Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher was born on Achill Island, worked in London for forty years and now lives in Co. Kerry. His poetry, prose and songs have been published in journals and anthologies throughout Europe, America, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, Thailand and Nepal. His work has been translated into  Croatian, Japenese, Dutch, German.and Chinese His short stories have been long-listed by both RTE and BBC. He won the 2010 Eigse Michael Hartnett viva voce competition and was shortlisted for the 2011 Hennessy Award. In 2012 he won the Desmond O'Grady International Poetry Contest. He has also edited a number of poetry and prose books and is editor of thefirstcut, an online literary journal. 


His poetry collection 'Stick on Stone' (Revival Press), was launched at Listowel Writer's Week in 2013.










We knew each other only as men

Emigration saw to that:

Him in London, me in Achill

Me in London, him in Luton.

Even living together, we remained

Strangers in a rented room,

Speaking, not talking,

Robbed of our relative roles.


Sure, there were memories –

One golden Dukinella day

When Mick the Yank, called;

We straddled a low stone wall,

Talked of Wimpy and McAlpine,

Roads and bridges,

Digs and pubs;

The boy was man!


A lunchtime booze in Wandsworth;

Three of us now living in London,

Yet chatting only the once.

Inheritance was split, spoils divided,

Unequally, but with good humour,

Paraic was always his favourite – and mine.


Nights in Castlebar hospital

After the emigrant’s dreaded summons:

“Come now, while he still knows you”

Between the awkward silences,

Came words of stuttered support;

And he survived – again and again.


I almost made it, that last time –

Got to Westport before news

Of our final silence.

Now, as I walk in Dromawda,

His gnarled stick, a stolen spoil, 

 Taps the unsaid 

On the tarstone road.






Just another dosser on a London street,

another down and out too damn idle

to make ends meet; how we showed

our contempt for our fellow countrymen,

tossing the odd penny, a tanner on the spin.

We drilled our nostrils skywards

to avoid the rancid stench

of scrumpy or Red Biddy, the acrid pong

of piss oozing from park benches

where tramps, in wasted wisdom,

disputed loud another world's mess.


O'Rourke, now he was different,

returned our scorn with a sullen stare

that mocked it for its faint timidity. A man

beyond pain, his future haunted

in a distant past; he treads, retreads Saint

George's Road, in the stark unwanted now.

There came a story of war, whispered low,

of Coventry; a man running beneath

a bright November moon, running

through the rubble, through cratered streets,

through whish and whoosh and crump

of falling bombs, under a yellow sky

tinged with red and orange leaps of flame,

through stale, singed dust, through thickened

choke of billowed smoke, through Kingsway

to Clara Street, to flattened pile

of earth and stone and brick and tile,

wedding photo still on the wall and, underneath,

severed arm of youngest son, the others

mangled far below.

And so,

he treads, retreads Saint Georges Road,

like all of us, in life's rude game of chance,

a creature, sometimes of choice,

more often, of circumstance.





(for Louis Mulcahy)


A scaffold tube,

Twenty foot long,

heavy gauge, galvanised;

grasp one end, trap the other,

strides three, four, five,

palms glide along cold steel.

slide to vertical; stop;

hand over hand, lift, stop:

torso's slow swivel;stop;

a forever between tick

and tock

while the pole skirrs away –

a testing of the tyro wrist –

(nerve's wobbly plates awry);

wrested back

to hover


the spigot.


Twenty floors below

ants swarm, scramble, surge

through Piccadilly Circus,

oblivious of the fuss

teetering above.

His sole focus, the spigot –

sleeve that six inch pin –

lower..., lower..., drop.

with one hand, curb the sway,

With other, reach for podger;

engage, tighten, secure.


You ask, my friend,

about achievements,

accolades, applause;

the taking of a prize.

Let me tell you then,

that poets – dabblers or laureates –

are mere jugglers of words;

we make nothing happen,

will never reach the heady heights,

feel the raw, real-life elation

of that stripling scaffolder

as he tackled and tamed

his very first twenty.



What they said ;

'What I find especially attractive about Mike Gallagher’s poems is that their images and insights, their moments of exuberance and of anger, and their evocation of Achill, of London and of his adopted North Kerry, are at the same time grounded and exploratory. Every line is real and lived, and is reflective of a responsive and curious sensibility. These are poems that are hard-earned and deeply felt.'

 - Paddy Bushe


 'Stick on Stone has waited long enough to be written. It spans decades without nostalgia, but with profound sympathy, compassion, and the hunger of a man who has come later to poetry. His pilgrim feet trek from Achill to London to Kerry on an epic journey from innocence to experience – from Irish hedgerow solace to a rented room in London where a father and son ‘speak but don’t talk.’ Micheal Gallagher portrays the unsettled dilemma of his generation in his own special language ...'

- Terry McDonagh


'Micheál Gallagher’s personal sensibility places this collection firmly in the tradition of the best of our Irish-navvy writers such as Dónall Mac Amhlaigh. Stick on Stone functions as a record of four generations of family history, but also four generations of social history, recording the Irish experience of economic exile in London. The collection opens in 1950’s Achill Island and moves backwards and forwards across the Irish Sea, bearing witness to a profound sense of displacement; the poems meld a dispassionate intellect with a passionate heart, transforming the cliché of the drunken, fighting Irish. Gallagher utilises his deeply-felt connection to the rural landscape of his childhood, underpinning his life-experience with poems that find human foibles reflected in the world of nature. A pertinent and emotionally-honest work.'

- Eileen Sheehan


'Mike Gallagher has been writing poems for a good few years now. His work, at its best, is searingly honest, angry, tender, hurt, ironic. His is the emigrant’s voice, powerful and memorable. I welcome this, his first book, and know that it will touch his readers as profoundly as it has touched me.'

- Gabriel Fitzmaurice