The 1930 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

It was a long, bleak winter in the Prairies. The effects of the Stock Market crash the previous October were starting to be felt. Unemployment and hunger were on rise and as the expense of relief for indigent immigrants skyrocketed, the Winnipeg City Council tried unsuccessfully to get the federal government to help shoulder the costs. That February, Manitobans gathered around their radios to listen to The Governor-General's Throne Speech from Ottawa. Lord Willingdon spoke of the problems of Canadian National railway system, the Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting, Great War veterans and changes to the Elections and Bankruptcy acts. The snow outside, coupled with the doom and gloom on the radio and in newspapers, dampened the spirits of the people of Winnipeg. They needed a lift... and that lift came in the form of figure skating.

Collage of expected competitors in the women's event in Winnipeg

The 1930 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, then also referred to as the Dominion Fancy Skating Championship, were held February 21 and 22 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was the first time the Canadian Championships were held west of Ontario. Two venues were used. The school figures were contested at the giant Amphitheatre between Whitehall Avenue and Colony Street, with all other events held at the Winnipeg Winter Club's indoor natural ice rink on Smith Street, which measured one hundred and seventy by seventy five feet. 

The Winter Club had recently expanded its facilities, adding a brick and concrete building to the property that housed a swimming pool with diving springboard, ten badminton courts, two squash courts, a dining room, kitchen and showers. The Club was a private, members-only affair and the fact that the premises were opened to the general public, with a limited number of tickets sold for the Canadian Championships, was a pretty big deal at the time. Seats were arranged on the ice for spectators, with the option to instead watch the competition from either the upper or lower cloakrooms available as well.

Local newspapers covered the competition on the Society pages, because figure skating wasn't yet largely regarded as a 'serious sport'. Accounts of the event focused more on the dresses skaters wore, and who attended the social events held in conjunction with the competition, than the skating itself. These social events included a tea hour hosted by the daughter-in-law of Sir Clifford Sifton, a prominent Canadian politician who medalled at the Canadian Championships in fours skating in the roaring twenties, an awards banquet hosted by the Winnipeg Winter Club's President Jack Crichton Green-Armytage and a formal dance. How did the best in the west fare against the Eastern skaters? Let's take a look back!


Though now recognized as junior events, they were actually referred to as 'novice class' competitions at the time. There were no age requirements, the only stipulation being that they were open "for those who have not been placed first or second in a national or international championship competition." Instead of a gold, silver and bronze medal, the winner received a silver medal and the runner-up a bronze. The third place finisher presumably just received a hearty handshake and a "good show!"

There were only two competitors in the men's event. The winner, Lewis Elkin of Winnipeg, handily defeated Hubert Sprott on the strength of his school figures. Five women vied for the women's title. Mary Littlejohn of Toronto came out on top, ahead of Ruth Forrest of the Granite Club, Audrey Garland of Winnipeg, Aidrie Main of Montreal and Eileen Noble of Calgary. All five women wore velvet dresses, elegantly trimmed with satin, chinchilla, swansdowne and ermine. Fur was not only worn for fashion. It was also worn for warmth. Although the Club's rink was heated by electric fans connected with an oil furnace, it was notoriously drafty, and the weather outside was positively frigid.


The fours event, a favourite of skaters and audiences alike, was won by the Toronto four, which consisted of Mary Littlejohn, Elizabeth Fisher, George Edwin 'Ted' Beament and Hubert Sprott. The Winnipeg four - Margaret Winks, Maude Porteous, C.W.J. Vincent and Donald Henderson Bain - came second. Toronto siblings Constance and Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson defended their Canadian pairs title, defeating Margaret Winks and Lewis Elkin by a wide margin. Constance won the Waltzing event with  A.D. Duncan. Bud won the Fourteenstep with Betty Holden, defeating Mary Littlejohn and Donald Henderson Bain. All three of these partnerships consisted of a Torontonian and a Winnipegger, as the whole idea of these informal dance events was for the visiting skaters to have a go at dancing with the host Club's members. The women's event was supposed to have been a showdown between. Bud Wilson had no trouble defeating Lewis Elkin, who 'skated up' in the senior men's event after winning in the junior event the previous day, and defending his men's title. The women's event was to have been a showdown between three-time Champion Constance Wilson Samuel and two-time Champion Cecil Smith. The two Torontonians had been friendly rivals for years. At the World Championships earlier that month in New York City, Constance (the defending Canadian Champion and a new bride) had finished fourth. Cecil had a placed a strong second behind Sonja Henie. A rematch on home soil was not in the cards. Cecil opted not to make the long train trek to Winnipeg. With her strong Axel jump, fast spins and powerful style, Constance easily defeated Elizabeth Fisher and Dorothy Benson of Montreal, winning the Devonshire Cup for the fourth time. 

Enjoy reading about the 1930 Canadian Championships? Have I got the book for you! "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating" features short biographical stubs of hundreds of Canadian figure skaters, coaches, judges and builders, as well as complete results from the Canadian Championships going back to before the very beginning. Get your copy today!

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