On thin ice (Snippets 10)

ice skatingGeorge Walker was a privateer of some note in the 18th Century, who achieved the command of a squadron of four ships known as the ‘Royal Family’, following various other commands earlier in his career.  An account of his exploits was published in 1760, by which time he had been imprisoned for debt.

In the first volume of The Voyages and Cruises of Commodore Walker (London, printed for A. Millar) is the sad tale of an accident witnessed by Walker in Denmark:

One of the winter amusements in this country, both of the genteel and common people, is the exercise of sliding on the ice.  The genteel people have here, but more frequently in other places of Germany, sledges or vehicles without wheels, richly ornamented and painted, drawn by a single horse, which is generally covered with trappings of embroidered velvet, or other rich furniture.  In this kind of chariot they set the lady, whilst the gentleman stands close to her behind, with reins brough round the sides, and drives.  These vehicles run either in the snow upon land, or on the ice; and whole parties of gentlemen and ladies go out together a-pleasuring in them.  A melancholly accident happened among the common sort, who were skating just by Mr. Walker’s ship, after their custom, in a string of men and women, holding each other by the hand.  In this manner they often make sweeps, or circles, all bearing up together, of great circumference; and sometimes the leader still running in a lesser and lesser circle, till he makes a stand, the rest winde round him, till they become an exact round or circle.  Then the last man throwing himself out as leader, they will all again regularly unwinde, and go off in various meanderings, very pleasing to be seen, and certainly of great entertainment to themselves; as from the good spirits the exercise puts them into, they always seeem very gay and happy.  But as mischance will often interrupt diversion, as fools spoil conversation, the foremost skater in one of these exercises, ridiculously threw himself down all of a sudden, tripping the next skater over him, which threw down the next, and so successively one tumbling in a heap over the other, till the force of their falling all in one spot broke the ice, and down the whole unhappy party went, in the midst of their mirth, to the number of about thirty.  This was an accident, of which the like had not been known to have happened before, and was very deplorable in the confusion and lamentations of the by-standers; many of whom had some friend, relation, or child, in the calamity.

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One Response to On thin ice (Snippets 10)

  1. Pingback: Blog News | Windows into History (Reblogs and News)

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