From earliest times people have enjoyed the thrill of sliding on frozen water, as careless to the dangers as was St Lidwina (also know as Lidwid; Lidwina; Lidwina of Shiedam; Lijdwine; Lydwid) the Skating patron saint. She broke at least one rib while skating on a canal in Holland in 1396 when she was fifteen and was permanently invalided as a result. The rest of her life, thirty-seven years, was spent performing good works and several miracles from her bedside. Her bones are buried in Scheidam and some believed they protected the town from bombing during the Second World War.
John Curry, the 1976 Olympic champion, cheerfully ignored his fathers warnings of how the surface might give way, plunging him into the chilling depths when he took to the ice on a Christmas holiday in the Fens. The boys enthusiasm was undaunted, but when his mother saw him wading through the mush at the side of the pond on his way to firmer ice, she laid down the law. Any skating was to be done on artificial ice.
It was the British who formed the worlds first skating club. The exact date is uncertain, but the Edinburgh Skating Club is believed to have come into being around 1650. At this time applicants for membership had to skate a circle first on one foot, then on the other, and finally jump over three top hats piled on top of each other. The club existed until 1966. In 1830 an organisation simply called The Skating Club was formed in London. Here the English style was developed. While skaters in other countries were content to draw their names on the ice or make elaborate figures resembling flowers with the tracings left by their skates, the English developed a more social, if formal, activity, a kind of square dancing without music. Four skaters were arranged around an orange and a caller would shout out the moves. On the callers instructions the skaters would turn, skate towards the orange, and away from it.
The first skating club in North America - the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society was founded in 1849. Such were the dangers of drowning that even today its members are required to carry a reel and coil of rope when skating outdoors, or be subject to a fine. Then, from New York, in the 1860's came the man who was to revolutionise skating and serve a death blow to the English style. Jackson Haines was a ballet master who designed his own skates and translated his art onto the ice, developing spirals from ballets arabesques, spread-eagles from ballets second position, and devising the sit spin.