There have been many people, both within Australia and also overseas, who
have assisted in the compilation of The Ian Barclay Story, Going to
the Nth Degree. From family members to ex-students, playing partners, fellow
coaches, and beyond, you have all helped enormously to make this story happen.
In particular, I would like to thank John Glynn
, who came onto the scene to help me somewhat by chance. John and his
family have been firmly entrenched in tennis for many years and whose value and
contribution to the game I hold dearly. He saw a need for this story to be told
and drove me to complete it.
To Dr Ann Quinn, for not only her part in this story, but whose advice and
help in constructing Ian’s story has been crucial and very much appreciated.
To Ian, who drank endless coffees with me as we dissected his history over
In alphabetical order they are: Bradley Barclay, Dean Barclay, Ian
Barclay, Jackie Barclay*, Janet Barclay, Toni-Ann Barclay, Graham Bland,* Alan
Bray, Barry Brennan, Warren Brennan, Nick Brown, Jessie Burbridge, Bob
Butterfield, Patrick Cash, Andrew Castle, Lee Childs, Will Coghlan, Belinda
Colinari, Andrew Crossman, John Fitzgerald, Philip Fowler, John Glynn, Rohan
Goetzke, Mark Hartnett, Will Heffernan, Wes Horskins, Kim Kachel, Katrina
Kearney, Charles Kneale, Martin Kozma, Martin Lee, Rocky Loccisano, Jan
MacDonald, Noel McMahon, Anne Minter, Jack Noseda, Kim O’Connor, Elizabeth
Peers, Ann Quinn, Bernadette Randall, Shyan Sivaratnam, Geoff Spruzen,* Virginia
Stacey, Geoff Stone, James Trotman, James Turner, Russell Watts and Steve Wood.
Ian Barclay is a special individual.
Tennis has been privileged to have him in its industry.
It takes a
rare coach to take a player from a young junior all the way to being a Grand
Slam champion, almost unheard of in fact. Ian did this with Pat Cash.
succeeded in this feat, but he did and continues to do so much more. His
dedication to the improvement of all his students and prodigies has been a
lifelong devotion. As one of Cashy’s doubles partners along the way, I witnessed
this first hand and was never not impressed with Ian’s ethic and dedication.
Barkers’ is faithful beyond the meaning of the word. He cares not just about
his students’ tennis improvement but in their life journey as well. He believes
that tennis players should also be quality people! Ian is a living example of
the traditions, values and work ethic that tennis wants to perpetuate in this
sport that we love. His contribution to Australian tennis is forever etched in
John Fitzgerald OAM Australian tennis
legend Former Australian Davis Cup captain and player
In loving memory of Jackie.
whom, without her love and dedication,
of this story could possibly have been told.
“Get your first serve in! You must make your return! Whatever you do,
don’t hit the net! Never ever, ever lob on match point! Come on, move your
These pertinent tennis coaching clichés have emanated from the mouth of
Australian professional tennis coach Ian Lawrence Barclay at local, national and
international tennis levels, week in week out for nearly 50 years.
They have been imparted timely and wisely to hundreds of young tennis
players across the globe, whose endeavours have ranged from dreaming of becoming
world champions, to being the best players they can be, to just loving the
sport, or simply just wanting to improve their level of tennis.
Early Days and Formative
Ian Barclay, known affectionately as Mr B or
Barkers to all who have known him, was born on December 2nd 1938,
the second of two children, to parents Roy
and Ethel Barclay. Ian’s elder
, was born three years
earlier. The children were raised in Beech Street, East Malvern, an inner
eastern suburb of Melbourne.
To understand much about Ian, one need only look at the two generations of
the Barclay family that preceded him. Arthur Barclay was a generous man who
treated his employees well. He occasionally gave them a bit extra in their pay
packets, as recognition for their hard work. He often took them down to the
local hotel after work where he would shout each a beer, Arthur himself also
being quite partial to a drink. He used the four edges of a nearby billiard
table on which to distribute a mass of coins, from which the thirsty workers
could then help themselves. An interesting and adventurous man, he was a
collector of indigenous artefacts. He also dabbled in gold prospecting, often
spending time digging in the Gippsland regional town of Walhalla. At one time
Roy Barclay was so convinced that Arthur had hidden a sizeable amount of gold
somewhere in Walhalla, that he took his son on several trips there, armed with a
spade and shovel to try and locate the treasure. Ian long joked that their
failure to ever find any evidence of the alleged booty may well explain why he
still works to this very day.
Roy Barclay was a metallurgist by trade, but worked as an aviation
mechanic. During the Second World War, one of his major tasks was, as an
inspector, to conduct maintenance on government aircraft. On being employed in
that division, he was not required to go off to war like many of his mates, but
due to the demands of the job he was frequently away from home. That didn’t
preclude the rest of the Barclays from having to do the all too familiar trench
drills close to the family home while the war raged on elsewhere.
Like his own father, Roy too was adventurous. One of his favourite
pastimes was to go camping in the bush to snare rabbits. Also a keen fisherman,
it was not uncommon for him to load young Ian, Janet and their friends into the
family car, an old 1928 Graham-Paige Model 610 sedan, and head off to the beach.
A clever man, to save on expenses during hard times he would start the car on
petrol, then change over and run it on cheaper kerosene. With the traditional
dickey seat in the rear, the large straight six-engine motor car had room for
nine people. Such was its size, one year Roy squeezed young Ian’s entire junior
football team on board. Years later, when he got his own driver’s licence, Ian
often piled his friends into his father’s car and headed off to the local dance.
Roy was also a trainer for runners competing in the prestigious Victorian
country athletics event, the Easter Stawell Gift, as well as for umpires in the
Victorian Football League (VFL).
Ian’s father was a hard worker and perfectionist in his field. Highly
principled, he would not stand for any nonsense and had a strong sense of
respect for friends and those within the community. Good manners in and outside
the family household were mandatory. The simple adage of giving up a seat on the
train for an elderly citizen was an act of decency and the done thing. The
family dressed well for all occasions.
Ian’s mother, Ethel was born in Manchester, England. She worked as a
dressmaker. A quiet woman by nature, she was slight of build yet very nimble,
especially around the house. As a typical youngster, Ian occasionally let fly
with a bit of backchat. Also having no tolerance for misbehaviour, she would
quickly grab the nearby straw broom and take off after her son, ready to give
out some punishment. The family lived a healthy lifestyle and homemade meals
were the norm, as there was no such thing as takeaway food at the time. Ethel
had the knack of kicking an Australian Rules football with a fair degree of
skill. Mother and son often played kick to kick in the backyard before dinner.
Ian and Janet both attended the local Lloyd Street Primary School. They
got on well as siblings, but a competitive Ian often teased his elder sister,
sometimes mercilessly. In her words, he was “the typical rotten little brother.
Usually he was bright and easy-going but could not stand to lose at anything.”
She would occasionally let him win a sporting battle, just to avoid hearing the
associated tantrum that would follow a defeat.
Football and cricket were the most popular sports chosen by boys of the
time. Living only two streets apart, primary school friend and football club
team mate Noel McMahon and Ian regularly engaged
in neighbourhood contests. When challenges arose, both boys formed teams and
McMahon and his mates often held the upper hand against the determined younger
With not much money to go around during their childhood days, the family
car was selectively used. Therefore, the Barclay children often had to ride
their pushbikes if they wanted to go anywhere. To earn money, Ian used his bike
to do a paper round for the local newsagent and deliver groceries for the
greengrocer. He also used local trams to help deliver prescriptions to
pensioners on behalf of the local chemist. In doing so, he jumped on and off the
trams’ running boards as they moved up and down the street.
For their secondary education, Janet attended the Methodist Ladies College
(MLC) in Kew, while Ian went to Caulfield Technical School. Of the two, Janet
was the academic and enjoyed artistic pursuits, while Ian’s interests were in
sport and art. Sport though, in particular, football was his passion. It didn’t
necessarily matter in which field it was, day in and day out, he could not get
enough. Both children also loved dancing and they became quite accomplished. The
jive was Ian’s speciality. He would readily grab Janet if she was nearby in the
family home and swing her around his body and between his legs in true dance
fashion. Janet loved to ice skate at the local St Moritz ice skating rink and
the money she earned from doing housework regularly covered her two shillings
entry fee into the arena.
Roy suffered somewhat from his association with the war, while the
children’s mother at one point contracted a bout of tuberculosis, a common
ailment of the times. It required her having six months’ convalescence in a
sanatorium alongside others with the same complaint. To help ease the burden on
the family, Ian was sent to live with his father’s brother, Uncle Leo
, and his family for six months, in the northern Victorian country town of
Tocumwal. He went to the local school and played football, captaining the town’s
Leo Barclay worked for the State Government’s Department of Main Roads. To
help his uncle out, Ian often drove the work truck, albeit illegally as he was
too young to own a licence. He helped with the family chores, regularly cutting
up nearby red gum wood for his Aunty Iris’ kitchen stove and the family room
fire. Janet remained in Melbourne to look after the cooking and domestic duties
for the children’s father.
Like most boys, Ian wanted to play league football in the VFL, with the
ultimate dream of playing with his beloved club, Hawthorn. Back in Melbourne, he
played his junior football for the local East Malvern Football Club. The
legendary Tom Hafey
, four-time premiership coach of VFL
side Richmond during the 1960s and ’70s, played in the club’s senior side. Ian
played alongside Hafey’s younger brother, Peter, in the Under 15s. Although
lightly built, he was particularly fast across the ground and loved nothing more
than to take a spectacular overhead mark atop a pack of players. Such was his
love of the game, Ian regularly waited around after finishing his morning match,
hoping that one of the senior players wouldn’t take the field for the afternoon
game so that he might get a chance to play again. However, due to his light
frame he also had a tendency to get knocked around physically.
One unfortunate week, he incurred a serious injury where he damaged the
coccyx bone in his lower back. Disappointingly, it was enough to curtail his
competitive football playing days and therefore any real prospects of a future
career at the highest level.
Away from the football field, Ian found another sporting interest in horse
racing. It stemmed from his uncle Leo Roddy’s involvement as a Starting Price
(SP) Bookmaker. A family friend offered the young teenager the job of finding
out the starting prices for each race at the Caulfield Racecourse and to then
ring them through to the SP Bookmaker from outside the track. A mid-week race
meeting meant he had to wag school in order to fulfil the offer. He was also
warned that there was a chance he may get caught, as it was an illegal practice.
He got paid around £5 for his efforts, which ironically, was more than he got
paid for his first real job. He did it for a time and earned a handy sum of
One day, however, things didn’t quite go according to plan. Just after the
fourth race when he was due to ring through the next set of starting prices, Ian
was making his way on to the course via his usual route past an old oak tree
tucked away in a quiet corner, in order to get the prices. He noticed some
police standing adjacent to the railway line close by. As he got over the fence,
he was converged upon by a number of detectives wearing traditional pork pie
hats and informed he was a person of interest. Initially unaware what was
happening, instinct kicked in and Ian decided to take off down a main entrance,
only to be stopped by police coming the other way. On being caught, he was taken
down to the local police station and was strongly urged to hand over the
bookie’s telephone number. He had, however, been sworn to secrecy. Unable to get
a confession, one policeman produced a rolled-up wet towel, then began to
repeatedly hit him across the head and body. Ian finally decided he would give
over someone else’s telephone number, if only to get some relief from the
continued flogging. The number was a fake. The local sergeant on duty, who had a
fair bit to do with Ian’s football club and was known by his father, meekly
stood aside while the young boy took the beating.
On his son’s return home, Roy was furious. Not just with Ian, but also
with the police for the punishment they had given out and the marks left on the
boy’s face. It was decided the incident would remain a secret from Ian’s mother.
However, Barclay Senior didn’t let the incident rest there. He put his teenage
son into the back of the Graham-Paige and drove straight to the police station,
whereupon he marched through the front door. A quiet man by nature, Roy flew
into a rage, bashing his fist on the front desk, demanding why a boy so young
should be subject to such treatment. Such was his anger he threatened to use his
shotgun on the perpetrators.
A week later, a man wearing a dark suit, sunglasses and sporting a
distorted nose arrived at Ian’s school, approached him and handed over an
envelope. Inside was a wad of cash and a telephone number. The amount of cash
made him feel like a millionaire. He was informed that he could never run the
starting prices again for fear of exposing the bookie, but by not giving out on
his former employer he had protection on his doorstep should he ever require it.
Young Ian hadn’t realised that what he had got involved in was a criminal
offence. However, it didn’t stop him from maintaining an interest in racing and
he continued to go to meetings with his tennis mates, though avoiding Caulfield
for a time.
Having finished her secondary schooling, Janet Barclay completed a
Business Diploma, then went on to work in the fashion industry. She harboured a
greater desire to become an airline hostess and ultimately got a job with Trans
Australian Airlines, where she worked for two years before getting married.
Barclay completed his Diploma of Art at Swinburne Technical College in
Hawthorn, which he had taken up after finishing secondary school. He decided he
wanted to become a commercial artist.
The printing firm that his best mate Keith Thorpe
worked for – Wrightsell – offered Barclay an apprenticeship. He worked
hard designing artwork and pushing his paintbrush. A work colleague who had been
in the industry for many years took notice of the new employee and offered up a
suggestion. Seeing the young apprentice had plenty of ideas, but was a little
rough around the edges, the co-worker suggested to Barclay that he might take up
a Dale Carnegie course with the view to helping him learn how better to
communicate with people in the course of his work, deliver a good sales pitch
and develop a strong memory for names. Barclay took up the suggestion. One of
his major tasks during the course was to get up in front of a crowd and talk
cold for 15 minutes on an impromptu topic.
Barclay continued to work as a commercial artist for the next 17 years.
For nine of those he worked for a company called Colourprint, an arm of the
well-known MacRobertsons Chocolate Manufacturing Company. A takeover of the
company and subsequent loss of jobs for many of his workmates led Barclay to
also move on. He then worked for Noel McMahon’s kitchenware importing business
as a freelance artist in the marketing presentation department.
Silence solved his dilemma.