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Miller, Henry Lawrence (Harry) (1913–1972)

by Peter Corris

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Henry Lawrence (Harry) Miller (1913-1972), boxing promoter and stadium manager, was born on 9 April 1913 at Torquay, Devon, England, son of Sydney Miller, a petty officer, and Sarah Beatrice Ireland, a barmaid. Harry arrived in Sydney about 1922. He had sundry jobs, which may have included working as an office-boy for Hugh McIntosh and as a caddy at Royal Sydney Golf Club, before he was engaged in 1936 as manager of the Stadium at Rushcutters Bay by John Wren's Stadiums Ltd. At St Michael's Anglican Church, Vaucluse, on 5 June 1940 Miller married Veronica Victoria Mecham, a 21-year-old hairdresser; they were to be divorced in 1948.

For more than thirty years Miller proved an energetic and successful promoter of boxing and wrestling. Gregarious, loquacious, and tough when it was required, he established good relations with the press, with American and European fight promoters and managers, and particularly with Ern McQuillan, a leading boxing-trainer in Sydney. Under Miller's auspices, Australian fans were able to see world-rated fighters, such as Archie Moore, Freddie Dawson and Emile Griffith, as well as Tommy Burns's comeback fight in 1946. Miller furthered the careers of Australian boxers, including Ranold ('Ron') Richards, Dave Sands and Vic Patrick.

Cigar-smoking Miller became part of the atmosphere at the Stadium. When the main event started he was in his accustomed seat, hob-nobbing with political, sporting and show-business celebrities. He regularly held parties in his office after the fights, and frequented Sydney's restaurants and nightclubs. On 21 June 1960 at the registrar general's office, Sydney, he married Dawn Kathleen Hall, née Todd; she was a 29-year-old usherette and a divorcee.

Opinions on Miller's professional integrity and character differed sharply. Those associated with McQuillan thought Miller shrewd, but fair; the wrestling champion Len Holt noted his over-fondness for drink and women, but believed that he combined brilliance as a promoter with honesty and loyalty. On the other hand, those who felt excluded from the favoured circle criticized Miller for showing bias against trainers (other than McQuillan) and for exploiting raw fighters, and accused him of sexual deviance. Portly, immaculately dressed and speaking in a high voice with an English accent which sounded affected to Australian ears, Miller conveyed to many people a suggestion of sexual ambivalence.

As interest in boxing declined, Miller brought show-business stars to the Stadium, among them Nat King Cole (1957), Frank Sinatra (1959), Sammy Davis junior (1959), Judy Garland (1964) and 'The Beatles' (1964). When the building was demolished in 1970 to make way for the eastern suburbs railway, Miller was disappointed to receive no 'golden handshake' from Stadiums Ltd. Depressed after a string of misfortunes—the failure of his marriage, his non-appointment as a promoter at the showground, and the death of his dog—he drank heavily and talked of suicide. Sometime between 21 and 24 November 1972 he shot himself in the head at his Elizabeth Bay flat. His funeral at Northern Suburbs crematorium was attended by Wren, McQuillan, Patrick, Jimmy Carruthers and other members of the sporting fraternity. He was survived by his wife. Both marriages were childless.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July 1964, 9 June 1970, 25, 29 Nov 1972, 17 Feb 1973
  • Sun (Sydney), 8 Feb 1968, 27 Nov 1972
  • Age (Melbourne), 25 Nov 1972
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 27 Nov 1972
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Corris, 'Miller, Henry Lawrence (Harry) (1913–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/miller-henry-lawrence-harry-11124/text19809, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 22 April 2021.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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