Wigan man left unable to speak finally shares his life story in new book

A man who was left unable to speak and control his limbs has been able to share his life story with the help of a Wigan-based arts organisation.

Stephen Gallagher, 57, hopes the book he created with Healthy Arts will challenge the stigma of being disabled.

Read More

Read More
Former Wigan man described as 'wicked and cruel' jailed for 12 years for rapes

He suffered a common childhood condition at the age of just six months which progressed into a virus and caused inflammation of the brain.

Stephen Gallagher

Without the aid of a communication device until the age of 16, Stephen was assumed to have a learning disability.

However, able to type with one finger, he did not let his disability get in the way and enjoyed great success as a scout.

He was the first scout to be presented with the prestigious Cornwell Scout badge – an award for bravery and strength of character – at the age of 16.

Stephen, who lives in Golborne, said: “I was stunned and thrilled when the district commissioner wrote to tell my parents that the Chief Scout Sir William Gladstone had given me this accolade.”

The cover of Stephen Gallagher's book

Stephen desperately wanted to write his life story, but due to his communication needs, it was difficult for volunteers and carers to support him in this task.

So a professional "ghost writer” worked with Stephen, developing a creative partnership over many months to bring his words to the page.

In December 2018, Stephen was introduced to writer Julie McKiernan, from Healthy Arts, a not-for-profit organisation that uses creativity to improve people’s lives.

Following hours of interviews, the pair penned a book of 10 chapters, each one dispelling a myth around disability and drawing on experiences in Stephen’s life – for example, that disabled people do not fall in love.

Stephen Gallagher receiving the Scouting award

Julie said: “I also interviewed his parents and his sister to fill in any gaps in Stephen’s timeline and to get their perspectives on his life. I am humbled by his strength and his journey.”

The book is entitled My Life In Their Hands and Stephen – with his typical sense of humour – has judged it to be “brilliant”.

Thanks to funding from the City Health Care Partnership Foundation, Taylor Wimpey’s community chest initiative and donations from Newton-le-Willows and Hindley Rotary clubs, the book was published in March 2020 but the official launch had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

The book will finally be launched on Friday, August 19, from 3pm to 4.15pm at Pennington Wharf Community Hub in Leigh.

Local poet and disability activist Shaun Fallows will read extracts from the book on Stephen’s behalf – in an appropriate Wigan accent – and perform some of his own poems. There will also be a celebratory cake and an opportunity to buy the book.

Wigan-based Joolz Design professionally designed the book cover and it was copy-read by Lowton writer and editor CJ Harter.

Any organisations wishing to support the distribution and sale of the book are asked to email Julie at [email protected]

All profits from the book will be donated to the British Heart Foundation.