As kids, how many of us just had to reach out and touch an electric fence. You know, to see what happened?
And you got a little jolt for your efforts, right?
The inventor of the electric fence Alfred William Gallagher was a Kiwi. And the idea came from his horse.
Bill and his brother Henry were working on Henry’s motorcycle one day and a horse wandered into the barn while they were working.
Bill’s horse Joe was a nuisance who had learned that he could lean up against the car to scratch an itch.
Bill connected the motorcycles’s magneto to his car as a triggering device and when the horse brushed up against the car, it got a little jolt.
He immediately recognised the benefit of it. This was a way of controlling wandering stock.
In 1937, he created the first electric fence connected to mains power but then, because using the mains power was illegal, he created a battery powered version.
Gallagher was born on May 17, 1911, to father Alfred John Gallagher and his wife Sarah Matilda Clow in Hamilton. He was the first of six children.
Bill went to the local school, but in 1920 his family moved to Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty to a farm. When he left school he began working on the farm.
The farm didn’t thrive and in 1927 his father left and went to Australia. After his mother suffered a stroke, the family moved back to the Waikato, selling the farm.
With his share, Bill bought a property and married Millicent May Murray on April 29, 1936.
During a visit to Wellington Bill and a mate were offered a job making gas-producers and electric fences. He then worked for the Colonial Ammunition Company then a farm repair business.
After the war he expanded a garage on his property to a workshop and began making gas-producers and turning old cars into tractors. Two of his brothers worked with him and created a spinning top-dresser. The workshop also did repairs and created the electric fences units.
In 1963, Gallagher Engineering was established with £3000 and his son’s John and Bill Jnr came on board. The electric fence became the most successful product once mains electricity could be used.
By the 80’s Bill had reduced his direct involvement although he remained a director. But retirement he kept inventing - crating a hoist for transferring hospital patients from bed, bath and wheelchair.
He received an MBE in 1990, was a justice of the peace, and Rotarian.
And his electric fences were being used all over the world, including in Malaysia for elephant control and in Canada to protect beehives from bears.
Bill died in Hamilton on August 8, 1990 and was buried in Hamilton Park cemetery.
Picture by Chris Slupski.
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