"I remember looking at this battered Stratocaster and thinking, how does that come out of there?": Rory Gallagher's iconic 1961 Stratocaster is to be auctioned

Rory Gallagher's 1961 Stratocaster, and a picture of Rory playing it
(Image credit: Bonhams | Brian Cooke/Redferns via Getty Images)

One of the most iconic guitars in rock, Rory Gallagher's road-worn 1961 Fender Stratocaster, is to be auctioned, alongside the rest of his collection of instruments.

Gallagher originally purchased the Strat for £100 from Crowley’s Music Store in Cork, Ireland, in 1963. After acquiring the guitar – reportedly the first Stratocaster to reach the country –  Gallagher made it his go-to instrument and modified it significantly. It was briefly stolen in the late 1960s, but was recovered after being found in a ditch after the story appeared on Garda Patrol, a TV show that attempted to return lost possessions to their original owners. 

“After nearly thirty years since my brother Rory’s passing, I now believe it’s time for other people to cherish Rory’s ‘orphaned’ 1961 Fender Stratocaster and the rest of his incredible instrument collection," says Donal Gallagher, the late guitarist's younger brother and manager. "Since 1995, I have always felt that there was a mission to be fulfilled to cement Rory’s legacy and further widen the knowledge of his music.

"So, following much deliberation and reviewing of all options, in what is one of the most difficult and sensitive decisions to reach, I have decided to facilitate the release of his instruments for sale, so that these emblems of his legacy can be enjoyed by others.

"It is difficult to separate or even begin to quantify the depth of relationship Rory had with his instruments, this decision is one I recognise as challenging for some, however, with the proceeds raised from this instrument sale we will continue to do further good for Rory’s name and legacy, as well as assisting good causes, that my brother would have supported ."

“Rory Gallagher’s 1961 Fender Stratocaster is one of the world’s most recognisable guitars," says Claire Tole-Moir, Head of Bonhams Popular Culture department. "It was an enormous part of Rory Gallagher’s life and was with him from the very start of his career right until the end. It could be said that it was on this guitar that he carved out his legacy of being one of the greatest guitarists of all time. 

"It has been treasured by Dónal Gallagher, Rory’s brother and former manager, and the Gallagher family ever since Rory’s passing in 1995. Bonhams is honoured to be entrusted with bringing this iconic Stratocaster to auction and is excited to announce the landmark sale of Rory Gallagher’s extensive collection."

The guitar was played onstage by Joe Bonamassa during a show at Hammersmith Apollo in London in October 2011, while former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr – who was famously influenced by Gallagher – got to play it in 2013. 

Another fan was Queen guitarist Brian Maym, who said, "He was one of a very few people at that time, who could make his guitar do anything it seemed, it just seemed to be magic…I remember looking at this battered Stratocaster and thinking “how does that come out of there?”. 

The auction will take place at Bonham's in London on October 17.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.