Tom Gallacher

Playwright & enthusiastic promoter of Scottish Arts

Tom Gallacher was born in Alexandria on February 16 1934. He was the third son and one of five children of Edward and Rose Gallacher, who moved from the Vale of Leven to Garelochhead when he was one.

After his schooling he trained as a draughtsman and worked at Denny’s Shipyard in Dumbarton (and experience that was to provide him with the source material for his work The Apprentice (1983).The narrator is a sixteen-year-old from a Sussex public school, Billy Thompson, who has come up in the 1950s to serve his apprenticeship in marine engineering at a yard at Greenock, as his "successful" father had done before him.)

Tom, influenced by his mother’s love of language and the spoken word, decided on a complete career change and commenced a career as a journalist – starting work at the local Helensburgh Advertiser. Whilst writing professionally and locally, he also wrote a series of articles for the County Reporter which were later published under the title ‘Hunting Shadows’.

Tom discovered at this time that he had a talent for writing plays, a realisation that came to pass during his time as a producer with the Dumbarton People’s Theatre. During the 1950’s he successfully produced several productions including Harvey, The Glass Menagerie, The Wind and the Rain and A Man for All Seasons.

His love of the theatre and his passion for words led him becoming a full time playwright, settling in London for 4 years before returning to Garelochhead in 1975. The 1970’s & 80’s saw Tom at his most productive and creative.

He wrote for television (The Trial of Thomas Muir, If the Face Fits), radio (The Scar) and the stage (Personal Effects, A Laughing Matter, The Only Street, Revival!). He also continued to adapt or produce other playwright’s works for the stage and appeared particularly fond of Ibsen. Adapting The Wild Duck, Doll’s House & An Enemy of the People for seasons in Edinburgh & Perth.

Arguably his best known work was the play Mr. Joyce is Leaving Paris written in 1972 – a play about James Joyce that was performed around the world and broadcast on both radio and TV.

Even though Tom was achieving international renown with his plays, he remained a fierce exponent the promotion of the Scottish Arts Scene and talents. He once explained that “the burgeoning riches of oil off the Scottish coast accomplished a sea change in the Arts as well . . . Scottishness was an asset, not a liability".

In November 1973, Tom was a member of a group of playwrights that founded The Scottish Society of Playwrights at the Netherbow Theatre. It was established in response to a need for a co-ordinated voice for playwrights to be heard in Scottish theatre and to act as a playwriting development and promotional agency.

In his later years, Tom combined his writing with a return to local reporting. He also was keen to pass on his considerable writing and stagecraft talents, authoring the text book The Way to Write for the Stage.

Tom died in Garelochhead in October 2001 at the age of 69.

Today many of Tom’s plays and books are out of print but are widely available through specialist book shops and via the web.