)

© 2019 Cambridge University Press and Royal Irish Academy. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Learn more about DIB copyright and permissions.

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