Henry 'Harry' Rigby at the Lismore Squash Centre. The contract for the sale of the courts has been signed.
Henry 'Harry' Rigby at the Lismore Squash Centre. The contract for the sale of the courts has been signed. Jacklyn Wagner

Lismore father of squash bows out

THEY call him Lismore's father of squash.

When Henry 'Harry' Rigby built the region's first squash court in the garage of his Wyrallah Road home in 1959, a game cost eight shillings for half an hour.

Yesterday, as the sales contract on his beloved Lismore Squash Centre was signed, court hire cost $9 for half an hour.

The price changed with the times, but the man who brought the sport to the Northern Rivers has remained a regular fixture at the club for almost half a century despite officially selling the business to his daughter, Jan, and partner, Terry Chelman, 10 years ago.

"I moved into the house in '48, built the court late '58 and opened in '59," Harry said.

"When I started building the first court, I took the roof off the garage then I couldn't afford to put it back on; I didn't know which way I was going.

"I was living on next week's pay at that stage and couldn't get a loan from the bank.

"I didn't think about where the money would come from but I could see an opportunity."

Harry got the roof back on and built another five courts, and an institution in local sport over the next 20 years.

But Jan reckons Harry's biggest contribution is the effort he put in teaching the game to kids.

"They call him the father of squash because of what he's done for young people and his community spirit and the love he's put into it," Jan said.

Jan said she had waited for a decade to find a buyer who would continue to run Harry's labour of love as a squash centre.

"We've hung on for 10 years ... we've been under a lot of pressure," she said.

"We've been made offers from developers who want to build units on the site.

"But squash is such a great game and Harry put his life into it."

Harry, although under no immediate pressure from the new owners, will eventually move out of the place he has called home for 60 years.

"I get emotional when I think about it," he said.

"It's been a long 50 years.

"I'm walking away very happy that Jan has been able to hold on. I would've been heartbroken to see it bulldozed.

"This is wonderful for Lismore that they (new owners) want to play squash and coach squash."

"Squash has been a total interest really ... it's been my life.

"It has been a marvellous time."


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