Harold S. Mahony (1867-1905)–Ireland's last Wimbledon singles champion By Mark Ryan Part I of XI Harold Segerson Mahony was born on 13 February 1867. Some mystery surrounds his exact birthplace. Although both of his parents were Irish, Harold Mahony appears to have been born in Edinburgh, Scotland. However, his birth was registered in the Kenmare district of County Kerry in Ireland, and he also appears to have been christened in Kenmare at some point. Harold Mahony was his parents’ second child, a girl, Nora Eveleen Mahony, having been born in Kenmare on 29 February 1864. Another child, a boy named Hardress Waller Mahony, was born on 14 June 1869, in Dalmore Lodge, the Mahony family’s Scottish residence in Leith, Midlothian. This third child lived for only 18 days. Harold Mahony’s parents were Richard John Mahony (born 1828), of Dromore Castle, near Kenmare, County Kerry, a barrister, Justice of the Peace (J.P.) and high sheriff, and Mary Harriette Mahony (née Waller; born 1837), eldest daughter of John Waller, barrister, of Shannon Grove, Pallas, County Limerick. Harold Mahony’s parents were married on 2 October 1856 at Saint Peter’s Church (now demolished) in Aungier Street, Dublin. Both parents were members of the Church of Ireland, the Irish wing of the Protestant Church of England. The Mahony family home, Dromore Castle, had been built in the 1830’s for Richard John Mahony’s father, the Reverend Denis Mahony, a clergyman and J.P., whose first wife was Lucinda Catherine Segerson, a native of West Cove, Country Kerry. The name Segerson derives from Lucinda Catherine’s side of the family. When the Reverend Denis Mahony died in 1851, Richard John Mahony inherited the family estate where he devoted himself to establishing a model farm and maintaining good relations with his tenants. Richard John Mahony was a deeply committed Christian and in the 1860’s was involved in the evangelical “Ulster revival”. From around 1861 he was also associated with the Brethern movement, an evangelical group based mainly in Great Britain and Ireland. He was known as a powerful speaker and became one of the foremost preachers in the Brethern, giving sermons in his native County Kerry, and also travelling to England and the Continent. Mary Harriette Mahony was a renowned preacher, too, and also involved with the Brethern movement. She often accompanied her husband on preaching tours. In later life Harold Mahony was known as a rather laid-back, genial man, with a gift for enjoying the finer things in life. His relaxed way of viewing the world might have been a natural reaction to or a deliberate way of coping with what might have been a strict upbringing with two such devout parents. It appears that Mahony was a delicate boy and spent most of his childhood at Dromore Castle, where he did a great deal of shooting. According to a portrait of Mahony published in the sports gazette “Pastime” in 1892, “He was a good game shot when but thirteen years of age, and can now bring down a rocketer or bag a brace with the best of sportsmen.” It is possible that his parents kept a house in Edinburgh because they sometimes preached there. It appears that they also had a house in London and in Dublin. Certainly, Richard John Mahony, Harold’s father, was at one point one of the wealthiest landowners in Ireland, so it would not have been unusual for him to possess several properties in addition to Dromore Castle, near Kenmare. By 1886, when he turned 19, Harold Mahony was ready to enter Dublin University (now Trinity College, Dublin), the favoured university for students from a Protestant background. Given his background, it is also not unusual that Harold Mahony at some point began to play the relatively new and fashionable sport of lawn tennis, as it was then called. At Dublin University he would also play rackets and football as well as representing the university in the Cross Country Championships. Harold Mahony more than likely matriculated at Dublin University in the Michaelmas term, i.e. at the beginning of October 1886. His chosen course of study was the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). Around this time, Dubiln University initiated its own lawn tennis tournament, and it is likely that this was one of the first tournaments, if not the first tournament, in which Harold Mahony ever took part. According to an interview he gave to “Lawn Tennis and Croquet” in June 1898, Harold Mahony when asked when he first began to play tennis, replied, “In 1887, though I had played a few garden-party games prior to that.” 1887 was the year in which he made his debut at the prestigious Irish Championships tournament, then held in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, in late May. On his debut Mahony reached the semi-finals of the men’s singles event before losing to the English player Ernest Renshaw by the one-sided score of 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. According to the “Irish Times” newspaper of 27 May 1887, “Mr Mahony has shown some good form during the tournament, and gets one of the third prizes in the All-Comers’ Singles, thus securing the only prize won by a Dublin University representative in the meeting.” Two years later at the 1889 Irish Championships, Harold Mahony again reached the semi-finals of the men’s singles event before losing, this time to the other Renshaw brother, William, who won easily, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. It was at this tournament that Mahony scored a notable win in the doubles event, where he was partnered by the Englishman George Hillyard, husband of the redoubtable Blanche (née Bingley). According to the “Irish Times” of May 24, 1889: “The sensation of the day was in the Gentlemen’s Doubles Championship between the brothers Ernest and William Renshaw, and George W. Hillyard and Harold S. Mahony of Dublin. Though the latter had just come out of court after the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship he was soon seen to be in grand form. “The Renshaws certainly started off well, and the remark went round the ropes – ‘Oh, the Renshaws will win easily’ – and this seemed to be a good prophecy when the Renshaws were 6 to 2. In the next set, however, Mahony and Hillyard improved, and the Renshaws went back, with the result that the set went to Mahony and Hillyard, 7 to 5, whilst the next set was a victory for the same side, 6-2. “The third [fourth] set was the most exciting of the lot, and when Hillyard and Mahony were 3 to 0 and later 5 to 2, the expected defeat of the Renshaws was discussed on all hands. “The champions, however, won four games in succession, though thrice over their opponents should have won, as on one occasion the Renshaws were love-40, but still they won. On another occasion Hillyard and his partner were ‘vantage when the Chiswick player [Hillyard] wanted one stroke, and he put an easy backhander in the net, whilst the third lost opportunity was when a ball which would have won the game fell on the baseline and was declared out. “At last 6-all was called, and Hillyard and Mahony getting the next two games, the finishing stroke being a smash, the Renshaws were defeated by three sets to one.” The final score was 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, 8-6 in favor of Mahony and Hillyard. At this point in time Harold Mahony was only 22, but this doubles match was an early indication of his ability to play a good serve-and-volley game.