GEORGE ALFRED MEAGHER

 Born: December 6, 1866 in Kingston, Ontario

 Died: March 14, 1930 in Montreal, Quebec

 How Ice hockey came to Europe...

George Meagher is generally credited as being the person who introduced ice   hockey to Europe. He was a champion figure skater and was said to be the Amateur Champion of the World in Ottawa, 1891, and Professional Champion of the World in Vienna, Austria, 1898. Like many Canadians he was extremely fond of ice hockey. When Meagher arrived in Paris, France 1894 he came there to give exhibitions of his fancy figure skating but soon found out that the Frenchmen had never heard about ice hockey.

George Meagher had brought with him several paraphernalias with him on his European voyage, amongst them several hockey sticks. It is said that he stayed in Paris for seven months and that he formed a league, which played four times a week.
Hockey historians have never been able to verify this story but if it's true that would be the first ice hockey games played in Europe. The Prince of Sagan was the president of Meagher's own club.
"Club de Cercle de Patineurs de Paris".

 

 (left) GeorgeMeagher about 1892He usually had a little goatee,

 or Edwardian beard, but here he has only the moustache.

 

As George Meagher left Paris he went on to London and Niagara Hall. There it is said that he also formed a league, which has never been verified either. He continued and showed ice hockey in the Scottish capital of Glasgow. When he left London, a skating party was tendered him by the Duke and Duchess of Teck, Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Princess Louise presented the clever skater with a medal.
So although we don't know for sure that leagues were formed it is certain that he brought with him hockey sticks and showed the Europeans the fundementals of hockey.

George Meagher's odysée continued across Europe. His next destination was Germany.
He went to Nürnberg [Nuremberg] and Bayern [Bavaria]. From there he continued to Russia and St.Petersburg. In each place his new game found favor.

 "Hockey is going to take here as it has in other cities," said Mr. Meagher.  "It is exciting and scientific and an excellent exhibition game; so why shouldn't it be popular?" 

Since he was there for his figure skating in the first place, it ment that he also picked up a lot of valuable things from the Europeans, from the intricate figure skating of the Parisians to the posing and posturing of the Viennese
Like the champion skater he was, he of course had his skates custom made for him.
They were extra high, to admit of his leaning over in his edge work. Two inches was the height and the blades were a quarter of an inch thick, curved in a six foot radius.

The Meagher family...

George Alfred Meagher was born on December 6,1866 in Kingston,Ontario as the next youngest out of 15 siblings. [8 brothers and 6 sisters] His mother was Lydia Trumpour Ruttan [1826-June,1871]. His father John Meagher [Dec.21,1816-Sept.25,1878] was the third son of Major James Meagher of Tipperary, Ireland who had moved to Canada in 1814. 

The name of the Irish clan was O’Meachair, and meant “the hospitable”. As the bearers of this name moved from place to place, through Ireland and the world, often at the mercy of semi-literate bureaucrats, the spelling changed to Meagher, Maher, and Mahar.

John was a wine merchant and partner with his brothers [Jeremiah b.1813 in Spain & James b.1814 in Tipperary,Ireland], in Meagher's Distillery of Napanee.

 

          

 

          George Meagher 1897

All the children [including George] were born in Kingston but later moved to Toronto and Montreal.  Two of George's brothers [John Jr. Oct.29,1847-1909 and Joseph Dec.4,1849-May 9,1911] formed  

Meagher Brothers Distillery which later became Canada's largest producer of fine liqueurs. Several of the brothers developed a keen interest in figure skating and hockey which they practiced on the Lake Ontario ice and various rinks around Kingston. One of his older brothers Daniel [Sept.11,1845 - Aug.9,1912], a doctor, played in the first historic hockey game ever held in Montreal on March 3, 1875.

George was the uncle of Arthur Farrell [Feb.8,1877-Feb.7,1909] as his oldest sister Mary (b. Nov. 15, 1842), married William Farrell. Arthur Farrell who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965, was a former McGill player who authored the first book on the subject of hockey in 1899 [Hockey: Canada’s Royal Winter Game]. He also wrote hockey books in 1904 and 1907. Farrell also played professional hockey for the Montreal Shamrocks and won two Stanley Cups with them in 1899 and 1900.
He was known as one of the men responsible for moving the focus of hockey from individual play to team, or "combination," play.

Champion skater...

George Meagher's adventurous tour of Europe ended in 1896 as he arrived to New York from Liverpool, England on the ship 'Aurenia' September 24, 1896. It was however not the last time that Meagher went over to Europe. He made frequent trips over the Atlantic. 10 years later he was one of the organizers of a hockey tournament in Brussels [Belgium] at the "Pôle Nord" between March 10-19,1906.
But while he was in New York late in 1896 he demonstrated the sport of hockey there as well.
In an article published in the Brooklyn Eagle on December 13, 1896 it said:

"Mr. Meagher is an expert with the hockey stick, as those who have seen him      practicing against half a dozen players at once at the new rink will testify." 

So although George Meagher wasn't playing competitive hockey he seemed to be pretty   good with a hockey stick and not only a good skater.

The article also told us a little bit about Meagher's fine figure skating:

 "He learned to skate when a child.  As he became more expert he added more tricks  and originated others until he gained the undisputed title of champion of the world in his profession.  His repertoire of steps, tricks and figures is now a long one.  Among other things he can do twenty-three different grapevines, fourteen spins and seventy-four figure eights, and over one hundred anvils on foot without stopping.  Stars, flowers, letters, birds, etc., without number and tricks at jumping, fill out his programme.  

(left)  George 1908

He does all these things with a grace and suppleness which leave the novice little idea of the real intricacy and difficulty of the figures and the risks he takes in his jumps.  The latter require great strength of the legs and ankles and if he

did not land squarely on the edge of the runner and stay there after a jump, broken bones would probably follow.

Meagher is proficient in the different styles which mark the nationalities of the

European skaters.  He is the author of "Figure and Fancy Skating," which was

published in London and for which the Earl of Derby, now the mayor of Liverpool, wrote the introduction.  The book is illustrated with sketches by Lord Archibald Campbell, brother of the Marquis of Lorne, and has a chapter by Dr. Montague Williams, the author of the English book on skating.  Algernon Grosvenor, president of the London Skating club, furnished 195 diagrams and the work is an authority of its kind.  Meagher is also the inventor of a skating and athletic shoe."  

The slim, russet-haired Meagher became well-known in Canada for his exceptional skill and grace in “carving fancy figures” on ice. He in fact wrote three books on figure skating, with some info on ice hockey as well. Two of the books was "Figure and fancy skating" (1895) and  "Lessons in skating with suggestions respecting hockey, its laws etc.", published in 1900.

The books covered skating techniques for both artistic skating and hockey.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        A group picture of a skating club, most probably the Minto Skating Club of Ottawa ca 1892-

                                                  George Meagher in the middle of the front row.

He took part in numerous skating competitions, and had an ongoing rivalry with the great Louis Rubenstein, in 1891 claiming the Amateur Championship of the World when Rubenstein refused to appear on the ice with him. He skated with Lady Minto, and was a co-founder of the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa. In 1892, George turned professional, travelling abroad for several years, and winning the World Professional Championship in Vienna, in 1898. He skated before European royalty, including Queen Victoria, astounding them with his many artistic feats, which included jumping across twelve barrels and landing gracefully! As well as having this athletic gift, George Meagher was a talented painter, specializing in watercolour. In fact, he loved to be surrounded by beauty and, and as his skating career drew to a close, he focused on the collection of fine art.....this later avocation necessitating several trips to Montreal, Toronto, and frequently Europe.

Last years...
George’s career left little time for family life, but on November 20, 1913 in Montreal, at the age of 47, this courteous, refined art dealer, as he had now become, married Irene Frances Norma Erly (Apr. 12, 1882 - July 19, 1970). In the spring of 1914 they set sail for England for a whole year. They eventually had six children [five daughters].

 When they returned back to Canada they settled down in Rosedale, Toronto.
Within a few years they returned to Montreal and settled in Westmount. Their home was filled with beautiful paintings and sculptures. Then in 1930 George took ill, and the illness developed into pneumonia. There was no Penicillin or similar antibiotic in those days, and one either got better or died. George did not get better and finally passed away on March 14, 1930.

 George will be remembered as a gentleman, who saw his sport as an art form! He was a devoted father and husband, and a man of integrity and refinement.
As a founder of European ice hockey he should be inducted into the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame.

©  SIHSS,  Patrick Houda, 2004 – pictures in courtesy of Rita Mahar.