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The Mighty Atom

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

Imagine you're starving, you have nowhere to stay, you are penniless. Now imagine it's 1891 and the only 'option' is the Poor House. It's rock bottom, the stigma of it, only compounded the utter desperation and despair. Now imagine your are in a Poor House in Millford, Donegal, it's 1891 remember, you are a subject of the British Crown, The Glorious Empire, but you don't have any rights, you are basically despised and looked upon as sub human.

Now imagine you are pregnant. You have barely eaten for the entire duration and suddenly, trapped in a poor house, you give birth to a scrawny little child who, miraculously survives but would never grow taller than 5 foot seven and barely get to 9st as his 'fighting weight'.

Welcome to the World Patrick 'Patsy' Gallagher.

Whatever 'that thing in every man' is, Patsy Gallagher's mother surely had it in spades. Whatever that spirit and determination was that drove Celtic into creation only 11 years earlier, was also coursing through that baby's veins.

Like so many others, the Gallaghers somehow made the journey to Glasgow for work. The baby grew older and started to play football. Patsy must have been a bit special just to survive on a park in those days, never mind to be even considered to play senior level football.

Even the captain wasn't convinced. When Patsy walked into the Celtic dressing room for his debut, Jimmy Quinn couldny believe it, 'You canny put that boy on the park Boss, if you do it'll be manslaughter!'

Willie Maley knew different.

Soon everybody knew.

It turned out that Patsy Gallacher, despite his tiny frame was a revelation. He could do things with a football no one had ever seen before. He had a new style, an audacity to dribble, stop suddenly, foot on the ball, wait for a defender to commit, then skip away like a deer with the ball tied to his foot. He also had a deadly accuracy with a cross and a surprisingly powerful shot. How could someone so small and light be so deadly with a ball? Like wee Jinky, the more they tried to batter him out the game, the more he tormented them all. That's why they called him The Mighty Atom.

He was also absolutely mental! One time Willie Maley took the whole team away to a special training camp at a spa in Dunbar, it was for fitness purposes so there was a curfew on the bevy. With Maley himself posted sentry at the Hotel door.

But Patsy fancied a wee hauf, so he convinced a chambermaid to lend him her clothes, stuck on some lippy and mooched past the Gaffer, oot the front door!

So its 1920 something, you're 5'7 barely 9stone. Wearing a dress and you walk into a bar in Dunbar and knock back a few whiskys! Aye. That. Is. Mental!

(Nowadays.... not so much)

His most famous goal of course was against Dundee in the Scottish Cup Final of 1925, when he waltzed round the entire team from the halfway line, Paddy McCourt style, only to be bundled over by a Dundonian carthorse inches from the goal line. From lying on the ground, Patsy simply stuck the ball between his feet and summersalted over the defender into the net.

15 years at Parkhead, 6 leagues, 4 Scottish Cups, 4 Glasgow Cups and 11 Glasgow Charity Cups. Not bad for a waif from a Donegal Poor House.

I really need to pause here and give credit to The Celtic Wiki where most of this info comes from. If I ever get the hang of this Ill add a click link thing, but check it out! It really is a gift on the internet.

There is loads more there about him but here's something I never knew...

His wife died at 34 giving birth to their sixth child. He brought them up on his own. He did this while playing for Celtic and working in the shipyards. By the time he died, only 61, he was running a bar in Clydebank. After they buried him they discovered a load of I.O.U.s behind the bar from his regulars. Patsy had never called any of them in.

“So long as there is a Celtic, the name of Patsy Gallacher will be revered, and his sons and their families can rightly be proud of that” - Robert Kelly

The crackpots in Westminster would bring back Poor Houses in a hearbeat if they could get away with it. (Maybe get the Mears Group to run them) Food banks have already been normalised in the last 10 years. Seems to be that people are valued as much now as Patsy Gallacher's mother was then.

A percentage from these T shirts will go to Glasgow The Caring City. Possibly the most underfunded, under recognised and brilliant organisations ever. They help homeless people from Glasgow, as well as from Syria, Afghanistan or anywhere else they're needed.


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