Bill Harkness was born in 1888, in Belfast, Northern Ireland and came to Canada with his family late in the 19th century. Bill was educated in the public schools of Ottawa and went to the American Correspondence School from 1910-14. While in Canada, Bill's business was with the heating, plumbing and ventilation business, and from 1921-43, he ran the Harkness Brothers business in Glen Falls, New York. From 1945 to 1955, Bill lived in Miami, Florida, and from 1955 to 1961, he was superintendent of the Home Farms in Johnsonville, New York.
Bill had quite an athletic career as a player in both lacrosse and hockey. In 1908, he played for the Ottawa Stars Junior Champions; in 1909 to 1910 with the Ottawa Shamrocks City League Champions; in 1913 with the Ottawa Nationals and from 1912 to 1918 with the Ottawa Capitals Professional-National Lacrosse Union. All these were outstanding lacrosse teams. In hockey, his playing career was as follows: 1908-1910 - Ottawa New Edinburgs; 1911-1912 - Ottawa Nationale; 1913-1917 Ottawa Emmetts, and later was manager and player for the Glens Falls New York Club from 1930-1933.
Bill's coaching history is as follows: 1929-1940 - lacrosse and hockey coach at Union College; 1945-1948 - coached the RPI lacrosse team which played in London, England in 1948 and was undefeated. In 1951-1962, he coached the RPI freshman hockey team and then moved to Yale in the spring to coach the Yale freshman lacrosse team for the same number of years. He was coaching the Cornell freshman hockey team at the time of his death.
Bill also did some officiating - both in amateur clubs and college games - from 1932 through 1940. He wrote several short articles on coaching and playing hints. He also did a great deal of missionary work to get lacrosse started in Florida while he was living there in the late 40's and early 50's. In 1936, Bill was an assistant coach with the All-America Team which played a series with Canada and he assisted Joe Lally, the great Canadian, in all of these arrangements. Bill helped run the North-South game in Troy, New York, and also the RPI and Yale tours of England and Scotland.
In June 1915, Bill married Anna G. MacDonald. They had two sons who were extremely active in athletics - William A. R. Harkness, born in 1918, who became head coach of lacrosse at Yale University and director of intercollegiate athletics, and Nevin D. (Ned) Harkness, born in 1919, who coached lacrosse as well as hockey for many years at RPI. Ned Harkness was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2001, making Bill and Ned one of several father/son inductees.
Bill "Pop" Harkness passed away in 1965.