You couldn't pin him down. In some ways Tim Gallagher was a contradictory character, whose groups of friends, and the lifestyles they represented for him, rarely crossed over. He was someone who consciously compartmentalised his life.
There are some bare facts, of course. He was a Londoner of Irish descent, who spent time in Greece -- where he became friends with leading Greek poet Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke -- and in Ireland. He had a long-term gay relationship with Marc Stevens, then to the surprise of many, fell incandescently in love with Rosa Nery dos Santos. Rosa was in her mid-twenties. and a strong, warm and sometimes fiery Brazillian woman he'd met through the Lighthouse, the London aids centre.
Tim ran away with Rosa to a village in Somerset called Pilton -- Tim particularly enjoying Rosa's inability to get her Brazillian accent around the name. Later they married and moved back to London, and then Hove. They were together for about two years before he died in a hospice. Rosa passed on six months later in Hammersmith Hospital.
Clues and codes
Tim's haunting stage performances were sometimes very funny, and when I first saw him perform, at poetry venues in London in the late eighties, I was also puzzled by what I thought were a set of intruiging clues and codes.
At first, it didn't seem to matter much. Especially as his monologues were in a different league to much of what was on offer.
For the first two or three years, however, I found our friendship disappointing. We'd have a great laugh a few drinks and loads of conversation, then he'd disappear entirely for months without a word.
Everything became clear when, halfway through a poetry reading in Hammersmith he told me he needed to speak to me urgently. He took me to a pub, and told me about his HIV and how he wanted me to help him as time was short.
As the shock passed, I realised how all his work had suddenly and disturbingly fallen into place. Later I asked him why he'd not mentioned it before.
He said airily that he didn't want to be considered an endangered species. Then I remembered him making inflammatory remarks about "whales and their regressive whining".
A few years before this revelation, I had written
an article for Mario Pettrucci's Bound Spiral magazine, where I compared his monologues to Airfix construction kits. You began to follow the logic of his argument, but instead of assembling the expected Spitfire or galleon you ended up some kind of bizarre Heath Robinson device.
This first impression was further underlined by the fact that he self-published individual sequences of monologues in tiny chapbooks. These he gave each a title, and a number: 1A 2A 3A and so on. He told me once he envisaged a grid of publications, so that he would later publish a 1B which would comment on 1A, and then a 1C as a kind of antithesis to 1B. Sadly there was not enough time for him to get beyond 7A.
As the time for him to "join the majority" (his usual way of talking about death) loomed, he decided to assemble all these disparate publications into one paperback. This we did, and even managed to sell some of them before he died. The title for this publication was Narcissus Goes A-Courting, which was the title he gave to his first pamphlet (number 1A).
The collection you'll read in AnotherSun is called "To The Lighthouse", which refers to the London Aids Centre of the same name. He used the Lighthouse as a place to hang out, and we often met there for coffees and to discuss his various publications, and plan performances. And as he knew I was a hypochondriac, I think part of him enjoyed taking me there.
He was tremendously dedicated to performance. And towards the end he would, depending on his health, discharge himself from hospital, get a cab, do the performance, and return. These later performances, though slightly ragged and in front of small bemused audiences, were of course almost unbearable for those in the know.
I have his amended copy of Narcissus Goes A-Courting, which he has made a few textual amendments to "To the Lighthouse" including adding its alternative title "Prison Spell", surely a reflection on how he felt about the life sentence of his illness.
And for reasons best known to himself, he also crossed out 7A in red biro, and changed it to 7B. I have included his minor amendments in the version published here.
It's impossible to tell exactly when he wrote these monologues -- but some of the ones published now in AnotherSun were among the last things Tim wrote. There is a playful element to them and, of course, a palpable sadness.
Timothy Gallagher became an extremely close friend to me, especially in his last two or three years. He was delighted to see his work collected and published -- he kept telling me that Narcissus Goes A-Courting was selling like "hot cakes". He was also happier with Rosa than I had ever seen him before, and to be with them was an amazingly warm experience.
Tim died on 2 July 1994. Before his cremation there was a rememberance at the Lighthouse, with fittingly a stage set as if ready for him to walk out onto.
Since his death his work has seen a few sporadic performances. The last I know of was "Job Application" (included here) performed by Mindy Chillery (another good friend of Tim's) of The Last Gasp company in Leamington Spa in February 2001.
I hope this on-line publication brings a new awareness to the unusual work of someone with an exhilarating talent.