The 1939 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Dorothy Caley and Mary Rose Thacker. Photo courtesy University Of Manitoba Digital Collections.

Filming had just got underway for "Gone With The Wind", tea dances were jitterbugging with The Andrews Sisters' hit "Hold Tight - Hold Tight" and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was acutely aware that War was on the horizon.

The year was 1939 and on January 27 and 28, some of Canada's top skaters gathered at the Toronto Skating Club to compete at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships, then commonly referred to as the Dominion Championship. The event was held less than a week before that year's North American Championships at the Granite Club.

Mary Rose Thacker. Photo courtesy University Of Manitoba Digital Collections.

Many of the same faces that had competed in 1936 when Toronto last played host to the event returned, but there were still only entries from four Canadian provinces - Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The fact that there were less than a dozen of skaters from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec combined highlighted just how much skaters from Toronto and Ottawa dominated Canadian skating in those days. How did things play out? Let's take a look back.


Left: Joan McNeil. Photo courtesy New York Heritage Digital Collections. Right: Dick Salter.

Seventeen year old Sandy McKechnie of the Toronto Skating Club outskated his training mate Donald Gilchrist and Dick Salter of the Wascana Winter Club in Regina to win the junior men's title that had eluded him the year prior. McKechnie had started skating as a toddler and had made his debut at the national level in 1937. In 1938, Theresa McCarthy's sister Norah won the Canadian junior women's crown. When Norah moved up to the senior ranks, it was Theresa's turn to shine in 1939. Second and third were Joan McNeil of the Minto Skating Club and Elizabeth Ann McKellar of the Winnipeg Winter Club.

Peter Chance and Kay Lopdell. Photo courtesy New York Heritage Digital Collections.

Patricia Chown and Philip Lee, the 1938 Canadian junior pairs winners, did not compete in Toronto. The title instead went to young Kay Lopdell and Peter Chance of the Minto Skating Club. Second and third were Toronto pairs Margaret Wilson and Peter Killam and Florence McNamara and George Reid.


Aidrie Cruikshank. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The previous year's Waltz Champions, Janet and Fraser Sweatman of Winnipeg bettered Aidrie (Main) and Donald B. Cruikshank in the Tenstep, while the Cruikshank's defeated legends Constance Wilson Samuel and Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson in the Waltz. Constance was a fixture at the Canadian Championships since the early twenties, holding the record for the most titles in both women's singles and pairs. This would be her final medal win at the event, and it was fitting that she won it with her brother.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

An all-new Toronto four - Gillian Watson, Ruth Hall, Sandy McKechnie and Donald Gilchrist - won the fours title. In the pairs, Norah McCarthy and Ralph McCreath bested the Cruikshank's and Kay Lopdell and Peter Chance, who were 'skating up' in the seniors. McCreath had won the pairs the last three years with Veronica 'Biddy' Clarke, who had retired from competition after getting married.


Bud Wilson

Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson unanimously won his ninth Canadian men's title, tying his sister Constance's record for the most Canadian singles titles - records that still hold strong to this very day. Ralph McCreath was a unanimous second. Wingate Snaith took the bronze by a slim margin over Jack Vigeon and Peter Chance. In winning, Wilson received a 5.8 from one judge - a very high score by any standard in the pre-War years.


Nine young women vied for the women's title. The gold went to sixteen year old Mary Rose Thacker, the second youngest skater in the competition. Four out of five judges had the Winnipeger, who had missed the previous year's event due to an ankle injury, first despite the fact she struggled on jumps in her free skate.

Mary Rose Thacker. Photo courtesy University Of Manitoba Digital Collections.

The star in that phase of the event was Toronto's Norah McCarthy, the 1938 junior titleholder. Defending Champion Eleanor O'Meara, who trained at the Granite Club with the Brunet's, came up short and took the bronze, just ahead of her training mate Dorothy Caley. Thacker's win was historic. It was the very first time the Canadian women's title had gone to a skater from Western Canada.

Mary Rose Thacker

Bud Wilson and Mary Rose Thacker "were assured" of their spots at the 1940 Winter Olympic Games at the conclusion of the competition. That autumn at the Montreal Winter Club, the twenty-six club, ten thousand member Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada became the Canadian Figure Skating Association of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada.

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