Several gentlemen of the cloth made a considerable bet to skate thirty miles in three hours on the lovely Aqualate Mere belonging to Sir C. Boughey, Bart, in the presence of most of the beauty and fashion of the neighbourhood. They won their bets with ease.
It is amusing to try and visualise half a dozen parsons, with their black coat tails flying, skating for money which probably doubled their meager stipends.
Sweepstakes and betting were apparently the sole incentive to speed amongst amateurs and professionals alike, in fact, except that the professionals seem to have been a little faster one can see no difference. The great winter of the Crimean war, 1854, gave an enormous impetus to skating and it was in this winter that William Smart, best known as Turkey, came to the fore and dominated speed skating for a decade. Of all Turkeys rivals, the most formidable was William See, known as Gutta Percha, but it was not until 1867 that he succeeded in lowering Turkeys colours, when the latter was in his forty-first year. Many sensational and exciting races took place over the intervening and subsequent years, before enormous crowds, with scenes of tumultuous enthusiasm. Although the races amongst the best men were without doubt properly conducted, the press got hold of many that were, to say the least, run on irregular lines; and it was this that caused a Mr. James Drake Digby, supported by a Dr. Moxon and Mr. G. Long and others who were equally interested in the sporting side of skating, to call a meeting to see what could be done to remove the all too frequent bad practices. This meeting was held at the Guildhall, Cambridge, on February 1st, 1879, and on that day the National Skating Association of Great Britain was born. A further meeting was held on March 1st, when the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Leicester and Mr. C. W. Townley, Lord Lieutenant of Cambridge, were invited to be presidents. It was resolved to establish a Skating Championship of England, and generally to promote the interests of skating.