Canada's First Olympic Judge: The J. Cecil McDougall Story

Photo courtesy Archives de l’Ordre des architectes du Québec

The son of George and Dinah (Kinghorn) McDougall, (James) Cecil McDougall was born July 4, 1886 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He and his older brother George grew up in a home on Osborne Street in Montreal's St. Antoine Ward in a well-to-do Scotch Presbyterian household with two live-in servants. His father was a successful pulp and paper manufacturer.

Cecil graduated from Montreal High School in 1904 and later earned a dual degree from McGill University in architecture and engineering. He went on to establish his own agency of architects and engineers, specializing in hospital architecture. He was involved in the design of the Montreal General Hospital, Protestant Hospital For The Insane and Jewish General Hospital, among dozens of other projects. He served as a municipal alderman for seventeen years and was responsible for a complete overhaul of the Montreal Winter Club on Drummond Street in 1929... the rink that played host to a who's who of Canadian figure skating.

Aerial view of Montreal's Jewish General Hospital. Photo courtesy McGill University.

To say that Cecil's involvement in the skating world extended beyond his involvement in the re-design of the Montreal Winter Club is really a huge understatement. He was a Canadian Champion in fours skating with Jeanne Chevalier, Norman Mackie Scott and Winnifred Tait in 1920 and finished second in the men's event at the Canadian Championships in 1911. In 1913, the newly formed Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada appointed him as one of the first nine accredited judges in Canada. Three years later, he was appointed a second-class test judge - the highest appointment available at the time. In 1917, he was responsible for the preparation of the Figure Skating Department's first technical handbook covering competitions, tests and school figures. When the Department began naming first-class test judges in 1922, he was named as one of them. He also served as the Department's auditor from 1913 to 1921, as well as chair of several committees including the Competitions Committee which oversaw the Canadian Championships. He worked closely with Louis Rubenstein, a fellow Montreal alderman who served as the Department's President.

Competitors and judges at the 1927 Canadian Championships. Back: Miss Morrissey, Dorothy Benson, Margot Barclay, John Machado, Elizabeth (Blair) Machado, Cecil MacDougall, Mr. Sharp, Norman Mackie Scott, Evelyn Darling, Constance Wilson, Jack Eastwood, Maude Smith, Bud Wilson. Front: Kathleen Lopdell, Paul Belcourt, Frances Claudet, Jack Hose, Henry Cartwright, Isobel Blyth, Melville Rogers, Marion McDougall, Chauncey Bangs. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

Perhaps most interesting of Cecil's contributions to figure skating was the fact that he was the first Canadian judge at the World Championships in 1930. Two years later in Lake Placid, he was Canada's first Olympic figure skating judge. Shortly after Louis Rubenstein's death in 1931, he was named President of the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada. He held the position for three years and during his term Montreal played host to the World Figure Skating Championships, the first ISU Championship held in Canada.

Cecil passed away on April 20, 1959 in Montreal at the age of seventy two and was honoured by the city of Montreal for his contributions to local architecture with an Avenue in his name. He has yet to be inducted into Skate Canada's Hall Of Fame.

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