When Tommy Gallacher signed full-time for Dundee in 1947, it had an impact on football in the City of Discovery that went way beyond the normal span of a player’s career. To begin with he became part of the famous, trophy winning half-back line of Gallacher, Cowie and Boyd and then when he retired prematurely, he became Dundee’s foremost football correspondent for local newspaper The Courier and Advertiser for whom he wrote for twenty-nine years.
Born in Renfrewshire as one of five sons of Scottish football legend, Celtic’s ‘Mighty Atom’ Patsy Gallacher, it would perhaps seem only natural that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and it was to Dundee’s fortune that the cultured and classy wing half would spend eleven years at Dens Park.
To begin with, his father Patsy was keen that his son would take up the game on a strictly amateur basis and in 1942, with a number of clubs after Tommy, he signed for amateur side Queen’s Park while working in his reserved occupation job in the labs at the Royal Ordnance establishment in Bishopton.
Towards the end of the War however, Tommy was keen to try something else and within weeks of leaving the labs, his call up papers were through his letterbox and he joined the Highland Light Infantry in January 1945. Stationed at the Bridge of Don Barracks in Aberdeen, Gallacher worked as a P.E. instructor with the Army and was commanded by Colonel Jock McGregor, who was a friend of Dundee’s Granite City born manager, George Anderson.
As was the norm during both wars, players turned out as guests for clubs near where they were stationed and towards by the end of the season, Tommy found himself turning out for Aberdeen. At the start of the 1945/46 season however, Anderson used his influence with his friend to have Gallacher turn out sixteen times for The Dee as they won the Scottish League ‘B’ Division championship.
Dundee were denied promotion to the top tier due to the Scottish League declaring the season unofficial with so many players still in the armed forces and by the time Tommy signed full-time on his first professional contract in the summer of 1947, Dundee had won the ‘B’ Division for a second time so that Tommy’s return to Dens coincided with the Club’s return to the top flight.
Tommy started his first full season with Dundee as an inside-right but soon he was to stamp his class and quality at Dens Park by wearing the number four jersey at right-half due to the intervention of his old army commander Colonel McGregor. When wing-half Reggie Smith was set to miss a match at Parkhead due to a boil on his leg, Anderson was unsure who to replace the English international with and when he spoke to old buddy McGregor, he suggested that to Anderson that he should play Gallacher at wing-half, having seen him play there for the army.
Despite this being a bluff, Gallacher very soon settled into his new position and the rest, as they say is history as he struck up a partnership with Doug Cowie and Alfie Boyd to become part of perhaps the finest half-back line in Dundee’s history.
In his second full season, Dundee really clicked into gear with Tommy playing in all forty-four league and cup matches as Dundee finished runners-up in the Scottish ‘A’ Division Championship. Needing just a point on the last day at Brockville to win the title, Dundee lost 4-1 to Falkirk and gifted Rangers the League Flag by a solitary point.
‘We hit them with everything that day but we couldn’t get the ball past their brilliant little goalkeeper George Nicol’, Tommy told author Jim Hendry in his superb Dundee Greats book. ‘He was invincible that day and he even saved Alec Stott’s penalty. It was a sad end to a tremendous season....... and in my opinion we were a far better side than the one a couple of years later when Billy Steel came.’
However silverware didn’t elude Dundee for long and that side with Billy Steel won Dundee’s first major honour in forty-one years when they lifted the Scottish League Cup in October 1951. In front of 92 000 at Hampden, Dundee defeated Rangers 3-2 with goals from Flavell, Pattillo and Boyd but missed out on a cup double that season when they lost 4-0 to Motherwell in the Scottish Cup Final.
Dundee did however achieve a cup double when the following season they became the first side to retain the League Cup after defeating Kilmarnock 2-0 in the Final but Gallacher missed the game after being dropped when he fell out with George Anderson over bonus payments due from a close season tour of Turkey.
Tommy continued to play for Dundee until 1956 but the beginning of the end came for Gallacher when Willie Thornton took over from George Anderson in the Dens Park hot seat. Thornton wanted Tommy to play in his old position of inside forward but it didn’t work out and he was keen to move on to pastures new. Falkirk and Dunfermline were interested but Dundee wanted a fee and wouldn’t release him and at thirty-four he decided to hang up his boots and pursue a career with local publisher’s D.C. Thomson for whom he had been writing a column in their Courier newspaper for the previous eighteen months.
Football’s loss was journalism’s gain as he would write about football in Dundee over the next three decades reporting on all of Dundee’s major triumphs and European trips in the sixties and seventies.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish League Cup winner: 1951/52
Scottish League Championship runner-up: 1948/49
Scottish Cup runner-up: 1952
Scottish League B Division winner: 1945/46
Scottish League cap: 1
League: 200, 9 goals
Scottish Cup: 24,
League Cup: 50, 2 goals
Other: 5, 1 goal
Totals: 279, 12 goals