Obituary: John Horry

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The Independent Online
John Herbert Horry, squash promoter and organiser, born Boston Lincolnshire 1905, died London 25 January 1993.

JOHN HORRY was in his time described as 'Mr Squash'. It was an era that spanned the period between 1955, when he began 17 years as the first full-time secretary of the Squash Rackets Association (SRA), and 1975, when he ended eight years as inaugural secretary of the International Squash Rackets Federation.

Horry found his metier late in life. When he started, on a navy pension, as a one-man band in a series of small offices in different parts of London, squash was still largely an esoteric game, understood by few. When he retired it had become one of the biggest participatory sports in Britain, had acquired almost cult status amidst a health-and-fitness movement, and was spreading fast to nations in all continents.

Only in his last four years with the SRA did he take a salary. He might have found it hard to accept the larger sums of money some of the top players now earn in the commercial shop-window. But, though he sometimes argued with entrepreneurs, he rarely fought against the direction in which the sport was moving. Indeed, for a man with a respect for tradition and an innate conservatism, he often showed unusual vision, notably in 1967 when several countries no longer wanted a British governing body to direct them. A hazardous period with potentially damaging consequences was averted by Horry's preparedness to embrace a new mood and help found an international governing body.

Most of all, though, Horry's approach was characterised by attention to detail. His perfectionism could make him a difficult man to work with but a teacher of organisational excellence. He ran the two most prestigious tournaments in the world, the British Open and the British Amateur, and the affairs of a booming game with only part-time assistants. One of them, Jonah Barrington, became the world's best player.

Horry's drive and energy were immense - he was even known to go into the office on Christmas Day. He was a single man, and gregarious. His generosity was famous. Some of the leading players in the world owed their jobs or work permits to him, and countless organisers and competitors came to his flat in Victoria for food, company, help, entertainment or accommodation.

He was educated at Westminster School and Wye Agricultural College, although he worked much of his life in the wine trade. He was wounded in the arm while serving in the Royal Navy during the war, which made playing squash difficult. He never reached more than a modest club standard. But players of all standards owe much to his exceptional organisational skill.

(Photograph omitted)