All-round sportsman and tennis champion who represented Ireland in Davis Cup


Alan Haughton:ALAN HAUGHTON, who has died aged 93, was a key player on Irish Davis Cup and Munster tennis teams, a prominent member of the Society of Friends, a collector of rare books, a lover of poetry, and a successful businessman.

Probably best known as an international tennis player, he represented Ireland in the Davis Cup and home internationals. A stylish all-round player, he was one of the stars on the Cork tennis scene for almost half a century, playing in singles, doubles and mixed doubles with equal flair, regularly representing Munster and Ireland.

He won the Irish junior championship at Fitzwilliam and was the winner of more than 120 Open events in Ireland as well as playing a number of times in the championship at Wimbledon.

He was a member of Rushbrooke Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which, having been founded to provide a social outlet for British officers, claims the distinction of being the oldest tennis club in Ireland and the oldest croquet club in existence.

After retiring from the game at 55, he took it up again 10 years later with renewed appetite, representing Ireland in veteran matches at home and abroad, providing a remarkable example of staying power to younger players.

A man of great charm and a natural sportsman, Haughton was relentlessly competitive and excelled at croquet, table tennis, snooker and boule. He was South of Ireland squash champion and represented Munster at table tennis.

Clear-minded to the end, he also played a weekly game of bridge, winning the money just a few days before he died.

A natural golfer, he was a member of Muskerry whose fairways can be seen across the Shournagh valley from his home nestling in a woodland garden where he grew azaleas, rhododendrons and roses with his wife Betty, who died in 2007. They married in 1940, had five children and a conspicuously happy marriage of more than 65 years. The family donated the land for nearby Rocklodge pitch-and-putt course.

He came of an old Irish Quaker family with business interests in Cork, where his grandfather was a senator. His father, Benjamin, also represented Ireland at tennis.

Educated at Cork Grammar School, the Downes at Malvern and a Quaker college at Leighton Park near Reading in England, he joined the Cork-based family timber business of Haughtons Ltd on leaving school. Founded more than 220 years ago, it merged as Brooks Haughton, and he was chief executive and chairman until his retirement at 60.

A member of the Society of Friends, he played an important part in the remarkable expansion of the Quakers in recent times. He was chairman of the Cork Peace Council and, as a member of the Cork committee of Co-Operation North, became a friend of John Hume.

A supporter of Amnesty International, he was also an advocate of the cause of Travellers, a sponsor of the blind and a benefactor of St Luke’s Home, a charity which has been serving older people and those who are ill in Cork since 1872. He also aided the Penny Dinners, a Cork institution that provides meals for the needy. Deeply spiritual in a non-preachy way, he was involved in the Cork Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

He was also a collector of books, and his shelves contained first editions of Dickens, Byron, Yeats and Joyce alongside the poetry of Ted Hughes and TS Eliot, his favourite poets. An author, his book of poems, Variations of Ambush, was reprinted.

Casting a wry look at life, his last poem, written just a few days before he died, anticipated his death. Describing his ageing body, he wrote: “Perhaps I should abandon it/Quietly slip away/Over the light blue hills at sunrise/ Leave the vehicle for others to dispose of. . . .”

An avid reader, he died in his sleep with three books at his bedside.

He is survived by his daughter Jane and sons Peter, Hugh, David and Richard.

Alan Haughton: born March 12th, 1917; died January 23rd, 2011