Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Ern McQuillan Senior

c. 1980s
Ern McQuillan OAM

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image/sheet: 30.5 cm x 40.5 cm)

Ern McQuillan (1905-1988), boxing trainer, was born in Newtown, Sydney, and worked there all his life. He trained as a cabinetmaker but during the Depression, like many unemployed men, he boxed 'to earn a few quid'. He opened his first gym in O'Connell Street, Newtown in about 1928. When it was requisitioned as a sock factory during the war he shifted his operation to the corner of King and Holt streets. He moved to his third and final Newtown premises in 1974, where he continued to train boxers until the week before his death. Following an intuitive philosophy of pushing them until they were 'rock hard', McQuillan coached more national boxing champions than any other trainer, with fighters including Tony Mundine, Vic Patrick, Jack Hassen and Bobby Dunlop. For some thirty years he was also the 'matchmaker' for the Sydney Stadium at Rushcutters Bay, where fights were held every Monday night, and he appeared regularly on TV Ringside in his capacity of matchmaker and fight promoter at the South Sydney Leagues Club. His family recall that 'every day of his life he went to the gym, came home, had his tea and fell asleep'. On his deathbed he whispered 'tell that mug to hold his hands up'.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2003
© Michael McQuillan's Classic Photographs

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Ern McQuillan OAM (age 54 in 1980)

Ern McQuillan Senior (age 75 in 1980)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Betty Cuthbert
Betty Cuthbert
Betty Cuthbert
Betty Cuthbert

Hop, skip, shoot

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency