Gallaher Family Mural
Renee Te Pairi, Steve Graveson
& Dena Hale (a Gallaher descendant).

Dave Gallaher – the Katikati Connection

No history of New Zealand rugby, particularly that of the All Blacks, is complete without mention of Dave Gallaher, the man who captained the Original All Blacks in 1905. He went on to become a rugby legend and outstanding leader.

Dave arrived in Katikati as a small boy of 5 or 6 having sailed with his family from Donegal, Northern Ireland, in 1878, as part of George Vesey Stewart's Ulster Plantation. The settlers battled to establish farms from scrub and swamp and to build shelter for their families. There were virtually no roads but by 1880 the settlement had formed a rugby club and matches were a social highlight.

The Katikati Rugby Club celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2010, erecting a giant rugby ball in the main street, ensuring the town was one of the first in New Zealand to show its support for the Rugby World Cup.

Dave was one of six children when his family came to Katikati and times were tough. A business venture offering a future for the Gallahers fell through when their benefactor died within months of their arrival. To keep the family afloat Dave's mother, Maria, became Katikati's first teacher and the breadwinner of the family which eventually had 11 children.

His father, James, who was 33 years older than his wife, was allocated 60 acres of land but this was sold in 1883 and the buyer defaulted on the mortgage.
Maria became ill with ovarian cancer, struggled to retain her job and eventually died in 1887 aged 42, leaving the family reliant on charitable aid. Three years later Dave (then around 17) moved to Ponsonby (Auckland) where he played junior rugby and eventually caught the eye of selectors.

After serving as a a corporal in the Boer War he was selected in 1903 for the New Zealand rugby team which won all of its 20 matches in Australia. He began the tour as hooker and ended it as wing forward, pioneering that position. Dave was then selected as captain of the Original All Blacks for the ground-breaking 1905-1906 tour of Britain.

TV documentary maker Tony Johnson calls him “the father of New Zealand rugby” and says it was Dave's leadership skills which made him great. The team lost just one match out of 32 on the British tour and even that loss was controversial. Tony believes it was that success which launched rugby firmly as New Zealand's national game and he gives much of the credit to Gallaher.

Another member of the Originals, Ernest Booth, wrote: “Dave was a man of sterling worth - - - girded by great self-determination and self control, he was a valuable friend and could be, I think, a remorseless foe. To us All Blacks his word would often be 'Give nothing away: take no chances.'

Gallaher then served as sole Auckland selector from 1906-16 and New Zealand selector from 1907-1914 before enlisting once again for war. He was officially too old but is believed to have lied about his age, possibly motivated by the death in action of a younger brother.

Dave died from shrapnel wounds in the mud of Flanders at Passchendale on October 4, 1917.

The old schoolhouse where the Gallaher family lived, can be seen at 77 Beach Road, Katikati. The original school room where his mother taught, proudly carries the Gallaher Family Mural which is open to public view.