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John Young - a tribute

Thursday, 26th March 2020 @ 14:21



Former Harlequin, England and British Lions winger was also an international standard athlete

John Young was a Harlequin who made his mark on the world both on and off the rugby field.

As The Times described him: "John Young belonged to the pantheon of sportsmen who scored tries or centuries for fun, partied without concern for curfews, had a sense of mischief and went to bed just before breakfast."

He was one of that elite group of athletes who represented his country at two sports; athletics and rugby.

Young was born in Chester but studied at Bishops Vesey’s Grammar School after his family moved to Sutton Coldfield.

At the age of 18, whilst still at school, he made his debut on the sporting scene. In a time of 9.9s, he won the AAA’s 100-yard dash. Because of his good looks, the press dubbed him as ‘the Marlon Brando of the tracks’.

At another meet, he equalled the English record of 9.8s. But for hamstring injuries he would have represented Great Britain at the 1956 Olympics and the 1958 Commonwealth Games. At Oxford, he won blues at both athletics and rugby.

At the beginning of the 1958/9 season, already capped by England, Young was invited to play for Harlequins. Over the course of seven seasons, he made 102 appearances for the Club whilst also turning out for Oxford University, Warwickshire, Surrey, Barbarians, England and the British and Irish Lions.

For England he made nine appearances and during the 1959 Lions tour to New Zealand and Australia, he played in the Wellington Test against the All Blacks scoring the Lions’ only try. On that tour, he shared a room with Tony O’Reilly, Ireland’s glamour boy winger. Their escapades gave John a rich vein of stories that he recounted at many a rugby event.

John’s pace and sidestep meant that he seldom got his shorts dirty as his opponents struggled to tackle him.

Once he hung up his boots, he was an England selector before becoming involved with his local club, Dorking. Two of John’s grandsons play for Dorking. Here a number of former Quins such as Humphrey Malins and Charlie Bale could be found. On their Vets tour to Amsterdam, when they were a wing short, they persuaded John to play his final rugby game.

After graduating, John initially practised law before realising there was better financial rewards in stock broking. In due course his CV included Senior Partner at Simon & Coates, Director of Policy and Planning at the London Stock Exchange, Chief Executive of the Securities and Investments Board and Chairman of Lloyd’s Regulatory Board. He had a reputation not only as a clever businessman but also as a raconteur, bon viveur and after dinner speaker.

John married Pauline Yates in 1963. They had two sons and a daughter. Sadly, both Pauline and his two sons predeceased him. Our thoughts are with his daughter, Harriet, and her family at this time.

John Young Lions


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