Though short in stature Ken Quinn was big of character. Throughout his umpiring career he fought back from form and injury to compile an excellent career at the top level and contribute to umpiring both with the whistle and as a coach.
Kenneth James Quinn was born 17 April 1945 and began his umpiring with the Northern Districts Football League in 1962 aged 17 having played junior football in the competition. Two years later he moved onto the VFL Reserve Grade and following finals in the Diamond Valley and Lexton leagues and a bench in the VFL U19s he was promoted to the VFL senior list in 1969.
Within two years he was promoted to the Olympic Park training track and had officiated in the VFL Reserve Grade. At the end of 1970 he was appointed to grand finals in the Barellan FL, Benalla-Tungamah FL and the preliminary final of the Western Border FL. The following year was not so successful and despite a couple of VCFL finals there were no Reserve Grade appointments and Ken was dropped from the Olympic Park track.
Undaunted, he worked harder than ever and in 1973 was rewarded by returning to Olympic Park where he would remain for the rest of his VFL career, one of only a few to make it back to the City.
After 29 VFL Reserve Grade matches Ken became the 269th VFL field umpire when he was appointed to Melbourne versus Fitzroy at the M.C.G. in round 10 1974. His first 14 matches covering 1974-75 were in the one umpire system but in round 1 1976 he partnered with Kevin Smith as one of the first twelve umpires to work in the first games of the new two-umpire system.
Having come back once Ken was forced to do so again after he was injured a car accident following a match at Princes Park in May 1976. Unable to umpire for the remainder of 1976 it was almost 12 months before he returned to senior ranks but he returned with a vengeance being appointed to the 1977 VFL Reserve Grade Elimination and First-semi Finals and 1978 was similar the qualifying an preliminary finals. His return from injury was recognised with the association’s inaugural Courage Award.
Throughout this period Ken had also been contributing to the umpires’ association. Elected to the Social Committee in 1974 he followed with a year on the Executive Committee before taking on the role of assistant secretary and then two years as VFLUA secretary in 1977-78. As secretary he was involved in the formation of the Victorian Federation of Australian Rules Football Umpires and part of a successful negotiation of increased match fees as well as the day to day administration of the VFLUA. Ken was awarded life membership in 1979.
Ken retired from the field at the end of the 1981 season having compiled an impressive 83 VFL matches. Additionally he officiated in 85 VFL Reserve Grade, 126 VCFL matches including 16 VCFL grand finals in 13 VFL seasons.
Immediately upon retirement fellow retiree Jim Chapman and Ken joined forces as umpires’ advisor and assistant advisor respectively of the VFA umpires. They guided the VFA umpires from 1983-1986.
Ken Quinn passed away while undergoing surgery on 8 July 2016