Sweet Doll Of Haddon Hall: The Dorothy Greenhough Smith Story


The daughter of James Edward Preston Muddock and Eleanor Rudd, Dorothy Vernon Muddock was born in Yorkshire, England on September 27, 1882. Her father was a widely acclaimed journalist and author of mystery and horror fiction novels, who was every bit as popular and prolific as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Under the pen name 'Dick Donovan', he penned over two hundred detective stories. 
He named Dorothy after the main character in Eliza Meteyard's 1860 book "The Love Steps Of Dorothy Vernon" and wrote a Dorothy Vernon book of his own in 1903, "Sweet Doll Of Haddon Hall", casting his daughter Dorothy as Dorothy Vernon. In a 1924 silent film, Dorothy Vernon was portrayed by no less a star than Mary Pickford herself.

Left: Mary Pickford as Dorothy Vernon. Right: James Edward Preston Muddock.

When the real Dorothy was only seventeen, she married forty five year old publisher Herbert Greenhough Smith, who was editor of the magazine which first published the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One can only imagine she broke that news to her father: "Hi, Dad! Here's my (consistently unfaithful) forty five year old husband who works for The Strand Magazine. Strand Magazine? Oh, you know, the one that's publishing the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle... your biggest competition?" Interestingly, Dorothy's father's 1907 autobiography makes no mention of Dorothy or Herbert whatsoever.


When she wasn't presumably having awkward family dinners, Dorothy Greenhough Smith was making a name for herself as a pioneer in women's figure skating. She began skating at the age of twenty at the Prince's Skating Club in London. Under the tutelage of Bernard and Alex Adams, she made her international debut at the ISU Championships for Ladies in Davos in 1906, which was later recognized as the first World Championships for women. She had only skated for four years at that point in time. Madge Syers won and Dorothy finished dead last, but she took defeat in stride and pressed on to have a short but hugely successful career.


Dorothy won the British Championships in 1908 and 1911, both times defeating a man in the process. At the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in her home country, she won the bronze medal behind Syers and Germany's Elsa Rendschmidt. Commentary from "The Fourth Olympiad, the Official Report Of The Olympic Games 1908" by Theodore Andrea Cook noted that in her free skating performance at Prince's Ice Club at those Games, she skated "pretty combinations of rockers and counters, introducing graceful dance steps and what is known as the Axel Paulsen jump."


Yes, Dorothy Greenhough Smith was landing single Axels at a time when many women were barely eeking out waltz jumps and Salchows, if they were jumping at all. Captain T.D. Richardson recalled, "She was a superb school skater and was the first lady in the world successfully to jump the Axel Paulsen - she could jump it with complete nonchalance - complete with ankle length skirt, hat and very high skates indeed. She was... altogether a remarkable person."


Equally remarkable was her trip to the 1912 World Figure Skating Championships, where in winning the silver medal she defeated Olympic Gold Medallist Ludovika Jakobsson and World Champion Phyllis Johnson. She retired from competitive skating the same year.

Dorothy Greenhough Smith presenting the Championship Cup to Marion Lay at the 1931 British Championships

Turning in her skates for tennis shoes, Dorothy made a bid for Wimbledon in 1914 but lost to Mrs. W.H. Holloway in the first round. She also was an accomplished swimmer. Her husband and father died within a year of each other in the mid fifties and she spent much of the rest of her days in Royal Tunbridge Wells, East Sussex, passing away of a heart attack on May 9, 1965 at the age of eighty two. Little is known of her later life, but anyone who was the subject of a famous novel, was married to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's editor, won an Olympic medal as a figure skater and competed at Wimbledon certainly would have had a lot of fond memories to look back on.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.