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by Louise Wilson
17 October 2023
Meghan Gallacher: I was mortified when I had to go back to school for a seventh year

Photo by Andrew Perry

Meghan Gallacher: I was mortified when I had to go back to school for a seventh year

What’s your earliest memory?

This is not something that many people know about me, but my dad worked in a zoo and I spent a lot of time during summer and after school there. I think this is where my love of animals has come from.

There was a rhino in the zoo called Zulu. He was very friendly. If you shouted ‘Zulu’, this humongous rhino started trotting towards you, he would lean himself up against the side of the enclosure and would let you pet his eyelid – that’s the softest part of a rhino. Zulu was fantastic.

When Glasgow Zoo closed, sadly, Zulu was carted off the Germany. I haven’t been able to find him since, but that’s definitely one of my favourite memories growing up.

That’s such an amazing story.

It just made me appreciate animals, conservation, and wildlife so much more. It also meant that I had some interesting pets as well. I had stick insects at one point. The lady who worked with reptiles and insects, she was always at my dad, ‘we could get Meghan to take this home, she’ll love this’. They eventually compromised on stick insects.

Then one morning they got out, just before school. My dad is like, ‘you’re gonna have to come and help me’ because we had to get all these stick insects before my mum woke up. She’d have freaked out.

Obviously the next question I have to ask is, do you think dealing with animals has helped you in politics?

Absolutely. It’s like being in the wilderness, being in this place! Having that grounding, just this different experience to others, I think it gives you a wee bit of an edge, doesn’t it?

What were you like at school?

I really enjoyed school, particularly primary. When I was at secondary, I was always interested in the arts.  English and art definitely were more my favourite topics than, say, maths. But when I was in fifth and sixth year I lost my way. I just became so disinterested because I was told at that point, if you were going into the arts, only in a small portion of people actually make it and do well and succeed; you know, ‘what would you do with an art degree?’ and all the rest of it. So I lost interest and that was reflected in my the results.

I do really need to thank one teacher in particular. When the sixth-year results came in and she saw mine, she was like, ‘you’re coming back for a seventh year’. I was mortified at the time, I thought I really do not want to be here for another year. But she obviously saw I had more potential than what I achieved. I was fortunate to have such a fantastic teacher to encourage me to come back and do better, and I went on to university to study politics and sociology.

I do like telling that story because I like telling young people there is no wrong path, and even if you do make mistakes or not do as well as you hoped, there’s different pathways. I certainly did that and I recovered, and I’ve managed to find myself here which I never thought I would ever do.

What is your greatest fear?

Failing. I’ve always been someone that likes to go out, work hard and do as best as I can. I just go back to that school memory, that moment when I realised I hadn’t done as well as I should have.

That goes along with the work I do as an MSP. I would hate to think that I’ve ever failed to help someone or failed to take something as far as I can go. I suppose that comes with ambition as well. I like to make sure that I’m getting things right.

Has that fear of failure ever stopped you doing something?

No, and that’s probably a contradiction slightly because I think in order to try something, you’ve got to put yourself forward for it. I think that comes with the ambition I’ve got, in terms of making sure you can be the best you can be. But also showing other people who’ve got a similar background to yourself, if I can do it, you can do it too. I’ve got a sort of ‘break-the-mould’ element. I’m always keen to try push the boundaries.

What was your best ever holiday ever?

Oh, it’s got to be the first time that my fiancé and I went on holiday. That was to Rome. It was just fantastic, it’s stunning, the architecture, the history and we just spent it wondering around and taking it all in. It was breathtaking. We went to  the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum – we were just proper tourists. And he’s now my fiancé, so it must have worked out. We both love history, both love architecture, it’s my ideal place. If I wasn’t based here in Scotland, I would probably want to be there.

I’m sure you’ve seen the TikTok trend… how often do you think about the Roman empire?

Ha! Funnily enough I asked Graeme that question, ‘how many times a day do think about the Roman empire?’ And he said ‘quite a lot, actually’. The funny thing is, the week before he had asked if I wanted to watch Gladiator with him out of the blue. Now I know it was probably because he was thinking about the Roman empire.

What’s your most treasured possession?

After I had Charlotte, I kept her hospital band. That will forever be both Graeme and I’s most treasured possession, because she is so treasured. And she’ll get them back one day.

We’ve got a memory box for Charlotte as well. It’s got her first hat, first baby outfit, the hospital band. We’ve kept it all because it’s a nice thing to have to look back on when she’s older.

All embarrassing stuff to pull out at her 18th birthday?

Oh, absolutely. Pictures of her covered in food, too! We’ve got a few crackers out there for her 18th.

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