Joseph Peter ‘JP’ Gallagher


William Robinson Clarke

‘Journalist who was at the top of his game’

1917 - 1983

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The Empire Windrush had an array of talented individuals on board but only one who declared his occupation as a journalist. He later wrote a book that was turned into a Hollywood film, starring Gregory Peck.

The Windrush passenger was Joseph Peter O’Neill Gallagher who was born in Lewisham, London, on March 15, 1917. On board with him was his 30-year-old Belfast-born wife, Anna, née Farrell, and their two children, Peter, six, and Geraldine, who was not yet two.

Joseph, better known by his initials ‘JP’ Gallagher, was much more than a run-of-the- mill journalist. His greatest claim to fame was a book he penned in 1976 titled The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican. In 1983, it was turned into a film, The Scarlet and the Black starring Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer with music by Ennio Morricone.

The book was based on the life of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews during the Second World War.

JP was a newspaper reporter for 50 years, specialising in interviewing the famous and infamous – from film stars to murderers. He wrote another book called Master of Mirth and Tears about Fred Karno, the slapstick comedian, which was also made into a film. Also, he interviewed John Logie Baird, the inventor of television.

JP and Anna met after she moved to England from Northern Ireland to work as a civil servant in the War Office in London. It was the Second World War and JP was involved in undercover work with the top secret Special Operations Executive.

An article that he wrote for the Britannia and Eve magazine on April 1, 1949, reveals why the Gallagher family had boarded the Windrush in Kingston. The headline, ‘Penury Under the Palms’, is an indication of what JP thought of Jamaica, where he had been living with his family. They had moved there to escape the austerity of Britain but found a country riddled with disorganisation, waste, and rackets.

Another of JP’s concerns was the cost of living in the West Indies. For him, this included things most people would consider luxuries such as a cook, a nanny, and a garden boy. It is no surprise that the family decided to return to England after less than a year.

JP and Anna were later blessed with a third child, Timothy, in 1953. Timothy died in 2015. Peter, Geraldine, and Anna all died within the space of less than eight months, between May 2007 and January 2008. JP passed away on July 14, 1983. He was living at Wellsmoor Gardens, Bromley in Kent, at the time.

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