Then, on April 26th, the First General Meeting was held again at the Guildhall, Cambridge, with Mr. Townley presiding. The recommendations of the Committee were approved and the objects of the Association were more fully defined, viz. To promote and reward speed skating by the establishment and management of Amateur and Open-skating Championships of England. And then, red letter day for modern figure-skaters: to promote and encourage figure-skating by the establishment of standards at which figure skaters may aim, and by bestowing badges of merit on those who attain these standards.
Here we see the beginning of tests, through the genius of Mr. Vandervell, of which more anon.
Then comes another most important resolution which reads:
To promote the establishment of international skating contests in various countries
under the direction of an international Council.
In this last sentence may be found the germ of the International Skating Union of the present day, which controls all Amateur International Competitions. It took until 1892 to get this I.S.U. officially in action at the 1st Congress at Scheveningen in Holland. With the foundation of the I.S.U. after the congress meeting at Scheveningen, speed skating and racing became regularised. All the betting and disorderly practices of the past were outlawed and in their place we had a world championship for men over four distances, viz.: 500, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 metres, and a European Championship (supposed to be held at Hamburg in 1891, but no title was awarded), again over the four distances. These championships were unique in the world of athletics for, in order to win the title, the skater must be “placed” in all the distances, thus being sprinter, middle and long distance skater.
The pre-1914 period produced a name which will live for all time in the world of speed, Oscar Mathison of Norway, who won five world and two European Championships. He was a man of tremendous physical strength and a great athlete and incidentally was the first man I ever saw perform an Axe! Paulson jump on a long, thin racing skate.
On December 11 a committee meeting was held at which it was resolved to extend the objects of the Association so as to embrace the promotion of figure-skating.
There was great rivalry between Mathison and the Russian N. Strunikoff, who won the World and European titles on two occasions, but I think that Mathison was the more reliable skater and all in all the better athlete.
At the second meeting of the N.S.A. on May 1st, 1880, again held at the Guildhall, Cambridge, Mr. Townley raised the question of the definition of an amateur which vexed topic has been under discussion ever since.
Now let us go back a while and see what was happening to figure-skating in the years following the great frost of the Crimean War period of 1854. It was during this time that, with the love of order and discipline inherent in the best class of Englishmen, there came into being a style of skating which has come to be known as the English style. It was definitely Victorian, it still is, and it did produce order out of chaos. It regularised the prescribed movements known at the time and amongst its devotees should be named specially H. E. Vandervell, W. H. Fisher (later to become Lord Downham), W. R. Pidgeon, M. S. Monier-Williams, Maxwell Witham, who with others such as Messrs. Dowler, Westlake, Warner and Custance were names to be conjured with in the skating circles of the 70s, 80s and 90s. But without doubt the greatest of these was Mr. Vandervell, for it was he who, as Chairman of the Figure Departmental Committee, in 1880 finally succeeded in obtaining an agreement by all concerned that an honorary or other distinction should be conferred on the expert. He thereupon drew out a scheme: the outcome of 45 years of skating, and founded on the desire to firmly establish and perpetuate among the masses who take an interest in figure-skating that style which is known amongst experts as the English style, viz., a free, open, large bold and graceful style.
He proposed the establishment by the newly formed N.S.A. of three tests of merit, for each of which a distinctive badge was to be awarded; and the election of a Committee of Examiners to judge the candidates.