Overruled: The Stories Of Two Forgotten Skating Lawyers

Writing about skating's rich and colourful history has taught me many lessons and one that seems to recur time and time again is that some of the skaters who have the most fascinating stories are not the ones who have found themselves atop Olympic podiums. Today we'll meet two skating lawyers whose contributions to the skating world have been long overlooked but are utterly fascinating!

HERBERT S. EVANS


Prominent nineteenth century Boston attorney and real estate man Herbert S. Evans took to Boston's frozen ponds as a youngster but only started taking figure skating seriously in 1889, when friends encouraged him to pursue the artistic possibilities of skating. That year, he entered the Massachusetts championship and lost badly to J. Frank Bacon.




Undeterred by his loss, Evans began pursuing the finer points of 'fancy' skating with the same intensity he'd shown to his studies of legalese. The following year, he claimed the third prize in the New England Championship in 'fancy' skating and four years later, won the Canadian title in Ottawa, which he lost the following year. In 1896, he entered the Championships Of America in New York City and surprised many when he dethroned George Dawson Phillips by seven points.


Though he'd amassed an impressive competitive record, Evans' most important contributions to figure skating weren't as a competitor. In 1898, he was granted a patent for a skate with an adjustable foot plate "thus allowing the skater, while retaining the natural easy position of the foot, to adjust his balance over any part of the blade as desired or to correct any departure from his customary balance brought about by a difference in shoes, imperfect grinding of the runner in sharpening, etc." Two years later, alongside  J. Frank Bacon and Thomas Vinson (Maribel Vinson's father) he  judged the first skating tests at the Cambridge Skating Club. These tests were devised by George M. Browne and called The Figure Skating Test of the Cambridge Skating Club and have been historically regarded as the first skating tests in America.


In the August 3, 1912 of "The Billboard", Julian T. Fitzgerald described him as "an active Bostonian of rather slight build, and a little less than medium height. Mr. Evans is a natural skater. His originality forms one of the chief characteristics of his work. He first drew his figures on paper and afterward produced them on ice." George Browne raved of his counter and bracket figure eights and "backward threes in the air' [which produced] as harmonious effect a the goldfinch's combination of his song and serpentine flight." Sadly, Evans passed away shortly thereafter, never getting to see the International Style of skating take hold in America.

KENNETH MACDONALD BEAUMONT



Born February 10, 1884 to an affluent family in Blackheath, London, Beaumont studied law at Harrow and Trinity College at Oxford and became a solicitor in 1910. The following year, at age twenty seven, he married Madeleine Brodrick in Kensington and became a full partner in the family law practice Beaumont And Son, founded by his grandfather back in 1836. An avid figure skater who skated at Prince's Skating Club and wintered in Switzerland, he studied both the English and Continental Styles. Teaming up with America's Beatrix Loughran, he won an informal waltzing competition held in conjunction with the 1914 World Championships for women and pairs in St. Moritz. Shortly thereafter, Beaumont enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps and served in World War I. He achieved the rank of Major and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918 for his involvement during the capture of Jerusalem and service in the Middle East.


Upon his returning to London, Beaumont pursued figure skating with great fervour. When the Summer Olympics came to his home city in 1920, a thirty six year old Beaumont entered the men's competition  and finished ninth - and last - among the men's competitors, which included Gillis Grafström and Ulrich Salchow. Unphased by his dismal finish, Beaumont laced up again with his wife Madeleine to compete in the pairs event. Together, they too finished last in the event won by Finns Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson. I'd like be to tell you that the Beaumont's disappointing finishes in front of friends and family at home inspired them to go on to great things in competitive skating, but that's not how the narrative of this story went. They did win two British pairs titles together and the Johnson Challenge Cup but the 1920 Olympic Games would prove to be the couple's only international competition.


Following an Imperial Airways accident in 1924, Beaumont took up flying at the age of forty one and turned the focus of Beaumont And Son practice to aviation law. He became a hugely important figure in the development of international aviation law and actually served as a legal advisor to the International Air Transport Association. Beaumont was responsible for drafting the terms and conditions for passenger tickets, baggage checks and consignment notes for cargo and later was elected chairman of the International Civil Aviation Organization and its predecessor Comité International Technique d'Experts Juridiques Aérien. A 2013 speech by Tony Tyler as part of the Royal Aeronautical Society Beaumont Lecture Series noted that "in many respects, the aviation world in which Major Beaumont lived and practiced bears little resemblance to the one we inhabit... Propeller planes were still a common sight and the Boeing 747 was just a concept on a drawing board. Airport security was virtually non-existent. Fares, service and capacity in nearly all markets were regulated by governments; and outside the United States – and Hong Kong! – nearly all international scheduled airlines were state-owned. Airlines carried 177 million passengers in 1965, equivalent to around 5% of the world’s population. Air travel was not only for the elite - that's a myth - but it was far from being a common experience. It certainly had the power to thrill."

When Beaumont wasn't busy sitting on committees, he was busy writing up a storm. As an aside, I can kind of relate. He co-authored "Shawcross And Beaumont", an important legal text on aviation law and even wrote for "Skating" magazine. His published works on the sport included a 1929 paper called "Some Aspects Of Modern International Skating". During this same period, Beaumont also served as President of the Royal Philatelic Society London and was the founding President of the Great Britain Philatelic Society in 1955. An avid stamp collector and historian his entire life, Beaumont was so distinguished in this field of study that he was made a Commander in the Order Of The British Empire in 1949 and signed the Roll Of Distinguished Philatelists in 1955.

In 1956 (a year before his retirement from the International Civil Aviation Organization), Beaumont returned to the skating world with a renewed vigour and role. He actively served as a judge and referee for Great Britain in international competitions and as the President of the National Ice Skating Association of Great Britain until his death on April 24, 1965 in Seaford, East Sussex, England.

I really have to give a 'hats off' to this man for the incredibly full life he lived. Whether he was wearing the hat of student, lawyer, philatelist, Olympic figure skater, aviation expert, judge, referee, writer or NISA President, Beaumont always seemed to be looking towards the next project and that's something that I can certainly respect and admire. It only goes to show you that a poor showing in one figure skating competition means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of life.

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Comments

  1. I like how you don't just give us the history of events or people, but we often get life lessons from these great stories. In this article, I like this sentence:

    "It only goes to show you that a poor showing in one figure skating competition means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of life."

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    Replies
    1. There are so many common threads that run through history that so often get lost in a sea of who, what, when, where and why... thank you so much for your kind words! :)

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