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.In May of 1889, Harold Mahony also won the singles title at the Dubin University Lawn Tennis Club tournament, beating the little-known Hume R. Jones 8-6, 6-1, 6-2 in what was probably an all-comer’s final (it appears that the champion did not defend his title). This tournament was probably played on asphalt courts. In 1890, Harold Mahony did defend his title at Dublin University, but lost the Challenge Round match to David Grainger Chaytor, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6, 6-1. Grainger, as he was known, was one of three talented tennis-playing brothers from Dublin.
In the summer of 1890, Harold Mahony graduated from Dublin University with a B.A. (one source gives his title on graduation as Senior Moderator in Logics and Ethics). That same year he also made his debut at Wimbledon, losing in the first round to the American Deane Miller, one of the first overseas players ever to take part in the Championships. The final score was 6-4, 6-1, 5-7, 4-6, 6-2.
At some point Harold Mahony had joined the prestigious Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin whose members included some of the best players in Ireland at that time. One of these members was Willoughby James Hamilton, the best Irish player in the period 1885-90. The Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club held its own closed tennis championship around mid-May, and Willoughby J. Hamilton won the men’s singles event there five years in a row from 1886-90. Hamilton and a number of the other top Irish players of the time patronized several other tournaments in their native country, including the South of Ireland Championships, held in Limerick; the East of Ireland Championships, held in Howth, County Dublin; and the West of Ireland Championships, held in Sligo. In 1889, Willoughby J. Hamilton won the singles title at the Irish Championships; the following year he won the Wimbledon singles title.
Harold Mahony appears to have played in almost no tournaments in Ireland outside of the Irish Championships and the Dublin University tournament. However, he did play in some ties between the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club and other Dublin-based lawn tennis clubs, such as the Pembroke Lawn Tennis Club and the Wilton Lawn Tennis Club. Strictly speaking, as a member of both the Dublin University Lawn Tennis Club and the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club, Mahony could have played for either club against the other one.
In June of 1890, before his debut at Wimbledon, Harold Mahony had won the singles title at the Cheltenham tournament in England, beating the Englishman James Baldwin 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the final. This was probably the first time Harold Mahony’s had won a singles title in England. Because he was due to graduate in the summer of 1890, he probably decided to take part in an increasing number of tournaments, at least in Great Britain. He does not have appear to have pursued any type of profession after graduating.
In 1891, Harold Mahony reached the semi-finals of the singles event at the Irish Championships for the third time before falling to his fellow Irishman Joshua Pim by the score of 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. A few weeks later Pim beat Mahony at the same stage of the Wimbledon tournament, this time by the score of 6-4, 6-0, 6-2. Pim had succeeded Willoughby J. Hamilton as the top Irish player and he would almost always get the better of Mahony in singles matches.
Between the Irish Championships and the Wimbledon tournament of 1891, Harold Mahony had travelled to Penarth in Wales to play in the Welsh Championships. He reached the final there before being beaten by the popular Englishman Harry Barlow. The final score was 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, 0-6, 6-1. Later in the same season, in early August, Harold Mahony won the singles title at the Northumberland Championships in Newcastle, defeating Tom Chaytor, the youngest of the three brothers, in the final by the score of 6-2 6-4 6-3.
In 1892, Harold Mahony did not play much competitive tennis. He missed the Irish Championships, but competed at Wimbledon where he lost in the semi-finals of the singles event to Joshua Pim. The score was 6-1, 12-10, 2-6, 6-2. Later in the season, in August, Tom Chaytor reversed the result of the 1891 Northumberland Championships, beating Mahony in the final, 6-0, 10-8, 6-2.
The reason why Harold Mahony played comparatively little tennis in 1892 might be that his father was in ill health for much of that year. Richard John Mahony died on 22 December 1892 at Philbeach Gardens, London. He was later buried in the family vault near Dromore Castle in County Kerry. Although Nora Mahony was older than her brother Harold, the latter being the male child inherited Dromore Castle and its dependant properties. This would have made the 25-year-old Harold Mahony a very rich young man.In 1893, Harold Mahony enjoyed his best year so far on the lawn tennis circuit. In early April he won the singles title at the covered court tournament held on wooden courts at the Queen’s Club in Kensington, London. In the final he beat the somewhat obscure Englishman H.A.B. Chapman, 6-0 2-6, 6-1. Together with another Englishman, the bespectacled Ernest Meers, Mahony won the doubles title at the Queen’s Club covered court for the second year in a row.
A week or so later Harold Mahony annexed the singles title at the Hyde Park covered court tournament, held in Porchester Square, London, beating Ernest Meers, the holder, in the Challenge Round, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. The Hyde Park tournament had been inaugurated in 1885, when it was the first tournament of its kind, i.e. on wooden indoor courts, in the world. According to “The Field Lawn Tennis Calendar” for 1886: “The floor space available for play is 50 ft wide by 106 ft long, a glazed roof covers the whole of the single court, and the height from floor to first girder is 25 ft, which gives ample room for a tossed ball [lob]. The floor is of wood, stained dark brown, each board being 3¾ in wide, tongued, grooved, and side-nailed, laid on joists 1 ft apart, which rest on birch pillars set in concrete. A platform capable of seating comfortably 150 spectators is provided, besides ample accommodation for dressing rooms, club rooms, etc.”
However, the Hyde Park tournament did not offer events for women, so when the aforementioned covered court tournament began at the Queen’s Club in 1890, it included a women’s single event. Due to a gradual fall in the number of participants and the increasing prestige of the Queen’s Club covered court tournament, the tournament at the Hyde Park Club went into a fatal decline.
For an unknown reason Harold Mahony did not play in the Irish Championships tournament in 1893. However, in early June he played in and won the Middlesex Championships, held in Chiswick Park, London, beating H.A.B. Chapman in the final match, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. One week later Mahony lost in the Challenge Round of the prestigious Northern Championships tournament, held that year in Manchester. He was beaten there by the holder, Joshua Pim, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2. In early July, Pim also beat Mahony in the final match at the London Championships, held outdoors on grass at the Queen’s Club. This time Mahony pushed Pim to five sets before losing, 9-7, 1-6, 6-1, 6-8, 6-3.
Both of these players carried their excellent form on to the Wimbledon tournament, which in 1893 was held in mid-July, its position still not yet fixed in the lawn tennis calendar. At Wimbledon Mahony and Pim met again, this time in the All-Comers’ Final, and once again Pim emerged the victor by the telling score of 9-7, 6-3, 6-0. (In the Challenge Round Pim would beat the holder, the Englishman Wilfred Baddeley, for the title.)
During the 1893 Wimbledon tournament, England played Ireland in a series of singles and doubles matches, with Ireland emerging victorious by 4 matches to 2 in the singles. This was partly thanks to Harold Mahony, who beat Ernest Lewis, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. The fact that Mahony played on the Irish team is conclusive proof of his nationality.
Harold Mahony began 1894 as he had begun 1893, namely by winning the singles title and, with Ernest Meers, the doubles title (for the third consecutive year) at the covered court tournament at the Queen’s Club. In the singles final Mahony beat “G. Pilkington”, 6-4, 8-10, 6-2. The runner-up used a pseudonym, a habit practised by certain players of that time, so it is difficult to know who he really was.
As in 1893, Mahony then went on to the Hyde Park tournament in Porchester Square and won the singles title there, again beating Ernest Meers in the Challenge Round, this time by the score of 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. According to the sports gazette “Pastime” of April 18, 1894:
“Mahony maintained his position by dint of steadier play… He was not as brilliant as his rival, for he was passed eight times oftener than was Meers. But the secret of his success lay in the smaller number of returns (the difference was no less than twenty) which he placed in the net. It was extremely difficult to pass him, for his reach seemed to cover the court, and it therefore speaks volumes for the brilliance of Meers’ returns that the challenger should show a decided superiority in such strokes.
“The holder’s smashing was also very accurate; he scarcely missed a chance of dealing with the overhead balls, while Meers placed many such in the net. Add to all this a service of excellent length and capital tossing, and an idea of the formidable opposition which the veteran had to encounter must be formed.
“Some of his [Meers’] volleys were of the most crushing character but he appeared to be desirous of finishing the rest at once, and his over-anxiety to score caused him to become inaccurate, ball after ball being placed in the net. This was particularly the case in his return of Mahony’s high-bounding service. As is usually the case with the loser he was a little unlucky in that many of his strokes just dropped outside the boundaries of the court.”
Only three players, including Harold Mahony, the holder, had entered for the 1894 covered court tournament at the Hyde Park Club in Porchester Square. This was the last time that a tournament of such prestige was held there, it being superseded by the aforementioned covered court tournament held at the Queen’s Club.Harold Mahony returned to the Irish Championships in 1894, enjoying his most successful run to date in the singles event there. He won three matches to reach the All-Comers’ Final, where he faced Tom Chaytor who was playing in excellent form. In a long match the youngest Chaytor eventually won by the score of 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.
In early June, Mahony lost his singles title at the Middlesex Championships to Harry Barlow who beat him, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-1. In mid-June, together with the Englishwoman Charlotte Cooper, Mahony won the prestigious All-England mixed doubles title, played for at the Northern Championships, held that year in Liverpool (there was no mixed doubles event with championship status at Wimbledon until 1913). In the Challenge Round of the mixed doubles event at the Northern Championships Mahony and Cooper beat the holders, Wilfred Baddeley and Blanche Hillyard, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0. According to “Pastime” of June 20, 1894:
“In the third set the challengers never gave their opponents a chance, and taking game after game in most brilliant style won a love set, thus securing the match and the championship amid a perfect roar of approval, which was renewed as the victorious pair walked off the court together, the win being evidently a most popular one.
“After an indifferent display in the first set Mahony and Miss Cooper gave a splendid exhibition in the last two sets and it would be difficult to speak too highly of their performance of winning a love set off such a pair as Baddeley and Mrs Hillyard.
“Miss Cooper came in and volleyed constantly with great effect, returning the hard drives of her opponent remarkably well, and displaying great quickness at the net, while her lobbing was almost perfect. Mahony’s smashes were splendid. At one point he put in five in two games. The better pair undoubtedly won, and the game showed once more the efficiency of good volleying in a double against a back-player.”
Harold Mahony and Charlotte Cooper would also win the All-England mixed doubles title in the years 1895-98, having to play only one match in the event in each of those years due to the existence of the Challenge Round.
In early July 1894, Harold Mahony won the singles title at the London Championships at Queen’s Club a few weeks later, defeating Barlow 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in the All-Comers’ Final (Joshua Pim did not defend his title).
In mid-July 1894, at Wimbledon, Mahony was in very poor form and lost early, in the second round, to Ernest Lewis, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. However, soon afterwards, Mahony enjoyed an upturn in form and took the singles title again at the Northumberland Championships in Newcastle, where he beat Harry Barlow in the final, 6-3, 6-3, 8-6.
In 1895, Harold Mahony seems to have played very little competitive tennis. His first appearance of the season appears to have come at the Irish Championships in late May where for the second year in a row he reached the All-Comers’ Final. In this match he faced the Australian-born Wilberforce V. Eaves, who beat the Irishman in four sets, 6-3, 6-8, 6-2, 6-4.
At some point in early 1895, Harold Mahony and Joshua Pim received an invitation from the Neighbourhood Lawn Tennis Club in West Newton, Massachusetts, to come and take part in a round-robin tournament to be held there in early July. Unusually for that time, both players accepted the invitation and travelled by boat to the United States in mid-June.
The other participants in the round-robin tournament at the Neighbourhood Lawn Tennis Club were the top Americans William Larned, Clarence Hobart and Frederick Hovey. Pim was undefeated in the early stages, defeating Larned and Hovey in straight sets and Mahony in three sets (all matches except the final were best-of-three-set affairs). Mahony himself beat Larned in straight sets and Hovey in three sets. Despite his loss to Pim and the dropped set to Hovey, both Mahony and Pim ended up with the best record and thus faced each other in the final. Somewhat predictably, Pim beat Mahony in the last match, though not after a long struggle, the final score being 6-4, 6-8, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Neither Mahony nor Pim (the defending champion) played the Wimbledon tournament in 1895. Indeed, Pim, who was studying to become a medical doctor, effectively retired from competitive lawn tennis after the West Newton tournament, although he returned to the scene once or twice in later years.
Back in England in mid-August 1895, Harold Mahony won the singles title at the Derbyshire Championships, held in Buxton in that county. In the final Mahony beat Grainger Chaytor, 6-2, 3-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.In 1896, Harold Mahony enjoyed the most successful season of his lawn tennis career so far. In mid-April, he lost in the All-Comers’ Final at what was now the Covered Court Championships at the Queen’s Club. His conqueror there was Wilberforce V. Eaves, who beat him, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3.
In late May, at the Irish Championships, Mahony reached the All-Comers’ Final for the third consecutive year, but Wilfred Baddeley was too good for him and won, 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. This was effectively the title match because, as already mentioned, Joshua Pim, the defending champion, had retired from the tennis scene.
At the Middlesex Championships in early June, Harold Mahony regained the singles title, beating the Englishman George Greville in the last match, 8-6, 6-2, 6-2. The following week, Mahony lost in the Challenge Round of the singles event at the Northern Championships in Liverpool to the holder, Wilfred Baddeley. The final score, 6-1, 10-12, 7-5, 6-4, is an indication of how well Mahony was playing at this time.
At the London Championships a week or so later, Mahony won back the title, beating in the final match Reginald “Reggie” Doherty, the middle of three tennis-playing brothers from the Wimbledon area. The score was 11-9, 6-4, 6-4. In the semi-finals Mahony had beaten the youngest of the Doherty brothers, Laurence (“Laurie”), after a tremendous struggle, the final score being 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 10-8. Soon both brothers would come to dominate the tennis scene, not just in the British Isles, but wherever they played.
In early July 1896, at Wimbledon, Harold Mahony and Reggie Doherty faced each other again, this time in the first round. (There was no seeding in those days, but Mahony would certainly have had the higher seeding of the two at that point in time. He had also beaten Reggie Doherty in the quarter-finals of the 1896 Irish Championships, in straight sets.) In a close match, Mahony won, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. According to “Lawn Tennis” magazine of 15 July 1896:
“There was very little to choose between the two players, but it seemed to an onlooker that Doherty might have paid more attention to his opponent’s forehand, which is admittedly his weaker side. There was some very judicious tossing [lobbing] during the match, Mahony showing, perhaps, the better length of the two. Indeed, so good was his lobbing in the third set that Doherty on several occasions did not attempt to return his lobs. The winner’s great reach was, as usual, of immense advantage to him.”
In the second round of the 1896 Wimbledon Mahony beat the unheralded Englishman W. Castle (first name unknown), 6-1, 11-9, 6-4. In his next match, in the quarter-finals, Mahony beat another Englishman, Frank Riseley, then aged 19, by the score of 7-5, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3. According to “Lawn Tennis” of 22 July, 1896:
“He [Mahony] owed his victory mainly to his service, which was very hard and generally across court; and to his volleying, which was nearly all through excellent; and it was plucky of him to go up as much as he did, seeing how often Riseley’s forehand drives got past him.
“Still, it was the right game to play. One cannot be passed forever, and Mahony’s killing was so good that when the ball did come within reach, he generally finished the rest. Although one foot fault only was called, both men served a great many; but the defect seems inseparable from such a fast game.”
Mahony’s next opponent was the Englishman Harold Nisbet. Their semi-final was a close five-set match, but Mahony eventually merged the victor by the score of 6-4, 2-6, 8-6, 4-6, 6-3. According to “Lawn Tennis” of 22 July 1896:
“The winner owed his success entirely to the fact that he made fewer mistakes than his opponent. He made nothing like the number of beautiful strokes that Nisbet did, but he was generally fairly safe, his service was good all through, and at times unreturnable, his volleying and smashing were good, and he generally won when he got up to the net.
“When he [Mahony] stayed back he was driven from side to side until he lost the stroke. His lobs were good and his forehand stroke off the ground better than usual.”In the All-Comers’ Final Mahony had his easiest match up to that point, beating Wilberforce V. Eaves, 6-2, 6-2, 11-9. Most things seem to have “clicked” for Mahony at the 1896 Wimbledon tournament, so he must have been feeling quite confident when on Monday 20 July he stepped on to the Centre Court at the old Worple Road grounds to face the holder, Wilfred Baddeley, in the Challenge Round.
There is no doubting that Wilfred Baddeley, who had also won the Wimbledon singles title in 1891 and 1892, was the better player of the two, especially on the big occasion. It appears that Baddeley was not in the best of the health for the match, though both men were clearly affected by the oppressive heat in which it was played. The following report again comes from “Lawn Tennis” of 22 July 1896:
“When, on Monday afternoon last, at five minutes to four, the holder and the challenger stepped into court to decide which of them should be entitled to the proud distinction of lawn tennis champion for the present year of grace, the heat was most oppressive. Though it would be untrue to say that the number of spectators assembled to witness the match equalled the experiences of some years back, nevertheless the ‘gallery’ was a goodly one, and, what is more, discriminating in its applause. In spite of daily, careful attention on the part of the experienced groundsman, Coleman, the court was browner and more burnt by the fierce sunshine than we ever remember to have seen it, and the players afterwards said that the glare on the brown surface rendered a full sight of the ball more difficult than usual.
“Wilfred Baddeley elected to serve, and won the first game. Mahony retaliated with three in succession – the second of them a long one – and after the holder had secured one more – the fifth – the Irishman gained the set without further loss. Towards the end of this set Baddeley was inaccurate, his return of the service in particular finding the net more frequently than is his wont.
“Baddeley again opened the ball in the second set, and presently reached 3-2. The pace was now becoming very fast, and Mahony, by means of some very good smashing and backhanded cross volleys (his return of the service was also very effective), reached 5-3. When he secured the next two aces it looked as if the set were his, but he then put two returns out of court, and Baddeley, rising to the occasion, won the game with a brilliant cross volley and a somewhat lucky return, which struck the net hard and just fell over into the challenger’s court. In the next game the excitement grew apace when Mahony reached deuce and then held the ‘vantage point, or within an ace of the set. Three brilliant strokes from Baddeley’s racket, however – a pass off Mahony’s service, a toss over Mahony’s head full on the line, and another passing stroke, caused five-all to be called amid much applause.
“It was ‘neck or nothing’ with both players now, the challenger again securing the lead in the next game. He reached 40-15 in the twelfth, when, probably owing to the extreme pressure he was undergoing, his returns were out of court and in the net on three occasions, and he ultimately lost the game. The strain now made itself felt, and for the next two games Mahony could do little more than play the part of spectator. Baddeley, alive to the occasion, redoubled his efforts, and, largely aided in the fourteenth game by three superb passing strokes off his opponent’s service, ran out the winner of this hard-fought set by 8 games to 6. Both men complained sorely of the great heat in this set, Mahony especially being run to a standstill in the twelfth game.
“The contrast between the pace of the second and third sets was remarkable, for, in the latter, matters slowed down very considerably. In fact, Mahony appeared to be simply walking across the court, and that under such circumstances he should win the first four games of the set (love games, too, as regards the second and third) was rather surprising. It is only to be accounted for the fact that Baddeley was probably more exhausted than he looked, and that this caused him to be more inaccurate than usual. This he most certainly was, and when the challenger advanced to 5-1, Baddeley’s hopes of the set cannot have been very great. Then came his turn, a run of no less than six games securing him a set, the issue of which in his favour not even his keenest admirer would have predicted after Mahony had obtained his commanding lead. The latter’s best chance during these last six games was in the eighth, when the score was called 30-all.
“The challenger now appeared to be somewhat disheartened, as he well might be, and Baddeley won two of the first three games of the fourth set. Mahony then established a good lead, but presently four-all was called, then five-all. The first ‘vantage game fell to the holder. Then Mahony made a great effort, and won the next three games and the set at 8-6, the last game (a love game) being won solely through the holder’s inaccuracy, he hitting out of court and then placing three backhanded returns of Mahony’s service in the net – a most unusual proceeding on his part.
“Everyone was now on the qui vive as to what would happen in the final set of the match. It was evident that both men were feeling the effects of their exertions, but Mahony appeared to show symptoms of reviving, for he again began running in on his service, a proceeding he had abandoned in the last set. The first game went to Baddeley, and then came a long struggle in the second, three backhanded volleys largely accounting for Mahony’s ultimate success in this game, which at one time appeared very likely to go to his opponent, owing to an attack of cramp in Mahony’s right hand. This, however, passed off, and he seemed to play better than for some time past, advancing to 5-1.
“The prospect of successfully emerging from the ordeal was now all but hopeless for Baddeley, but he fought desperately for the next two games, and succeeded in winning them. The end was now at hand, however, and Mahony scored with a toss over his opponent’s head, leading at 40-15, by means of a good passing stroke off the service, and, as Baddeley hit the next return of Mahony’s out of court, the Irish player was hailed the winner of the Championship by 3 sets to 2, considerable applause greeting his victory. The match had lasted just two hours, and of the 57 games played 31 were won by Mahony and 26 by Baddeley. There were 15 deuce games, not a large percentage by any means.
“With the acquisition of the title of champion Mahony has reached the height of his lawn tennis ambition. He well deserves the honour for which he has for years pertinaciously striven, and on the occasion in question his game was probably as good all round as it has ever been. In service and forehanded and backhanded volleying there was little to find fault with, while his groundstrokes, especially those on the backhand, were of capital length. Of course he made mistakes and at the end of the severe second set went quite to pieces, and, again in the fourth, when a little extra pressure on Baddeley’s part might have altered the result. He (Mahony) consistently followed up his service until towards the middle of the match, when it was almost a case of physical impossibility for him to do so, but resumed his aggressive tactics in the final set, and thereby showed good judgment, Baddeley then holding out signals of distress.
“But if Mahony was very nearly, but not quite, at his best, the holder certainly was not. He was not in the best of health, and the heat appeared to affect him considerably. Consequently his returns were very often not distinguished by that accuracy which usually characterizes his game. His return of service was more frequently than not placed in the net, and though he made a great number of extraordinary recoveries, both in volleying and off the ground, there was nothing like so much ‘devil’ in his play as usual.
“His effort in the third set, when Mahony led at 5-1, was brilliant, and in the following set, when four-all was called, it was with confidence that his admirers looked to him to make the necessary spurt to achieve success. But, for once in a way, probably owing to the heat and his disposition, the effort was not sustained, and with it departed his chance of this year’s championship.
“There was a difference of opinion as to the quality of the play, but taking into consideration the great heat and the glare of the sunshine on the unusually brown court, we think the match was productive of better play than several good judges were inclined to admit.”
The final score of 6-2, 6-8, 5-7, 8-6, 6-3 makes it one of the longest Wimbledon finals of all time in terms of games (in those days matches were much shorter in terms of time, partly because players did not sit down at the “changeover” and play was generally continuous). If, as the report states, Mahony had “reached the height of his lawn tennis ambition”, he must have been very relieved to finally win the Wimbledon singles title at the comparatively old age of 29, although this was only his sixth attempt at that title. Mahony does not appear to have been a very ambitious player – in fact, his aforementioned laid-back, laconic attitude indicates the opposite. But it is difficult to imagine him not being pleased with this victory.Mahony played little or no competitive lawn tennis for the rest of the 1896 season. After his successes of 1896, the 1897 season must have been a disappointment to him. He began in early April by entering the Covered Court Championships tournament at the Queen’s Club but, as in 1896, lost in the All-Comers’ Final to Wilberforce V. Eaves, this time by the score of 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.
At the Irish Championships in late May he reached the semi-finals, but lost a long match to Reggie Doherty, 8-6, 6-3, 7-9, 2-6, 7-5. In early June, George Greville dispossessed Mahony of his singles title at the Middlesex Championships, beating him in the Challenge Round, 6-4, 10-8, 5-7, 1-6, 6-1. And when it came to defending his Wimbledon singles title in late June, Mahony lost the Challenge Round match to Reggie Doherty rather easily, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. The Doherty era had effectively begun.
Harold Mahony’s best victory of 1897 came arguably during the Ireland versus England tie, held in London just after the Wimbledon tournament. During this tie, Mahony beat Reggie Doherty, 8-10, 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 as Ireland lost the singles matches by 1 rubber to 5.
Soon after this Ireland versus England tie Mahony and some of the British players, including Harold Nisbet and Wilberforce V. Eaves, travelled to the United States to play in a number of tournaments there, including the United States Championships. At the prestigious Longwood Bowl tournament, held in Boston at the end of June, Mahony lost to William Larned, a player he had beaten in straight sets in the tournament at the Neighbourhood Club in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1895. The score at Longwood was 5-7, 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in Larned’s favour.
At the round-robin tournament held in Hoboken, New Jersey, at the beginning of August, Mahony beat the American George Wrenn, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4. However, Mahony lost to William Larned, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, and to Robert Wrenn (brother of George and holder of the singles title at the United States Championships), 7-5, 6-0, 6-3.
In those days the men’s singles event at the United States Championships was held in late August, on the grass courts at the Newport Casino, in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1897, after winning two rounds against very modest American opposition, Mahony lost in the third round of the United States Championships to another American, Malcolm Whitman, by the score of 9-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. He had much better success in the doubles event where, playing with Harold Nisbet, he reached the final match before losing to the Americans Paul Sheldon and Leonard Ware in a long, close match, 11-13, 6-2, 9-7, 1-6, 6-1. (Nisbet lost to Eaves in an at that point rather unique All-Comers’ Final of the United States Championships, i.e. one featuring two overseas players. Eaves in turn lost the Challenge Round to Robert Wrenn, though only after a five-set struggle.)
Compared to 1896, the 1897 lawn tennis season was a very poor one for Harold Mahony, who turned 30 in February of the latter year. It could be argued that he had passed his peak in tennis-playing terms, although players tended to play on longer in those days than they do nowadays. According to the English lawn tennis player, official and writer, in his book “Lawn Tennis Recollections” (first published in 1898): “Last year  Mahony to a great extent lost his form, and his reverses were in consequence many. He seemed oppressed by the burden of his [Wimbledon singles] Championship,..”
In “Lawn Tennis Recollections”, Herbert Chipp also provided a revealing description of Mahony’s game, writing as follows: “He is essentially an aggressive player, and his rushing tactics are largely helped by his abnormal length of limb. When he is at the net – and he generally is there or thereabouts – he seems to cover the court. At such times a vision of whirling arms and legs – a sort of animated Catherine wheel – bursts upon his bewildered opponent, whose placing often suffers under such startling conditions.
“He is an inveterate volleyer, and to secure position at the net is willing to incur any risks. Thus he often follows up his second service – if there is any breath left in him he never hesitates to go in on his first. This service of his is one of the features of his game. He is very skilful in placing it, and it is delivered with a long drawn-out action from the utmost extremity of his great reach. As he slowly stretches up to hit the ball Mahony appears to become actually telescopic, and one wonders when he will have ceased to lengthen himself out. The consequence of this elevated delivery is an excessively high rebound, which tends to keep the opponent well back in the court. This is just what Mahony wants, for it gives him time to reach the net first. And when once there he is not easily dislodged. Even a lob, unless of extremely good length, will not relieve one much, for the Irishman’s smash is a deadly one, invariably killing the ball.
“As a volleyer he is second to none. Greatly to be dreaded are his cross-volleys. The forehand groundstroke is his weak point – lamentably so at times. To his backhand stroke off the ground he imparts a great deal of ‘cut’. But the stroke is usually of good length and low in trajectory. By a merciful dispensation of Providence he is somewhat slow in court and deliberate in making the stroke. Otherwise, with his abnormal reach, who would be able to pass him?”If Harold Mahony was in 1897 indeed “oppressed by the burden” of his 1896 Wimbledon Championship win, one year later he was able to regain some of his best form, and 1898 would turn out be a very successful year for him. One of the first tournaments, if not the first one, at which he played in this year was at the Irish Championships, still being held in Fitzwilliam Square. It was a tournament at which he had in the past played consistently without, however, quite being able to win the singles title.
In 1898, at his eleventh attempt, Harold Mahony finally reached the Challenge Round at the Irish Championships. On his way there he had beaten the young and promising English player, Sidney Smith, in the second round, by the score of 6-2, 7-5, 6-4. In the All-Comers’ Final, Mahony had defeated Reggie Doherty, the reigning Wimbledon champion, also in straight sets, 6-3, 8-6, 6-3. This was an impressive victory, although Doherty was not at his best. According to the “Irish Times” newspaper of May 28, 1898:
“It must be admitted that the form displayed by both players was much behind their ordinary play. The second set, however, was an improvement and a really good exhibition of baseline play ensued. It was rarely that either player went into the net, the aces being usually scored off long drives from the end of the court. Mahony’s back-arm returns were most effective. He won several points by half-volleys, but owing to the wonderful cross-drives of his opponent he was continually on the ‘trot’. The set ran into 14 games, Mahony winning it by eight game to six.”
In the Challenge Round Mahony faced Wilberforce V. Eaves, the defending champion. The following report of this match comes from the “Irish Times” of 30 May 1898:
“The great match of the day was the Challenge Round in the All-Comers’ singles, between Harold S. Mahony, the winner of the final round, and Wilberforce V. Eaves, the holder of the title. Mahony, who had been playing very consistently all the week, was seen in his best form, and [illegible] out the opinion as anticipated.
“A large crowd had assembled round Court 5 long before 3 o’clock, the time announced for the match to commence, when the square presented that animated appearance so closely associated with the closing day of many a past tournament.
“Soon after the stipulated time the competitors appeared in the court. Eaves served, and won the first game, losing only one ace in it, but somehow he seemed to get completely off his stroke, as Mahony, placing with wonderful accuracy, won the next six games, securing the first set. The winner won two games to love, two to 30, one to 15 and one to love.
“Mahony won the first three games of the second set, in the last of which an exchange of volleying took place which was well up to the best play seen at any time in that memorable court. Eaves won the fourth game to 30, his winning all being made by a well-placed half-volley off a smash by Mahony, which looked almost unplayable. Mahony got the fifth game off his own service to love, after which Eaves had a run of three games, in all of which rallies ensued, the play being for the most part from the back of the court. Score: 4 games-all. A game to either player now made the score 5 games-all, and the next two games going to Eaves to 15 and 30, one set-all was called.
“The third set was the longest played in the match: very little difference was noticeable in the play of either competitor, Eaves’s volleying being equalled by Mahony’s backhand drives. After the score stood at 2 games-all, Eaves won two games, to deuce and love, and then Mahony had a run of three games. Score: 5 to 3, Mahony leads, but Eaves equalled matters by taking the two following games, to 15 and deuce (four times). Mahony got the advantage game to 15, but again Eaves brought the score back to deuce, but only to allow Mahony to get two games running, and the set by 9 games to 7. Score: 2 sets to 1, Mahony leads.
“The fourth set went very much like the preceding one. Three, four and five games-all were called, when Eaves won the first advantage game off Mahony’s service to 30. Mahony won the deuce game to a like score and, following it up by taking the next two games, to deuce and to love, won the set, match and championship.
“The play throughout the match was not nearly up to that brilliancy seen at previous challenge matches, yet at times they were both seen at their best, and more particularly in the second set, when long rallies from the baseline were constant. Eaves’s volleying and cross-drives were at times perfect, but he often fell off, and to such an extent that he missed what seemed easy returns.
“Mahony played steadily all along, with the exception of the third set, when it looked as if Eaves would have won it. Mahony occasionally went into the net, but his volleying was not always successful.”
The final score, 6-1, 5-7, 9-7, 8-6, is an indication of just how close the match was. At 31, Harold Mahony had reached another milestone in his career, although he might well not have looked upon it as such.
In early June Mahony continued his good form, regaining the singles title at the Middlesex Championships after beating the holder, George Greville, in the Challenge Round, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. At the Wimbledon tournament at the end of June, Mahony reached the All-Comers’ Final of the singles event before becoming involved in a titanic struggle with Laurie Doherty, who won the first two sets very easily before falling off in the next two. In the final set Mahony reached 5-4 and had one match point, but eventually lost by the rather curious score of 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 2-6, 14-12.
A few weeks later the same two players met in the Challenge Round of the London Championships at the Queen’s Club, where Laurie Doherty was the defending champion. In this match Doherty had a much easier victory, triumphing 6-3 6-4 9-7.In mid-August 1898, several of the top Irish and English players, including Harold Mahony and the Doherty brothers, travelled to Bad Homburg, a spa resort in the German state of Hesse, to take part in the annual tournament held there on clay courts. From 1898-1901, Bad Homburg was also the venue for the International German Championships, although it could be argued that the Bad Homburg Cup singles event was more prestigious. Certainly, the Doherty brothers both focused on this latter event rather than on the German Championships event where, in 1898, they entered the singles, but gave a walkover to their respective opponents in the semi-finals.
The Doherty brothers’ opponents in the German Championships event were to have been Harold Mahony and Joshua Pim. The latter had come out of retirement to take part in the Bad Homburg tournament, much to the delight of Mahony, who did not find out this fact until the tournament was about to begin. (At this tournament Joshua Pim played under the pseudonym of “J. Wilson”.)
In the final match of the German Championships Mahony beat Pim, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. This was a rare victory for Mahony over his fellow Irishman, but Pim had not played competitive tennis in the past three years or so. The following report on this match is taken from “Lawn Tennis and Croquet” of 7 September 1898:
“Mahony began the [match] by a love game, an example that was followed by Pim. In the fourth game the latter lost his service, and after deuce and ‘vantage had been called five times in the seventh game, Mahony ultimately ran out the winner of the set by 6-3.
“In the second set Pim started badly by losing his service, but had his revenge in the fourth game, which, with Mahony serving, he won [to 15]. Pim could only win the seventh game and Mahony ran out the winner also of the second set by 6 games to 3.
“The third set began by both players losing their service and after ‘three games-all’ had been called, Pim made a brilliant effort and won his opponent’s service and then the set at 6-4.
“The server won his game alternately in the fourth set until the eighth game, in which Mahony made several brilliant returns, allowing Pim to score only one solitary ace. The tenth and last game went to Mahony in like manner, and the genial and popular Irishman can now also add the Championship of Germany to his many other successes.
“Mahony was playing – and he did so throughout the tournament – at the very top of his game, his high bounding service being exceedingly difficult to meet on the hard sand courts. By the time his opponent’s return passed the net he usually managed to be in a good volleying position, and the way in which he usually even reached such from time to time finely placed sideliners as those of Pim was truly marvellous.
“On the Homburg courts, however, smashing appears to be Mahony’s weak spot and those shots of his would, it appears, be much more certain to come off if he could be induced to try the experiment of jumping off the ground just before making the stroke.”
In the semi-finals of the Homburg Cup event, Laurie Doherty beat Harold Mahony, 6-3, 6-2, then beat Pim 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the All-Comers’ Final.
In February of 1899, Harold Mahony turned 32, but continued to play a full tournament schedule nevertheless. In mid-April, he reached the Challenge Round of the Covered Court Championships at the Queen’s Club before falling to Wilberforce V. Eaves, the defending champion, in a long match, 6-4, 6-4, 6-8, 3-6, 6-4.
In late May, Mahony was in Dublin to defend his singles title at the Irish Championships, but Reggie Doherty, who had retained his Wimbledon singles title the previous summer, was too good for Mahony and won, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. A week or so later, Mahony retained his singles title at the Middlesex Championships, beating George Greville in the Challenge Round, 5-7, 2-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. The following week Mahony won the singles title for the first time at the Kent Championships, one of the top-class grass court tournaments then held in the run-up to Wimbledon. In the Challenge Round the Irishman beat the holder, Wilberforces V. Eaves, 6-1, 6-1, 6-8, 3-6, 8-6.
At Wimbledon in late June, Harold Mahony made it to the semi-finals before falling to Arthur Wentworth Gore, who was then already aged 31, but still two years away from winning the first of three Wimbledon singles titles. At the London Championships, still being held after Wimbledon, Mahony won the singles title, beating Arthur Wentworth Gore in the last match, 8-10, 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 (Laurie Doherty did not defend his title). At the end of July, Mahony won another singles title, this time at the Northumberland Championships in Newcastle where he beat Wilberforce V. Eaves in the final, 8-6, 6-3.
In mid-August, Mahony travelled to Bad Homburg to defend his German Championships singles title. In the Challenge Round he faced the American Clarence Hobart with whom he played a marathon match before losing, 8-6, 8-10, 6-0, 6-8, 8-6 (Mahony managed to reach match point in the fifth set, but was unable to convert). In the prestigious Homburg Cup event at the same tournament, Reggie Doherty beat Mahony in the semi-finals, 5-7, 9-7, 6-2.
The 1899 Bad Homburg tournament also featured the inaugural edition of a rather obscure singles event called the Championships of Europe. This tournament was to be held annually at a different venue, usually in a different country. In 1899, Harold Mahony reached the final and was due to play Reggie Doherty, but the Englishman gave him a walkover.
Late in the 1899 season, Harold Mahony played at the South of England Championships tournament in Eastbourne, then the final prestigious grass court tournament of the British lawn tennis season. In 1899, Mahony went all the way to the Challenge Round at Eastbourne before succumbing to the holder, Sidney Smith, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. This was a disappointing end to what, overall, had been a rather excellent, consistent season for the 32-year-old Irishman who at that point was probably playing the most relaxed tennis of his career.In early July 1900, Harold Mahony and several of the leading British players, including Reggie and Laurie Doherty, were in Paris for the tournament due to be held there on the outdoor clay (or clay-like) courts. In hindsight, the four events played at this tournament – men’s singles, women’s single, men’s double and mixed doubles – have acquired Olympic status. In reality, although Paris did indeed host an Olympic Games of sorts in 1900, many of the participants at the them, including the winners, were unaware that they had been participating in the Olympic Games.
According to “The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC, Athens to Beijing, 1894-2008”, by David Miller: “It could rationally be argued that there were no Olympic Games in 1900. Stretching from May almost to November, with no official opening or closing ceremonies, with both amateur and professional events staged in a programme of almost total disarray, with many competitors even unaware for some years afterwards that they had become Olympic champions and with [Baron Pierre] de Coubertin no more than involved on the fringe, being conspicuously present only at the track and field events at the Bois de Boulogne, the alleged festival in conjunction with the World Exhibition was no more than a minor Paris sideshow.”
One contemporary French source, the 1901 edition of “L’Almanach des Sports” (“Sports Almanack”), refers to the tennis tournament as the “Tournoi de l’Exposition”, or “Exhibition Tournament”. It did indeed take place as part of the “Exposition Universelle”, or World’s Fair, being held in Paris in the summer of 1900. In the final of the men’s singles event Harold Mahony lost to Laurie Doherty, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. In the men’s doubles event, Mahony and the Englishman Arthur Norris lost to the Doherty brothers, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1. In the final of the mixed doubles event Reggie Doherty and Charlotte Cooper beat Harold Mahony and the Frenchwoman Hélène Prévost, 6-2, 6-4.
It appears that Harold Mahony took part in this tournament as part of a Great Britain and Ireland team, although it is interesting to note that he played in the mixed doubles event with a Frenchwoman! This is no doubt a sign of the confused nature and poor overall planning of the tournament. In theory, Mahony won three medals at this tournament – two silvers (for his performances in the men’s singles and mixed doubles events) and a bronze for his performance in the men’s doubles event. However, it is quite possible that all of the winners’ medals for what became known as the 1900 Olympic Games were awarded retroactively.
Later on in 1900, on 22 October, Harold Mahony’s sister, Nora, married an Englishman, Edward Hood (born 1872), one of seven children of Hon. Albert Hood, at Saint Mary Abbot’s Church, Kensington, London. Harold Mahony “gave away” his sister. Robert Valentine Hood, younger brother of the bridegroom, was the best man. The bridal couple intended to honeymoon in Cannes. Nora Mahony was 36 years old at the time of her marriage and would not have any children.
In 1901, Harold Mahony turned 34, but continued to play quite a full schedule of tournament tennis, although he missed that year’s Irish Championships. In June, he lost his singles title at the Middlesex Championships, George Greville beating him in the Challenge Round, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Later the same month, at Wimbledon, Mahony won three rounds to reach the semi-finals before the Englishman Charles Dixon beat him, 6-3, 6-4, 11-9.
Later in the 1901 season, Mahony and some of the British players travelled to Cascais in Portugal where they took part in a clay court tournament, possibly the early Portuguese Championships, in which George Hillyard beat Mahony in the best-of-three-sets final, 6-0, 6-4.
At the end of 1901, Harold Mahony took part in the South of England Championships, in Eastbourne, and reached the All-Comers’ Final before losing to Sidney Smith, 8-10, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.In 1902, Harold Mahony’s best achievement came at the Wimbledon Championships in late June, where he again reached the semi-finals. In his semi-final match he played Laurie Doherty, who that year would win the first of five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles. In an interesting match, Mahony led by two sets before losing a close third one, then retiring with the score at 4-6, 4-6, 8-6, 2-0. It appears that exhaustion was the main contributing factor in Mahony’s retirement.
At the very end of the 1902 lawn tennis season, in late September/early October, the aforementioned Championships of Europe tournament was held indoors, on wood, in Leicester, England. After winning three matches against rather modest opposition, Harold Mahony again faced Laurie Doherty, the Englishman winning again, this time by the score of 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.
In mid-April 1903, at the Covered Court Championships, Harold Mahony reached the All-Comers’ Final before losing to George Hillyard, 6-3, 7-9, 6-4, 6-3. In early June, Mahony regained the singles title at the Middlesex Championships, beating the same George Hillyard in the final match, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. At Wimbledon in late June, Mahony was beaten in the third round by Sidney Smith, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.
After the 1903 Wimbledon tournament, Mahony and some of the British players travelled by ship to the United States to take part in a number of the tournaments there. The British players included the Doherty brothers. One of their reasons for travelling to the United States was to take on that country’s top players in the Challenge Round of the Davis Cup, the United States being the holders. Great Britain did indeed win that year’s Challenge Round, by the score of 4 matches to 1.
Laurie Doherty in particular was in spectacular form all throughout the overseas players’ trip to the United States that summer (Reggie no longer played much singles). At the United States Championships, held in Newport, Rhode Island, in late August, Laurie cut through the field, winning eight singles matches (the All-Comers’ event plus the Challenge Round match against William Larned, the holder) without the loss of a set, thereby becoming the first foreign player to take the men’s singles title at the United States Championships. In the fourth round of that tournament Laurie Doherty had played Harold Mahony and beaten him, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
At the Meadow Club Invitational tournament, played on grass in Southampton on Long Island in the run-up to the United States Championships, Harold Mahony had reached the quarter-finals before losing to the American William Clothier, 9-7, 6-4, 8-6. This 1903 tour was Harold Mahony’s third and final visit to the United States.
The year 1904 would be Harold Mahony’s last full year of lawn tennis, although it is clear that he intended to play at least some competitive lawn tennis in subsequent years (he turned 37 in February of 1904). At that year’s Middlesex Championships in early June, he won the singles title again – for the seventh and last time – beating the Englishman Frederick Payn in the final match, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Mahony won the Middlesex Championships more times than he did any other tournament. It appears that he had a particular fondness for it, as players did for certain tournaments, not just a major tournament like Wimbledon.
The following week, at the Kent Championships in Beckenham, Mahony also won the singles title, this for the second time. In the final the Irishman defeated the England’s Brame Hillyard (no relation of George), 6-3, 8-6, 7-9, 4-6, 6-3. This was Harold Mahony’s last singles title of any significance.
At the end of June, at Wimbledon, Mahony lost rather tamely in the third round to Frank Riseley, a player Mahony had beaten on his way to the singles title in 1896. This time the score was 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the Englishman’s favour. In addition to his win in 1896, and his runner-up position the following year, Harold Mahony also reached two All-Comers’ Finals and five semi-finals in thirteen attempts at the Wimbledon singles title. This is an excellent record at the world’s premier lawn tennis tournament.
It appears that Harold Mahony intended to take part in the Wimbledon tournament the following year, 1905, although he seems not to have played any competitive lawn tennis during the run-up. However, Harold Mahony was dead by the time the 1905 Wimbledon tournament began. He was killed in a bicycle accident at Caragh Lake, County Kerry, on 28 June 1905. He was only 38 years of age. According to the “Irish Times” of 29 June 1905:
“A fatal bicycle accident occurred yesterday at Caragh Lake, Co. Kerry, the victim being Mr Harold S. Mahony, J.P., of Dromore Castle, Kenmare. Mr Mahony was descending a steep hill when the accident occurred, and it is believed that he lost control of his machine.”
It appears that Harold Mahony’s bicycle hit a rock near the end of the hill and he was thrown so violently from it that he broke his neck on impact with the ground. He had been dining at the Caragh Lake Hotel beforehand, and might also have drunk some alcohol, although no mention of this or of any post mortem that might have been carried out was subsequently made. He was buried in the Mahony family plot in the graveyard in Templenoe, County Kerry.
Several obituaries of Harold Mahony appeared, including one on 5 July 1896 in “Lawn Tennis and Badminton” (where the early articles were always unsigned). According to this piece, “Few players, if indeed any, could equal him in regard to theoretical knowledge of the game, and he was ever willing to aid the beginner, the number of players who are indebted to him for valuable advice is legion, and it is likely to be long before such a kindly and instructive mentor is found again. To those who knew him well, Mahony was an exceedingly gifted and talented man, a musician of no mean capability, and a companion whose ready wit and genial personality made him everywhere welcome.”
Because Harold Mahony was unmarried and had no children at the time of his death, the Mahony family estate, including Dromore Castle, passed to Harold’s sister, Nora (then Mrs Hood). Mary Harriette Mahony, the mother of Harold and Nora, was still alive at this time, but appears not to have inherited much. Mrs Mahony died in Al