|Date Of Birth:||Nov 1932|
|Place Of Birth:||Cork|
|Date Of Death:||Aug 1993|
|Place Of Death:||Navan|
|Debut:||25-Jan-53, League, (H) Cork Athletic|
Harry McQuillan was brought up in Clogherhead County Louth, and gave early evidence of his all-round sports skills while playing with his local GAA club, St Michael’s, when he represented County Louth at hurling, gaelic football and handball! In the All-Ireland handball championship, he once hit 31 consecutive aces on his way to a Leinster Championship medal.
He was a member of a high quality Dundalk Minor panel that reached the semi finals of both the Leinster and FAI Minor Cups in 1949-50—including future keeper Walter Durkan, capped by both the League of Ireland and the Irish League, Tommy Traynor (8 Irish Caps), Peter McParland (34 Northern Ireland caps), Sean McCarthy (Youth Cap), Jackie McCourt (duel FAI Cup medallist with Dundalk and Drumcondra) and Tommy McCabe (Irish League and New Zealand Caps).
A recurrence of a knee injury by Paddy Kelly was his opportunity for promotion from the Dundalk Reserves—where he had received representative honours with the Leinster League against the Lanarkshire League —and the ex-GAA player made his first team debut on January 25th 1953 (a 1-0 League win at Oriel Park against Cork Athletic).
A starring role in an FAI Cup tie against Waterford led the following April to an International cap on the Irish Junior team which lost to Scotland at Dalymount Park. Barring the occasional minor injury, he became a permanent first teamer for the remaining two years of his Dundalk career.
A utility player, he filled every defensive position at some time or other and within twelve months of receiving his Junior Cap he was 12th man for the League of Ireland Inter-League game against the Irish League in April 1954.
Tottenham Hotspur and Huddersfield were among the teams that tried to attract him to the English Leagues but Harry had made up his mind to travel abroad and see the world. When he left the club at the end of the 1954-55 season he had played 78 first team games and scored 2 goals.
In the period 1951 to 1955 he worked in the Great Northern Railway Works at Dundalk and in 1955 he moved to Northern Rhodesia, working in the Copperbelt Region, which at its peak in the 1960s was the world’s fourth largest producer of copper.
After independence in the early 1960s it was re-titled Zambia. During his near 20-years employment in the mines he attained a senior position in the ventilation section of the mines management.
His first port of call in Northern Rhodesia was in Nchanga, where he was quickly snapped up by the local Soccer team, helping them to the Copperbelt League Championship, but after moving to Mufulira in 1958 he joined the local Wanderers.
For years one of the country’s most outstanding centre-halves, his first representative honour came in 1958 when he played with the Northern Rhodesia team against the visiting Preston North End and his last was in 1963.
He later took to football management, becoming a vice-president with Mufulira Wanderers and coaching them to outstanding success, with an unprecedented 4-trophy success in 1965.
In that season Wanderers won the Zambian National League, the knockout Heinrich Trophy, the Zambian section of the inter-state Castle Cup and finally to success in the Castle Cup, overcoming the Southern Rhodesian Champions, Salisbury City Wanderers, in the final.
That squad included Zambia’s greatest football legend, Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu. Harry bowed out of football at the end of the 1965 season and was later honoured with his election as a life member of the Wanderers club.
Soccer was not his only football involvement in Zambia. In the off-season, after the soccer and rugby activities had come to a close, he played in a well supported Inter-Town Gaelic Football League.
He won League Championship medals with Nchanga (1956) and Mufulira (1959) and was the leading scorer in the 1959 League with 28 points, in a Mufulira team that consisted of a Scot, 3 Englishmen, 1 South American, 2 South Africans and 7 Irishmen!!
But his most outstanding achievements came at golf. Although he had never hit a golf ball in Ireland before emigrating to Zambia, within five years he had become a scratch golfer, and eventually went out to plus 2. Starting with a handicap of 24, success in his first club competition saw his handicap tumble down to 12. Within 4 years and 8 months he had progressed to a scratch handicap.
Even more incredibly, he took no lessons and used an unorthodox cack-handed or hurling grip. As well as playing at International level with both the Northern Rhodesia and Zambian National Golf teams on more than forty occasions, he won over 40 major championships and open events. His CV of major championship victories included every available Rhodesian Championship and Open tournament available.
In addition he added the Tanzanian Open on two occasions, and the Kenyan East African Open. On his home course, Mufulira, he was virtually unbeatable and by the time he left Zambia in 1974 he had won 10 Club Championships, including seven-in-a row from 1967 to 1973.
He even took on the professionals and showed them a thing or two, competing successfully in the annual Safari Circuit, the three-tournament Zambian tour played each spring, and which drew entrants from the leading European Professional players, including Irish players Christy O’Connor Senior and Junior, Ernie Jones, Jimmy Kinsella, Eddie Polland, Eamonn Darcy and Omeath-born Hugh Boyle.
Irish golfing legend Christy O’Connor would stay with the McQuillans when he visited Mufulira and many years later he recalled ” Harry was an outstanding amateur. In the Zambian Open he was one of the fellows to beat. A very good competitor.”
In the inaugural Mufulira Open in 1970 he finished in joint 6th place behind the winner Bernard Gallacher. In the 1971 pre-tournament Mufulira Pro-Am his 3-under par 70 put him in joint second spot and finished the main tournament in joint third.
In the following year Harry started the proceedings by winning the pre-tournament pro-am with a 6-under par 67, two shots clear of the nearest professional Guy Hunt. He led the Professional Open with just 6 holes remaining but a weak finish saw him drop to a joint-fourth finish.
A few weeks later, during the Mufulira Club Championship, he had a 36-hole score of 131 (65, 66), 15 under par, on a course measuring over 7,000 yards, a score described by Christy O’Connor Senior, who knew the course, as ‘amazing,’ and according to the authoritative ‘Golf Digest’ Magazine this was the lowest recorded 36-hole Championship score in the world that year, ahead of second place Jack Nicklaus with his 133 in the Westchester Classic.
The same magazine asserted that Harry’s score, consisting of 22 pars, 13 birdies and one eagle, was the lowest-ever 36-hole score recorded by an amateur.
The following year he was joint-leader with Hugh Boyle in the 1973 Mufulira (Professional’s) Open after three rounds but he faded in the final round to seventh position, three shots behind the winner. There was a perpetual trophy for the leading amateur in the Mufulira Open—the Norman Kenward Floating trophy—and after winning it in four successive years, the trophy was left with Harry!
His international Golf appearances for Zambia, over 40, were against neighbouring countries (South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Nyasaland) and visiting teams from the UK. In one contest against a visiting team from Lancashire, which included five internationals, Harry’s opponent, John Glover, birdied the first three holes to take a three hole lead and finished the round in 65 shots, 8 under par. However Harry won the match on the 18th hole, finishing with a 64!
He was selected on the Zambian team to play in the World Eisenhower Tournament but on political grounds the Zambian Government forced a withdrawal. He made two attempts to qualify for the British Open and his best effort was in 1972 when his 144 (71, 73) at Gullane just failed by a shot to make it to the Muirfield Open. By way of compensation on that occasion, and in the company of Christy O’Connor Snr, he played a practice round with Jack Nicklaus.
During his 1972 trip back to Ireland he also competed in the Waterford Scratch cup, finishing 4th, and the Val Doonican Classic at Woodbrook where his 71 was good enough to secure the leading Amateur award.
Returning to Ireland in 1974, he joined Tara Mines in Navan as Safety Superintendent and in 1978 he became the first Irishman to receive the British Council Diploma in Safety Management and to become a member of the International Institute of Safety Management. While in Zambia he had been made a Fellow of the South African Mining and Ventilation Society. In time he was appointed a Director of the National Safety Council of Ireland.
After nearly twenty years in the sun and warmth of Africa it took Harry a while to become accustomed to golf in Irish weather conditions. However, although over the age of forty on his return, within two years he had played his way onto the Leinster golf team for the Annual Inter-provincial Championship, after a series of successful amateur tournaments and pro-ams. In a final trial game against the Leinster professionals he had a return of 3 and a half points out of a possible four.
In May 1976 he added an Inter-Provincial Championship medal to his collection when Leinster got the better of Ulster, Munster and Connaught at Tramore. In August 1977 he again took on the Professionals, qualifying for the Carrolls Irish Open at Portmarnock, won by the American Hubert Green, being one of only five amateurs who made it through the qualifying stages.
In 1980, at the age of 48, he again made it into the Irish Open tournament proper, leaving a trail of Professionals in his wake at the Royal Dublin pre-qualifying stage.
A member of Royal Tara Golf Club, he became a regular on the Meath team in the All-Ireland Inter County Championship and after turning fifty he became active in Seniors Golf Tournaments.
His last major success came in 1988. In August that year after he had taken a 3-shot lead in the first round of the Ulster Seniors Open Championship at Royal Belfast he complained of feeling unwell and on medical advice he withdrew from the tournament.
However, he made up for this disappointment a few weeks later when he came back from a 3-shot overnight deficit to win the Leinster Seniors Championship at Laytown and Bettystown by 2 shots, after he birdied the last two holes. This victory came 30 years after his first Championship win, when in 1958 he landed the Bancroft Open in Northern Rhodesia.
He had the rare distinction of playing to a scratch handicap for 27 years, covering four decades, and had lost track of the number of course records he had equalled or set between Africa and Ireland. In Africa alone it ran to at least a dozen, across three countries, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.
Shortly after returning home he shot a 64 around Headfort in winter conditions and then in a Tara Mines Outing he improved to a 62! In one memorable winter he won four turkeys and his internal club handicap for Turkey competitions was plus 12!! One his proudest achievement was the rarity of winning a Captain’s Prize at Royal Tara off a scratch handicap and shooting a course record 66 in the process.
His last visit to Oriel Park was in March 1991 when he joined many past players in celebrating the Dundalk club’s 1500th League game. When he died in August 1993, his wife Nellie was Lady President of Royal Tara GC.
His multi-sport activity also ran to table tennis and lawn tennis and his first set of golf clubs were purchased on the proceeds of his snooker skills, where he regularly ran up breaks in the 60s. If ever there were a competition to establish Ireland’s greatest Sports All-Rounders, Harry McQuillan would surely feature in the list. He would certainly feature on any world listing of cack-handed golfers who competed successfully at the very highest levels of the game.
What They Said About Him
Ernie Jones, the winner of the 1971 Kenyan Open: “I have no hesitation in saying that Harry would stroll into the Walker Cup team—he just couldn’t be left out. His work on and around the greens with that cack-handed grip has to be seen to be believed.”
Jimmy Kinsella, Irish World Cup golfer said of him: “He is one of the greatest amateurs I’ve ever watched or played with.”
Christy O Connor, Senior: "Harry may not be playing in the Masters at Augusta this week. Yet he has a record that not many of the professionals have."
1 Junior cap