Stan "Jimmy" Hartigan
#06 in the list of senior British men to have represented GB (1948)
Stanley Arthur Hartigan was born on 22nd February 1919 in Edmonton, London. His father, Arthur, was a brass musical instrument maker from Islington and whilst Hartigan would take his father's engineering skills into his working life he was very much his own person when it came to sport, more specifically, roller speed skating.
In the late 1930's Hartigan could be found frequenting the Alexandra Palace roller rink and it wasn't long before he found out he enjoyed skating fast. To look at he was not the archetypical speed skater, but looks were deceptive. He quickly made friends with members of the Alexandra Palace Rollers Speed Club, the likes of recent World Champion Bill Ross and European Champion Jimmy Reed and set about aiming to be one of those elite.
In late 1938 aged 19 he joined the club and along with it the National Skating Association of Great Britain, which allowed him to compete in the up coming British Championships. On 23rd February 1939, a day after his 20th birthday, Hartigan took to the rink in the Five Mile Championship of Great Britain. Hartigan notably made the final and whilst the event was won by another recently crowned World Champion, Arthur Cooper, Hartigan would come home in third place. He was on his way.
Unfortunately for Hartigan, just a few months later Britain found itself at war with Germany and for the next six years the country pulled together and rallied through one of the toughest and most bloodiest times in it's history. For Hartigan, as for many others, skating took a back seat as the Second World War raged around them. The conflict was not without it's skating casualties. The rising superstar Jackie Robbins (Broadway) being one, shot down and killed somewhere over Iceland. Even one of Hartigan's club mates, Frank Best, would find himself shot down and injured although he would later recover on go on to continue his skating career.
Hartigan's war effort was as a development engineer for the aircraft manufacturer de Havilland working on the famous wooden framed Mosquito plane. The factory in Hatfield would be bombed by German planes killing 21 and injuring 70. Hartigan, himself, mercifully came out unscathed and immediately after the war set about his skating once more. It was during his time with de Havilland that he gained his nickname "Jimmy". It is unclear why this was given to him but it was obviously a name that stuck as on occasion some race programmes that were produced after the war showed the entrant of a certain "J.Hartigan". This, of course, was none other than Stan. It was during the war, 1942, that he married his first wife, Kathleen Quarrington.
After the war it didn't take long for the NSA to resume where it left off. Full of British "stiff upper lip" mentality, in early 1946 after an absence of six years it once again held the British Championships. Hartigan also resumed where he had left off. In fact, he would do better than that and taking to the Alexandra Palace rink once again he was victorious in both the One Mile and Five Mile Championships. A third gold medal also came in the form of the British Relay Championship which he won for the first time alongside team mates Bob Halford, Alf Martin and Billy Cook.
In February 1947 Hartigan set about trying to retain his One Mile title. Again, on the Alexandra Palace rink, Hartigan reached the final but would just get pipped at the line by Frank Lamb (Broadway). A few weeks later it was a trip down to Herne Bay for the Alexandra Palace team to defend their title. Again, Hartigan, along with his team mates, would just come up short and finish second to the Broadway quartet of Reeves, Dibling, Lamb and Sanders. As April approached Hartigan knew that the next race was to be the last throw of the dice that year to get a gold medal. On the 19th April and back on his home track Hartigan retained his Five Mile title ahead of team mates Alf Martin and Bob Halford.
In 1948 controversy would engulf the sport of roller speed skating in Great Britain. The Broadway club was banned in it's entirety from all NSA competitions for taking part in what the NSA deemed to be "unofficial" British and World Championships organised by the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA) and the British Federation of Amateur Roller Skating (BFARS). Neither of these bodies were recognised by the NSA or indeed the World governing body, FIRS, and so a lengthy ban was enforced for the club and it's skaters. This left the way for the other dominant club, Alexandra Palace, to sweep all before it, and it did. Some would argue that the Palace skaters had it easy in the absence of Broadway, but whilst it was undoubtedly "easier" it is unlikely that any victory came easy. What people forget is that the Championships that year were either held in the north of the country in Batley or in the south in Herne Bay, neither of which was anything like the home track of the Alexandra Palace skaters.
All that said, by the end of the 1948 British Championships the club had taken nine out of nine available medals in the individual events and regained the British Relay Championship. Although part of the winning relay team, however, Hartigan failed to take individual gold. He came up short against an in form Alf Martin finishing second and third in both the One Mile and Five Mile Championships. In the Southern Counties Championship on Herne Bay again Hartigan was just pipped for victory, this time by local skater Reg Smyth. Despite 1948 not being his most successful year domestically the season was not yet over and in September that year Hartigan was called up to represent Great Britain at the forthcoming World Championships in Monfalcone, Italy.
Training for these Championships had taken place around the streets of war torn London. It had been a full three years since the war ended but the bomb damaged buildings and bomb craters from the blitz were still all too evident. Training took place along London Wall at Moorgate, a venue favoured by the NSA at that time. There was also much media interest and as well as newspaper photographs and articles there was also some British Pathe newsreel footage produced. (Incidentally, this footage still exists in the archives and should be able to be accessed through the British Pathe website. Unfortunately, however, the footage has been erroneously indexed and cannot be accessed. The British Pathe Archives have been made aware of this but have refused to rectify presently due to prohibitive costs. A number of stills from the footage can, however, be accessed).
The 1948 World Championships was to be on a road circuit around the streets of Monfalcone in Italy, just north of Trieste. Alongside Hartigan were his fellow club mates Bob Halford and Alf Martin. Over the two days of competition, the 11th and 12th September, Hartigan would race all four races. His highest place was a commendable 8th in the 5000 metres (won by Venanzi of Italy), which was pretty much on a par with the other British performances being achieved.
By 1949 Hartigan was beginning to look for other interests. In March that year he won his last major gold medal, a third victory in the British Relay Championships. He did not, however, take a medal of any colour in any individual Championship event for the first time since he had been taking part, either before or after the war. He also took part in trials for the World team, again around Moorgate, but he was now up against fitter, younger skaters. A new era was dawning in the sport with the emergence of youngsters such as Denis Hill and Don Brown. These guys from local rivals Broadway had arrived a few years earlier but now were hungry for success, that hunger having probably been fuelled even more by actions on the NSA in the year previous. Hartigan was now 30 and he knew his best days were behind him. He was from another era and recognising that fact decided that whilst he would continue to do the odd race, his skating future from here on in was to be one of satisfied reflection.
Stan Hartigan was one of only three male skaters to win medals either side of the Second World War. When you sit back and reflect on his achievements they are more than worthy of note. A British Championship medallist in his very first year of competition is alone a fantastic achievement. To then suddenly have your prime years taken from you, six in all, as the World went mad and come out the other side with the ambition for success still burning fiercely is also a remarkable showing of character. To then go on and win three individual British titles, three British relay titles and represent your country at the highest level possible should be celebrated.
In 1958 Hartigan married for a second time, to Margaret Groves. He moved to Bournemouth and it was here he would retire. Sadly, Stan passed away in July 2004 aged 85. His children would grow up with only glimpses of his skating career and very little understanding or knowledge of what it was he actually achieved. Hopefully, on reading this, they will come to realise that he was more than deserving as being recognised as one of Britain's skating legends.