The daughter of the 7th ranked heavyweight boxer in the entire world lives on the Eastern Shore. Margaret Gallagher Colbert is one of seven children of legendary boxer, Marty Gallagher. Earlier this year, Colbert completed work on a book that documents her father’s triumphs, lifetime of achievements, and spirit. The Irish Warrior tells the career story of Marty Gallagher, a cocky Irishman from Washington, D.C. who rose to fame as one of boxing’s greats during the height of the Great Depression.
Margaret tells the story about her father’s career with love and admiration. The Irish Warrior is pieced together with newspaper clippings from the mid-1920s through 1940.
“My siblings and I had articles that we used to go through, look at, and read. There were so many of them,” said Margaret.
Each of the children had different articles. Not all of the clippings were in great condition; most were well worn and yellowed from being handled or in storage for so long.
“One day, my husband, Ed Colbert, said ‘Someone should write a book about your father’,” said Margaret.
Margaret started collecting all of the articles about her father from her siblings. She had wanted to create notebooks filled with the collections and history clippings from publications and give a copy to her family members. It was a project that took her several years to complete.
Some clippings, like that from an August 25th, 1930 Washington-area newspaper, shared detailed descriptions of Marty and his boxing characteristics.
“Gallagher is a slow moving, yet determined fighter who won’t give an inch and never knows when he is hurt,” stated the article published the day after Gallagher fought Henry Lamar, another heavyweight from the same area as the Irish Warrior.
Other articles in the Sports section of the newspapers told stories of Seabiscuit, the best and most notable horse to ever race in America. Neighboring photos showed Gallagher in fighting stance and announced his fight winnings. Today’s Sports sections are typically filled with football or baseball stats. Horse racing and boxing were two of the most-watched sports after the Depression. In that era, boxing was an important thing; it was something that people liked to pay attention to. Margaret decided to put her collection of articles together to create a book to recognize that.
Photo of Marty Gallagher, from August 19, 1929, shows the boxer's measurements.
“I had gathered all of the articles I could find about my father and put them in chronological order based on his boxing record online.”
Gallagher fought his first non-amateur fight in 1925. The 6’2½” heavyweight had a vicious reach of 73”. Gallagher fought 598 rounds in his career: 72 wins and 11 losses. Margaret and her family had documentation of many of their father’s wins, knock outs, and best rounds with strong competitors.
“My ideas start evolving while I was putting things together. I began searching for a ghost writer to write the summaries for the book. I called Dorrance Publishing Company while looking for a writer to finish the book,” explained Margaret.
Dorrance didn’t offer any ghostwriters, but they did show great interest in the story of Mr. Gallagher. A representative of the publishing company called Margaret every January to check on the progress of her compilation. After several years of working on the book, Margaret finally told the publisher that she had a few copies of a book put together and planned to give them to her family members. A woman from Dorrance asked Margaret to mail her a copy. Margaret shipped one binder, filled with newspaper clippings and stories she had written about her father, to the publisher.
“Within three weeks of sending them the book I got an email that said they wanted to publish the story about my dad,” said Margaret.
The story of the Irish Warrior had developed. Dorrance Publishing decided to publish the non-fiction novel because every statement in the book was backed up by truth. The plethora of newspaper clippings were used as reference tools. The book went to publication.
The story of Marty Gallagher is intriguing. During the Depression, Gallagher was a stand-up gentleman.
“Marty was the son of a Galway saloon-keeper, raised in the part of a town once known as Bloodfield, who fought the toughest and best heavyweights in the toughest and best era of boxing. Marty had the courage of a lion and a murderous punch but he hated to hurt people,” said one of Gallagher’s dear friends, Tom Quinn.
During the time tough times of prohibition and gangsters, Gallagher didn’t fit in. Quinn noted that the tall, muscular heavyweight didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and always looked for the best in everyone and treated them with the utmost respect.
“Growing up, my father was very well-known and well liked. He was a very kind man,” Margaret said.
Compassion, charity, and respect for human dignity were characteristics of the sport of boxing following World War I. It’s said that Gallagher was a role model in the sport.
After fighting his last in-ring battle in 1939, Gallagher spent many years after coaching college-level boxing at Georgetown University. He was looked up to by all of the young men he coached, students loved him, and he became a legacy at the University. For more than 30 years, Gallagher worked at Georgetown. He served as the Assistant Athletic Director and Coach. He taught hundreds of young men the practice of self-defense.
Gallagher shown coaching two young boxers at Georgetown University.
Gallagher passed away at the age of 86. Several years after his death, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Georgetown University. His children, including Margaret, were present at the awards ceremony.
In a letter to Gallagher (dated June 16th, 1973), R.J. Henle, the President and Director of Georgetown, wrote, “Your record as a prizefighter during boxing’s golden age speaks for itself. You were once a great heavyweight in an era filled with great heavyweights… You will always be recognized as the ‘Champ’ in the eyes of those who have come to know and admire you, a Gentleman of Georgetown.”
Not often does a story about an exemplary individual become turned into an inspiring story available in bookstores around the country. Thanks to Margaret, her father’s story will live on not just in those who knew the gentleman, but will also be shared with all who read The Irish Warrior.
Margaret Gallagher Colbert moved from the Washington D.C. area to the Eastern Shore in 1997. She resides in Frankford, DE with her husband. Margaret has shared the story of the Irish Warrior with her 6 siblings, 5 children, 11 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. Margaret works as the manager of Deer Run Golf Club and is involved in many local organizations. The story of her father can be found for sale at many places around the Ocean City area.
Margaret Gallagher Colbert will be signing copies of The Irish Warrior at several upcoming events:
September 22nd – 10 am to 5 pm – The Fiddler’s Convention in Berlin, MD
October 6th and 7th – 11 am to 7 pm – Celtic Festival in Snow Hill, MD – Furnace Town
October 20th – 4 pm to 6:30 pm – The Globe in Berlin, MD