Passing of well known Gaoth Dobhair pharmacist

THE death took place at his home on Saturday of Michael James Gallagher, Magheraclogher, Bunbeg.

The former pharmacist, footballer, photographer, golfer and artist was born in Cotteen, Derrybeg on September 7, 1927.

His parents were Micí the Cope Gallagher and Sarah Bhilly (née Gallagher). His father who was originally from Inishcaorach Island, moved to live in Gaoth Dobhair when he secured a job at the former Co Operative Store at Meenacladdy.


Michael James received his early education at Derrybeg N.S. where William Coyle was principal.

His last year of schooling was spent at Meenacladdy School where Johnny McGinley was principal.

He was awarded a Gaeltacht scholarship in 1941 and he spent two years studying at St. Enda’s College, Galway and three years at St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny.

From there he went to study medicine at University College Dublin. After a year he changed his mind and he decided to pursue a career in pharmacy.

Before studying for this course the applicants would have to spend two years work experience in a pharmacy.

He chose to work at a pharmacy in Buncrana. While working here he got to know his future wife, Molly Doherty.

After the two years he spent some time working in England to earn some money to go towards his studies.


After his graduation in 1957 he started as a pharmacist close to Teach Hiudaí Beag, Bunbeg.

This was the first pharmacy in Gaoth Dobhair. On April, 25 1957, he married his soulmate.

After a few years he bought a parcel of land at Magheraclogher and built a new home on the site.

The ESB were serving the area with electricity at the time and when that work was complete he purchased a large wooden hut which they used and he placed it beside his dwelling. For many years this blue painted chemist served the people of Gaoth Dobhair.

The Bunbeg Post Office had also operated from here for a number of years.

Back then only a limited amount of revenue could be earned from pharmacy as GPs were dispersing medication directly to their patients.

But that changed in September 1972 when a new Health Scheme started. The GP would issue a prescription and the medication would be available at the chemist.

In the 1960s in order to supplement his income Michael James decided to purchase photography equipment and he worked part-time as a photographer.

He concentrated mainly on weddings but also covered holy communion, confirmation and other social events.

The severe Donegal weather was taking its toll on the wooden blue pharmacy and parts of it had dry rot.

As a result he decided to pull it down and have it replaced by a brick building. In June 1993 he retired from pharmacy and he sold the business to James Cassidy.

Whenever the golden era of football in Gaoth Dobhair is mentioned the name of Michael James Gallagher crops up as an outstanding player of that era.

At the age of sixteen years he started to play for the Gaoth Dobhair minor team. He later joined the ranks of the senior team.

He won five championship medals, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1953 and 1955. Between 1950 and 1954 he played for the county team and played in centre forward position.

In 1952 he was one of the Donegal squad to play Cork in the National League Semi Final in Croke Park. He had a good game on that day and they won over Cork. While studying at university he played for Dublin Clann na Gael. His brothers, Willie Tood and Colm were also good footballers.
Many Pastimes
He was a man of many pastimes.

In 1958 he started to play golf and became a member of the Gaoth Dobhair Golf Club. He is past President and past Captain of the club.

Another hobby of his was bird watching and most mornings he would keep an eye on the habitat of birds at the strand.

He also had keen interest in painting. He worked mainly with acrylics and water colour.

In 2000 he opened a small painting studio near his home where his work was exhibited.

There was great demand for his paintings and they take pride of place in many homes.

Michael James was gifted with two good hands and was a very handyman.

Many moons ago he attended night woodwork classes at the former Technical School at Derrybeg.

At those classes he crafted some beautiful pieces of furniture including a display unit, chairs, sofa and coffee table which are still in use today.

He also attended boat building night classes with instructor Tadhg McGinley and he built a 16 foot Clinker Belt and also made a sailing dinky at classes held in Gortahork.

His concelebrated Requiem Mass was celebrated in St. Mary’s Church, Derrybeg on Tuesday and he was laid to rest afterwards in Magheragallon cemetery.

Predeceased by his brothers: Hugh, Willie, Peter and Colm and sisters; Máire and Kathleen Smith.

He will be sadly missed by his wife Molly, daughters; Aisling and Máire, sons; Séamus, Kevin and Colm, in-laws; David, Sharon and Chez, grandchildren; Sacha, David, Aisling, Frances, Michael and Molly and extended family.

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