Billy Gallagher


This is exhibit showcases the life stories, images and documents of Billy Gallagher. Billy was born in Strabane, Co. Tyrone during the second world war. His stories describe life in a rural border town during the 1940's and 50's. Billy attended Castleknock Boarding School in Dublin for his secondary education and his stories contain vivid descriptions of life as a border in the school. In his stories, Billy reflects upon his Catholic upbringing and the impact this had upon his sexual development as a young man. He recalls how a strict Catholic morality influenced courting practices and customs during the 1960's in Dublin.

After leaving school Billy joined the family shirt making business wich operated from Stabane, Lifford and Dublin. He shares his memories of travelling around Ireland and England selling shirts. His stories also describe the eventual decline of the business and his attempts to establish alternative businesses in the clothing industry.

In 1972 Billy married Eithne and he shares his memories of that day as well as their married life together. He and his wife had six children together and set up their home in Blackrock, Co. Dublin.


McTiernan, K. & O'Donnell, D. (2012). Life Histories Archive.


Childhood and Early Life

This section of the exhibit details the childhood and early life of Billy.  He grew up in Strabane, Co. Tyrone and his stories describe the rural town life of his childhood. He remembers shopping in Strabane and some of the characters who lived and worked in the town during the 1940's and 50's.

In the stories represented in this section of the exhibit Billy reflects upon his education and the authoritarianism of the Catholic Church. He describes the deferent attitude towards Catholic hierarchy which pervaded in Ireland during his youth. However, he also acknowledges his gratitude to the priests in Castleknock Boarding School, which he attended for his secondary education.

Adolescence and Early Adulthood

This section of the exhibit details Billy's adolescence and early adulthood.  He attended Castleknock Boarding School where religion was an important part of daily life. In the stories represented in this section, Billy reflects upon the pervading influence of Catholic morality on his adolescence and early adult life. In particular, he notes that religion impacted the customs of courting and shaped relationships between young men and women.


Marriage and Family

The stories, images and documents represented in this section of the exhibit detail Billy's memories of marriage and family life.  He married his wife Eithne in the 1972 and together they reared six children in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Billy's stories are concerned with the ups-and-downs of family life. He reflects upon his gratitude to his wife for her role in creating their happy family.

Work and Employment

The stories, documents and images represented in this section of the exhibit detail Billy's memories of work and employment.  Billy worked in his family's shirt business where he tried to keep up to date with the latest fashions for London.  He went through good and bad periods, working with his family to keep the company afloat.  Eventually the decision was made to close the company down and Billy set up his own business.


In this section of the exhibit Billy shares stories which concern his retirement years. He remembers that he approached his retirement willingly but he was anxious to keep himself busy with voluntary work. He notes that he considered this to be important for his health. Billy's voluntary work includes providing literacy and social support services to men who have been released from prison.


The stories represented in this section of the exhibit contain some of Billy's reflections on his life's journey. He evaluates the role of religion in his life and questions the authoritarian Catholic morality of his youth. This morality was, in his opinion, more concerned with describing a notion of hell than with the love of God or one's neighbour.