Hughie Gallacher was born in Bellshill, Scotland, on the 2nd February 1903. He played local football for Tannockside Athletic and Hattonrigg Thistle in 1919. The following year he became a professional footballer when he signed for Queen of the South in the Scottish League.
Gallacher married at the age of 17 and his wife had two children but the couple separated by the time Gallacher was 20 years old.
In May 1921 Gallacher was transferred to Airdrieonians. Over the next four years he scored 91 goals in 111 games and was primarily responsible for Airdrieonians obtaining three Scottish League runner-up positions and a Scottish Cup while he was at the club.
Gallacher's form was so good he was selected to play for Scotland against Northern Ireland on 1st March 1924. The following season he won international caps against England and Wales. In his first four games for his country he scored five goals. It was the start of an amazing international career that resulted in him scoring 23 goals in only 20 games.
In 1925 Newcastle United paid Airdrieonians £6,500 for the services of Hughie Gallacher. It was a club record fee. Gallacher made an immediate impact and during his first season scored 23 goals in 19 games. The following season Newcastle won the First Division league title. Gallacher, who had been made captain of the side, scored 36 goals in 38 league games.
Newcastle United was less successful in the next three seasons but each year Gallacher was the clubs's top scorer: 1927-28 (21 in 32), 1928-29 (24 in 33) and 1929-30 (29 in 38). As Paul Joannou points out in The Black 'n' White Alphabet: "Hughie Gallacher is considered by many to be the greatest centre-forward of all time. Although a mere 5' 5", he was a handful for any defence possessing awesome strike power. Hughie could shoot with either foot, dribble with the ball, head, tackle, forage and also frequently lose his control on the field. A record of netting a formidable total of 463 goals in 624 senior matches speaks for itself, while Gallacher is United's most potent attacker of all time with a strike-rate of over 82% in his 174 outings."
Gallacher continued to play well for Scotland. He scored a hat-trick playing for his country against Northern Ireland on 27 February 1926. He was also a member of the Scotland side that thrashed England 5-1 at Wembley on 31st March 1928. The following year he scored all four goals in Scotland's 4-2 victory over Northern Ireland.
Gallacher was also often in dispute with the management of Newcastle United. He was often in trouble with referees and after one incident was suspended for two months. Gallacher was a heavy drinker and became involved with the 17-year-old daughter of a pub landlord. He ended up in court after hitting the woman's brother, who objected to her seeing a married man.
Gallacher eventually divorced his first wife and married the younger woman. However, the divorce cost him £4,000 and this left him in financial difficulties. To solve the problem he persuaded Newcastle United to sell him to Chelsea for a club record fee of £10,000 in May 1930. During his time at Newcastle he scored 133 goals in 160 league appearances.
The Newcastle fans were furious with this decision and when Chelsea visited St James' Park for a First Division league game in September 1930, a record crowd of 68,386 (with another 10,000 locked outside) turned up to welcome back their hero. Gallacher was unable to score and his former club won 1-0.
Gallacher continued to have problems with alcohol and in one game he was accused of being drunk and disorderly on the pitch. He defended himself by claiming that he was using whisky and water as a mouthwash.
Gallacher was unable to bring league or cup success to Chelsea and after scoring 72 goals in 132 league games was sold to Derby County in November 1934 for £3,000. Now in his 30s, Gallacher was considered past his best but he still managed to score 38 goals in 51 league games.
In September 1936, Gallacher was sold to Third Division side Notts County. He scored an impressive 32 goals in 45 games and helped his club finish in second place in the league. Gallacher also played for Grimsby Town (3 in 12) and Gateshead (18 in 34). During his career he scored 463 goals in 624 senior matches.
Gallacher continued to have problems with alcohol and on 12th June 1957 he was due to appear in Gateshead magistrate's court on charges alleging assault and maltreatment of his 14-year-old daughter. He did not appear in court as the previous day he stepped in front of the York-Edinburgh express and was decapitated.