J. Plunkett Dillon

J. Plunkett Dillon
Ireland
Born: 16 August, 1886 Died: 19 April, 1965

After the long reign of Sir George Thomas as the first International Badminton Federation President, Irish solicitor John Plunkett Dillon succeeded him in 1955.

His two years in office marked the pinnacle of his unbroken involvement with the world governing body from 1934 until his death in 1965.

He was one of the two Irishman present on that momentous day of July 5, 1934 when the international federation was founded. 

Indeed, he played a key role in the IBF’s formation as he suggested the idea.

IBF Career

1934 Appointed Irish representative to IBF
1936-54 Vice President
1955-57 President
1957-65 Honorary Life Vice President

Badminton Union of Ireland Career

1919-23 Vice President
1924-1942 Honorary Secretary
1925-1934 Appointed Irish representative to the Badminton Association

Of all the International Badminton Federation Presidents, John Plunkett Dillon was certainly the most modest or, shall we say, publicity shy.

He came to wider badminton prominence in 1924 when he became honorary secretary of the Badminton Union of Ireland, having already been a vice-president and tournament committee member following the First World War

In those days international matches between Ireland and England had already become an annual event following the first international match being played in Dublin in 1902-1903. The fixture was played on an alternating home and away basis.

Plunkett Dillon played an important role in shaping the game of badminton and he was responsible for team selection in those days.

He represented Ireland on the committee of the Badminton Association but in 1934 he was appointed Irish representative to the newly formed International Badminton Federation, which meant the Badminton Association ceased to exist.

In fact, he played a key role in setting up the IBF as revealed in the IBF Handbook of 1958-59 to celebrate the Federation’s Silver Jubilee. Sir George Thomas wrote an article on The Founding of the IBF in which he reveals “In the councils of the Badminton Association the idea of forming a new body, truly international in character, was first put forward by Mr Plunkett Dillon.”

However, at the inaugural meeting, it was actually the chairman, A. D. Prebble who formally proposed the motion with Sir George Thomas the seconder. The motion was carried unanimously.

Even so, Plunkett Dillon was one of the founding fathers of the IBF, having attended the meeting on July 5, 1934 at Bush House in London with fellow Irishman Major JDM McCallum. The occasion was marked by luncheon at the May Fair Hotel in Berkeley Street in the heart of London’s West End with delegates being guests of the President and the committee of the Badminton Association, which from that day ceased to exist and led to the formation of the Badminton Association of England (now BADMINTON England).

Despite the difficulties of travel in those days the founding nations were England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Denmark, Holland, Canada and New Zealand.

It was an era of manners and politeness and before the meeting dealt with the business on the agenda, Plunkett Dillon is on record as offering ”the thanks of badminton players to the Badminton Association and its chief members for the work they had always done for the game.”

Within two years of the IBF coming into being, Plunkett Dillon was to be elected a Vice President, a position he retained until stepping up to the Presidency for his two-year term from 1955-57. Thereafter he remained an honorary Vice-President until his death in 1965.

But it is a pity that we know more about Irish badminton than we do about the man because he guarded his privacy despite being known for his wit and for being a good speaker – what he said was very much to the point - and being described as having a breezy disposition.

As The Badminton Gazette revealed in February 1936, “So much does he dislike talking about himself that it was with the utmost difficulty and only after many months that we were able to induce him to give us the notes from which this article is compiled.”

So not an interview, just some notes. We know Plunkett Dillon was educated in Dublin and Bath and became a well-known practising solicitor in Dublin. He was a director of several companies and chairman of Irish Wire Products, which was founded in 1935 and is still going strong today in Limerick.

He had become honorary secretary of the Irish Badminton Union in 1931 and represented Ireland on the Badminton Association committee before becoming a very active member of the newly formed International federation.

He was a keen club player until business interests got in the way but during his administration, Ireland produced a rich crop of players such as Frank Devlin, G.S.B. (Curly) Mack, the five-strong Hamilton family, Ian Maconachie, Jim Rankin and Tom Boyle.

It was on Plunkett Dillon’s watch that the Irish club scene saw a dramatic expansion in the 1920s. When he assumed office with the Irish Union there were 50 clubs but by the mid-1930s this had rapidly grown to more than 300.

Regional and provincial competitions developed during the 1920s and Plunkett Dillon, along with Major J. D. M. McCallum, played key roles in shaping the game.

Maconachie was to recall that Plunkett Dillon “ruled the players with a rod of iron, particularly if you came from the north.”

That was backed up as recently as this year (2015) by his son Frank Dillon, who recalled: “They used to call him Musso after the Italian dictator Mussolini. He was used to chairing board meetings and so he was used to dealing with people.”

Despite his no-nonsense style, John Plunkett Dillon is credited with playing a significant part in the development in Dublin of the most talented players. His last appearance at a badminton function was the silver jubilee celebrations of the IBF in 1959.

Away from badminton he enjoyed golf and swimming, and remembering that this was the 1930s, also enjoyed motoring.

He certainly was a man to leave you wanting to know more. As The Badminton Gazette concluded: “No doubt there have been other features, good, bad and indifferent in Mr Dillon’s career, but owing to his modesty, we have not been able to extract these from him.”

Sources:

Dick O’Raffery, Curator, Badminton Museum of Ireland

Bob Colhoun MBE, Ulster Badminton

Frank Peard: Sixty Years of Irish Badminton

Frank Dillon (son)

The Badminton Gazette, February 1936 and October 1965

The Encyclopaedia of Badminton by Pat Davis

 -- By William Kings

J plunkett dillon - badminton gazette november 1955 J plunkett dillon - badminton gazette - february 1936