After studying and then teaching at the University of Glasgow Niall O’Gallagher went to work as a journalist. Niall O’Gallagher’s first book of poems, Beatha Ùr (Clàr), was published in 2013. It featured love poems in European forms, often set in Glasgow. Reviewing the collection in the Herald, Aonghas MacNeacail wrote, ‘Gaelic poetry welcomes an exciting new (this time essentially urban) voice’. Completed with the help of a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust / Gaelic Books Council, Beatha Ùr continued Gaelic poetry’s long-running engagement with Scotland’s largest city. The book also suggested an interest in strict forms drawn from both the Gaelic and wider European tradition.
His second collection, Suain nan Trì Latha (2016), made this explicit in a series of poems, many addressed to the poet’s infant son, echoing classical Gaelic love lyrics. Anna Frater described the attempt to write dàin dìreach, with their strict syllable counts and intricate rhyming, on modern themes as ‘nuadh-bhàrdachd san t-seann nòs’ (‘new poetry in the old style’) while bilingual poet Deborah Moffat recommended his work to the readers of the Poets’ Republic, telling Marcus Mac an Tuairneir ‘[he] writes about modern life in a classical style; an extraordinary feat’. Welsh poet Llŷr Gwyn Lewis, himself a writer of modern cynghanedd, described Niall O’Gallagher as a ‘brilliant…contemporary practitioner’ of classical Celtic verse.
Although he has translated the Gaelic poetry of Christopher Whyte into English and Scots, and the Irish poetry of Biddy Jenkinson into Scottish Gaelic, Niall O’Gallagher has declined to translate his own poetry, preferring to rely on others, like Deborah Moffat and Peter Mackay, to produce English versions of his poems. His work has been translated to Irish by Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde and the poem ‘Beatha Ùr’ set to music by Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde. In a polemical essay in the Gaelic journal STEALL entitled ‘Sealg Dealain-dè’ (‘Butterfly Hunting’), he wrote, ‘For me, self-translation would amount to self-censorship…Gaelic became a language not subject to any authority, in which it was possible to say anything.’
In July 2019 Niall O’Gallagher was named Bàrd Baile Ghlaschu, the city of Glasgow’s first Gaelic laureate.
Updated July 2019