FLASHBACK: Margaret rolls her way to British title!

Margaret Smith
Margaret Smith

THE potent fumes, darkened and tranquil surroundings and antiquated anthologies stored within the Burnley Express archive room, housing an exhaustive inventory of the town’s history, is becoming a customary feature of the working week.

So far this meticulous exploration of sporting excellence has celebrated achievements in football, boxing and cricket spanning several decades of the 20th century.

But today’s inclusion is a step away from the modern day norm - remember when roller-skating was the phenomena?

Margaret Smith, formerly of Tabor Street residence, not only became champion of the sport in which she excelled in; she retained her crown as well.

Rewind to the March 30th, 1955, edition of the paper as Miss Smith secured the title of professional roller figure skating champion of Great Britain in successive years at London’s Alexandra Palace.

The Express switchboard operator defeated opponents from the country’s capital and Great Yarmouth to seal the title for a second time.

The competitors had to skate six figures followed by four minutes improvised free skating.

Among the spectators who packed the rink was Mr Sydney Smith who watched on as his daughter was awarded the Kallenborn Cup and gold medal in the competition’s finale.

Miss Smith, a former pupil of Burnley High School, which became Habergham High School after merging with Burnley Grammar School in the early 80s, began skating when she was six and was coached by Mr Albert Thompson, then manager of the Empress Ballroom.

The Express article narrated how Miss Smith’s first big break arrived three years later when she won the All-England juvenile figure and free-style roller-skating championship as the youngest entrant in the competition held in Manchester.

The following year she retained her title.

The article continued: “A double gold medallist of the National Skating Association, Miss Smith was one of five British skaters who went to Turin in 1951 to compete in the European Roller Figure and Dance Skating Championship.

“The following year she went to Dortmund, Germany, to take part in the world championships. But bad luck befell her.

“During the competition she developed influenza and was unable to continue.

“Miss Smith retained the Devonshire Park Bowl and came second in the All-Britain amateur championship in 1953, during which year she became a professional skater.”