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Unmasked: Les is 75

Friday, 16th December, 2011

UMPIRE: Les McQuillan has been officiating for 53 years. UMPIRE: Les McQuillan has been officiating for 53 years.

By John Casey

BH softball grand campaigner Les McQuillan has been behind the umpire’s mask since 1958, so the players won’t begrudge him having tonight off when he celebrates his 75th birthday.

But Les says he’ll be back for the second half of the season after Christmas and will continue behind the mask “as long as I’m physically able to”.

“I love it and have already put up my hand to officiate at the SA Country Championships in Adelaide in January,” an enthusiastic Les said.

“I’ve been umpiring at the carnival since 1991 and it is an honour to be amongst the cream of the country players.”

As well as his trusty mask, Les has also worn many other “hats” for softball, including coaching BH to the C Grade title at the country championships.

“I remember we finished runner-up in the A Grade title one year as well - going down to Port Pirie who we had beaten earlier in the tournament,” he recalled.

“But my best memories are of the people I have met and the friendships I have made through sport.

“I also love working with kids and being able to help out with the juniors has given me a lot of satisfaction,” Les added.

Given that he was the first of six children born to Lance and Eileen McQuillan it is little wonder Les enjoys company.

“The crystal set and wireless were a bit unreliable back in those days,” Les laughed.

“My brother Kerry invited me to play baseball with Marist Brothers and it all started from there.

“I went on to play for Hornets and tried my hand at basketball, rugby and tennis and have been with softball since 1958 when we played at Memorial Oval.

“From there we moved to the NBHC Polo Ground, then Alma and now we play under lights at Jubilee Oval,” Les continued.

During softball’s halcyon days in the 1970s and 80s, more than 30 teams would be in action from 8am to 5pm and Les laments how numbers have thinned in recent years.

“When I was growing up that was all we did - play sport,” Les reminisced.

“It kept you fit and out of trouble. We didn’t have people running around with nothing to do vandalising the place because they were bored.

“We need to get the young kids back into sport in bigger numbers, but finding people with the time to coach them is a problem as well.”

With Warriors - a team from BH High School - joining the softball competition this season, Les is optimistic about the future for the sport.

“I’ve heard that Willyama High School might put a team together as well and that would be great for the competition.”

Les rates Kaylene Gillespie (now Bevan) as the best softballer he has ever seen.

“Kaylene represented Australia at the top level in Mexico and could play any position,” Les said.

“She played here for Northern United and could pitch, was a good outfielder and handled the in-field positions just as well.

“Kaylene was a regular representative for South Australia - in fact, there were a lot of local players who went on to South Australian honours,” he added.

Softball has been a family affair for the McQuillans as Les’s late wife Nancy (who passed away from cancer in 1997) was a long-time BHSA Treasurer and scorer at SA Country Championships. 

Aside from his lifelong involvement with sport, Les was a miner for 38 years at Zinc-NBHC “before I was sacked with 500 other blokes in February 1993”.

Les also spent three months National Service at Woodside in SA in 1955 and has been President of the BH branch of the NSA for the past five years and a Director at Club Legion for a similar period.

It’s fair to say he has earned a night off for his birthday, so on behalf of BH, happy 75th Les, and may there be many more.

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