He was born to a family with a military background. His mother was a nurse in the army and his father was in British Army. From an early age, Willie and his younger brother Ernie were interested in hockey. The game soon became a passion for both the brothers. Joseph George Ulasterson was a good hockey player and had introduced hockey in Australia. This noted Australian player was a cousin brother of their mother. The stories of Ulasterson also helped a lot to increase their attraction to hockey.
The Cullen brothers from the years at St. George's College, Mussoorie, started captivating the headlines. In a span of 8 years, this college gave rise to 6 hockey Olympians. They were:
* 1928 - Willie Cullen, Michael Gateley, George Eric Marthins
* 1932 - Carlyle Tapsell
* 1936 - Ernie Cullen, Carlyle Tapsell, Lionel C. Emmett
In the year 1928 Willie delineated United Provinces in the inaugural National Hockey Championship. The championship was held at Calcutta (now Kolkata). He had shown his brilliant performance in the championship. Willie Cullen won a place in the Indian hockey team, which was preparing at the time for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics for that.
His defence was attributed with the adjective 'rock-like defence' and confronting abilities proved to be a great help in stopping his opponents. This remains a key contribution to India's inaugural Olympic gold triumph.
Ernie carried on to play hockey after returning from Amsterdam, but could not get any other chance to represent the country. Ernest John Goodsir-Cullen, his younger brother, was elected for the Indian hockey team, which was played in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the 1936 field hockey tournament, Indian national team won the gold medal for India. Willie joined his uncle in his profession after retiring from active hockey, and thereafter also served in an oil company. Willie joined the Army, during World War II. Later he got posted to Canada. In or around 1950, Willie went to Australia and settled there. At the age of 91, he died in 1998 in New South Wales, Australia.
With his sturdy defence in the traditional left-half position, Willie Cullen will be retrieved with great respect for his worthy contribution to Indian hockey in the 1928 Olympics. To show honour to this noted player, his alma mater, St. George's College, Mussorie, has a 4-house system for their inter-class sports meets and the green house has been named after this Cullen brothers, is called the Cullen's' house. 2007 is the centenary year of this great Olympian.
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