Gallagher ranks in the top surnames in Ireland, and as such, there are some thirty-plus variations of the Irish last name.

The name Gallagher is of ancient Gaelic origin and is derived from the word ‘gallchobhar’, meaning ‘foreign help.’ 

The name is first found in County Donegal where the family held a seat since ancient times. A senior family of Cenél Conaill (kindred of Conaill), this sept’s territory reached across the county of Donegal, although clan is thought to hail originally from Tirhugh near Ballyshannon.

The Gallagher ancestry shows them to be direct descendants of 5th-century High King of Ireland Niall Noígíallach, or Niall of Nine Hostages, who is reputed to have brought Saint Patrick to Ireland as a slave.

The head of the family was chieftain Aodh, and he and the chieftains who followed are thought to have ruled in relative peace until Vikings arrived in Donegal Bay during the 9th century.

The clan earned the Gallchobhar nickname since the chieftain at that time, whose name was not recorded, would have been obliged to provide accommodation to the foreign invader.

The family coat of arms depicts a black lion on a silver shield, stepping on a green snake and surrounded by eight green trefoils. The Latin motto of the clan is "Mea Gloria Fides," translated to mean "faith is my glory."

Many Gallaghers were also among the first Irish settlers in America, with records of Charles, David, Francis, James, John, Michael, and Thomas Gallagher all arriving in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1865. There are over 33,000 Gallaghers on passenger lists.

Some noted Gallaghers include Reverend Redmond Gallagher (1521-1601) a Bishop of Derry who was martyred for aid he rendered to survivors of Spanish Armada; Joseph Gallagher, a British chess international grandmaster and British Champion of 2002, and Canadian geologist John Patrick Gallagher, who founded Dome Petroleum

The name has more of a rock and roll heritage, though, in recent times. Brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher are notorious bad-boy rockers who make up the phenomenally successful 90s band Oasis, while Rory Gallagher was a legendary Irish blues and rock guitarist.

*Originally published in September 2022. Updated in September 2023.