Pre-World War I Canadian Olympic Mysteries

For the past two weeks we have been looking into Australian Olympians who were born before 1931 and who were not known to be living and lacked a date of death. Today, we are moving on to a somewhat bigger challenge: those from Canada who meet that same criteria. According to our lists, there are 31 Canadians born before 1931 missing dates of death or confirmation of them being alive. We have covered 11 of them in the past – nine members of the 1904 Mohawk lacrosse team, Bob Lymburne, and Ralf Olin (who we have now learned died sometime in the early-to-mid 2000s). That leaves 20 Canadians left to cover, which is far too many for a single post. Today, therefore, we are going to look into the five individuals who competed prior to World War I, all of whom, of course, are definitely deceased.

Jimmy Fitzgerald – Member of Canada’s athletics delegation to the 1908 London Olympics

James Frances Fitzgerald, born November 3, 1883, represented Canada in three events at the 1908 London Games – the five mile, the 1500 metres, and the 3200 metres steeplechase – and was also entered in the 800 metres, but did not start. His best result was finishing seventh in the five mile. He was identified previously as John Ebenezer Fitzgerald, born September 8, 1886 and died in 1963, but this has been proven to be incorrect. Although we have evidence of him being alive and living in Boston in 1955, we have been unable to confirm what happened to him after that.

Eddie Cotter – Member of Canada’s athletics delegation to the 1908 London Olympics

Fitzgerald’s teammate Edward Vernon Cotter, born December 27, 1887, was also entered into the five mile event at the 1908 London Games, but only ended up competing in the marathon, which he did not finish. He was a successful marathoner at the national level during this era, but we have been unable to track his later activities. There is a listing at Find-A-Grave of a grave for an Edward V. Cotter, born in 1887, who died in the Waterloo region in 1973, which seems likely to be him, but have been unable to prove this.

Bruce Williams – Bronze medalist for Canada in sport shooting at the 1908 London Olympics

Bruce Williams, born December 1876 in Nova Scotia, won a bronze medal in the military rifle team event at the 1908 London Games. Aside from the unit with which he served, we know almost nothing about Williams, although one researcher has suggested that he is actually Bertram Mills Williams, born December 18, 1876 and died January 24, 1934. While this seems like a promising lead, we have been unable to verify it.

Mylie Fletcher – Silver medalist for Canada in sport shooting at the 1908 London Olympics

Despite his uncommon name, Mylie Fletcher is the only individual that we will be featuring who lacks even a suggested year of birth. He took silver in the team trap event at the 1908 London Games and also finished joint-seventh individually. We again suspect a misidentification here and that he is actually Hamilton, Ontario firefighter Miles Edwin Fletcher, born August 23, 1868 and died in 1959, but we have been unable to confirm it thus far.

George Beattie – Three-time sport shooting silver medalist for Canada

George Beattie is the only individual on this list who competed after World War I as well as before it and, unsurprisingly, is the one that we know the most about. Participating in 1908, 1920, and 1924, he took silver in the team trap in 1908 and 1924 and individually in 1908. A game warden by trade, we were able to confirm that he was still alive and living in Hamilton in 1946. After that point, however, we have been unable to trace him.

Beattie is a good segue into our topic for next week, when we will look into the six Canadians who competed exclusively during the interwar period. We hope you will join us for this continuing series!

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