Swimming Australia, the Australian Dolphins swim team and the swimming community are mourning the loss of legendary coach, Harry Gallagher OAM, who passed away on Thursday morning aged 96.
Touted as one of Australia’s most successful swimming coaches and affectionately known as ‘Mr Gallagher’, his tremendous legacy includes a long list of achievements; most notably guiding Dawn Fraser to a trio of Olympic gold medals in the 100m freestyle across three consecutive Games (1956, 1960 & 1964).
A Sport Australia Hall of Fame member, Gallagher’s dedication to swimming dated back the late 1940s, when by chance, he taught his comrades in the army – many of whom could not swim – how to save themselves. From that fortuitous moment he went on to coach not only Fraser, but some of the biggest names in Australian swimming including Jon Henricks – who won gold in 1956 – Lorraine Crapp AM, Michael Wenden AM, Brad Cooper, and Lyn McClements.
His overwhelming success saw him appointed Head Coach of the Australian team at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where they returned home with world records and 17 medals, including many golds.
Highly regarded as one of the best sprint freestyle coaches in the world and with a desire to give back to the sport, Gallagher also passionately penned many coaching books over the course of his 50-year career, passing on his knowledge and expertise for future generations.
Gallagher was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1984, was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1986 and was made a Life Member of Swimming Australia in 2020. He was also recognised as both a Platinum and Master Coach by the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association.
Swimming Australia President Kieren Perkins said Gallagher was a true gentleman of the sport who leaves behind an amazing legacy.
“Although I was never fortunate enough to meet Mr Gallagher, I felt like I knew him because my coach, Mr Carew, spoke so highly of him. He used many of Mr Gallagher's coaching techniques which is a testament to how respected he was in the industry and how his methods stood the test of time,” Perkins said.
“He will be remembered for the way he revolutionised the art and science of being a swimming coach, creating technical excellence and perfection in performances, as well as producing professional attitudes.
“Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family, loved ones and all those who were lucky to call him their friend.”
Fraser described the special bond she shared with Gallagher and credits him for all her success.
“He taught me everything I know. He was always Mr Gallagher, or coach to me. Never Harry. But we had a beautiful affection for each other. I would not have succeeded without him,” Fraser said.
“Mr Gallagher taught me self-discipline. If you missed a session, you doubled up the next day. That’s how it was. We have stayed in touch all these years. I feel I belong to his family and him to mine.
“If he didn’t know something, he would ask the top professionals in that field. If he wanted to know about the heart, he brought in Professor Edward Both, who invented the portable electrocardiograph machine. He trialled it on me and Jon Henricks. He always went to the top people.
“He was fair dinkum, a true Aussie.”