If I Only Had A (Hope) Braine Blog

Born January 30, 1915 in the port town of Folkestone in Dover, England, Hope Braine was the son of Horace and Evelyn Braine. His father, who worked as a boiler attendant at a brewery, served with the Army Service Corps in Great War, achieving the rank of Major. Hope learned to skate when he was a young student, and dabbled in hockey for a time before dedicating himself seriously to figure skating. He achieved the gold medal of the National Skating Association but never competed as an amateur, later recalling that he would have been far too nervous at the time to do so.

Though he earned a motor engineer's degree, Hope decided there was more money in teaching skating. He accepted a position as an instructor at the Queen's Ice Club, Bayswater, where he hobnobbed with some of the top professionals of his day. Following in the footsteps of Sidney Charlton and Phil Taylor, he learned how to perform on twenty inch stilt skates. He also picked up barrel and hoop jumping, eventually becoming so proficient at the novelty that he could jump over a table.

 At five foot nine and one hundred and fifty five pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, Hope had a striking presence on the ice... and he certainly turned some heads at the 1935 Open Professional Championships of Great Britain in the International Style in Richmond, where he finished second to America's Nate Walley. He won the event the following two years, defeating no less a coaching legend than Arnold Gerschwiler in the 1936 event. These events included both school figures and free skating, and even though they were professional competitions, there was no prize money in those days as the events were organized by the National Skating Association. Hope later told reporters, "While training for the championship I started at 8:15 each morning and practiced for about two hours, then worked for another hour about midday... I try to keep myself fit by neither drinking nor smoking, and making an effort to get into bed before midnight every night - rather difficult at times."

In the late thirties, Hope was something of a globetrotter. He performed in ice ballets in South Africa and taught in St. Moritz. He also spent some time in America teaching at the Ice Club of Baltimore and performing in carnivals. At an Ice Gymkhana in Philadelphia in 1937, he faced off with Kit Klein in a speed skating race. While summering in Australia, he taught skaters at the Sydney Glaciarium. In 1939, he accepted a position as the chief instructor at the newly opened Ice Palais in Sydney and toured Australia and New Zealand with Megan and Phil Taylor's "Switzerland" ice revue. His goal, he told reporters, was to make enough money to buy a farm.

On October 9, 1939 at St. John's Church, Darlinghurst, Hope married Sylvia Law, a South African skater he'd met back in London, when she was secretary at Queen's Ice Rink. Sylvia told Australian reporters, "The only way I could join him in Australia was to sign up with the Switzerland Ice Show, which was coming here. Girl skaters were rather rare, so it was not hard to get a job with the company. I skated professionally for the last time on Saturday night at the Theatre Royal. I shall be content now to watch Hope. Our wedding will be a quiet affair, because of the War." Sylvia's bridesmaid, Hazel McCulloch, left the wedding in time for the "Switzerland" ice revue's 8 PM curtain call. Hope joked to Australian reporters, "We're so keen on skating  that we should like to have a drawing-room fitted up as a rink. But an ice-box is about all we can afford at present." While honeymooning in Canada, Hope performed in a carnival in Winnipeg. He and Sylvia liked the Prairies so much they stayed, and Hope spent a winter teaching at the Glencoe Club in Calgary.

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Australia

After his Canadian adventure, Hope returned to Australia, settling in Pott's Point and resuming his position at the Ice Palais. He and Sylvia staged an Empire Ice Carnival in support of the Red Cross Society. In January of 1941, he enlisted in Royal Australian Air Force at the age of twenty six. He served as a Flying Officer in missions in Shandur and Shellufa, Egypt but was reported missing, then killed, in a battle off the coast of Sardinia on February 7, 1943. He was only twenty eight years old.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.