Lives Remembered

Colin Gallagher: A life dedicated to those living on the margins of society

Colin Gallagher had planned to return home to live in Co Tyrone before his death aged 43

A loving and caring person, Colin Gallagher always kept family and friends close to his heart, never forgetting where he came from.

As a senior occupational therapist specialising in mental health, in locations including Glasgow and more recently London, he retained close connections to the Sperrins and west Tyrone.

His plan was to return in June this year and eventually settle in a rural cottage he had renovated in Barnes Gap, nestled in the heart of scenic Glenelly, where he had played Gaelic football for St Joseph's GAC and was involved in amateur dramatics.

Sadly, this was not to be. On March 11, Colin was taken from us suddenly at the young age of 43 as a result of underlying respiritory problems.

Just eight months earlier, he had taken part in the Westminster 10k in aid of cardiovascular research.

He had also completed marathons in New York, Berlin, London, Belfast and Dublin, raising vital funds for charities including Mencap NI, Simon Community NI, The Alzheimer's Society as well as hospice and cancer care providers.

As a young man 'Colly' had worked in Omagh's leisure centre and was a very pleasant sales assistant in Treanor Meats to help finance his entry into third-level education.

Immersed in the dance music scene of the 1990s and much influenced by the Motown record label, he would also join other DJs on stage at Sally's nightclub.

He earned a degree in humanities and a post-graduate diploma in communications, but it was while working with Mencap in Omagh and with the homeless in Belfast and Derry that he decided to change career direction.

Strongly influenced by his experiences, he studied to become an occupational therapist and worked in Hollywell Hospital in Antrim and Belfast's RVH.

Totally selfless, Colin also volunteered with homeless charities and marginalised groups when living and working in Britain and was particularly proud of his involvement in 2012 Special Olympics and other major sporting events.

In an article published by The Guardian, he described his realisation that the outworking of the principle of equality is needed to underpin attempts to improve people's everyday lives and the advancement of human dignity.

This came about during the summer of 2000 when he worked as an Arizona- based counsellor for The Ulster Project – a cross-community programme benefiting young people from disadvantaged areas affected by the Troubles.

Though having a gentle nature, Colin would often speak up strongly for fairness at work and justice in society, rejecting all forms of discrimination and intolerance.

A man of deep personal faith, he also believed in the importance of having a rich spiritual life.

As deputy leader of the Irish Pilgrimage Trust's Group 190 and joining UU chaplain Fr Raymond McCullagh on pilgrimages to Lourdes, he ensured that young people with learning disabilities or who had experienced major trauma were given the opportunity to take part.

Colin's mischievousness would cause much fun and laughter for everyone during pilgrimages.

Culture, heritage and travel interested him greatly and researching the Gallagher family's connections to the Donegal Gaeltacht, especially Doirí Beaga also gave him much pleasure.

At his Requiem Mass in St Mary's Church, Killyclogher, Fr McCullagh recalled Colin's innate goodness and life of actively caring and advocating for others, especially people living on the margins of society.

His body was then taken in bright sunshine to its final resting place at St Patrick's churchyard, Cranagh - the cortege having passed his Barnes Gap cottage, completing its journey along the hinterland where, when growing up, Colin honed his running style.

Colin Martin Gallagher, beloved son of Kathleen (née McCullagh) and the late John, devoted eldest brother of Christopher, Katrina, Jonathan, Maria, Nicola and Dean, will always be remembered with love and deep affection by the many people whose lives he touched with compassion, kindness, encouragement and fun-loving sense of humour.

Go ndéana Dia grásta ar a anam dílis.

Paul Henry

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Lives Remembered