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Sisters: Verli, Lilian and Jenny, 2008 with Len Duke Trophy (right) and Len Duke Best & Fairest Trophy. [Image source: Australian Ice Racing Newsletter, Spring 2008].

LEN DUKE WAS BORN AT Melbourne in 1932 where he took up skating at St Moritz Ice Skating Palais, St Kilda in 1946. He became interested in speed skating and ice hockey, and played in the Juniors for the Monarchs IHC. However, speed skating was his main interest. In 2003, his sister Lillian Dillon has written:

"Eventually we graduated to our own boots and skates – Len bought “tubes” as he was interested in ice hockey and we were both keen on the Fast Skate which was held at the end of the dance sessions. When it came time to get my own blades Mum took me into Jack Molony's in the city (see Ted Molony) to be fitted with figure skates but I decided on tubes like Len’s. Because of this, one night when I was at the rink to watch the races I was asked to compete in the Ladies’ Victorian Championships “to make up the numbers". They obviously didn’t have enough starters to make it a race, and it being my first time in a race of course I fell over, but it sparked my interest! I remember Betty Amess (see Ron Amess) being in the race, and she eventually went on to win several Victorian and Australian titles over the years. I was 14 when girls were admitted to Melbourne Amateurs, and I made sure I was among the first to join.


"Later several other clubs were formed — the Southern Flyers (Two Blues), Jaguars (Gold and Black), and Racers (Red). Girls then had their own Club, Twin Wings (Black and White), but later it was abandoned and they were admitted to the boys’ clubs. We practiced racing and starts on Sunday mornings at St Moritz and sometimes the Glaciarium ... Other speed skaters I remember from that time were Alec Figgins, David Pugh, Noel Wilson, Eddie Spicer, Colin Cusden, Allan Heffernan, Wally Truscott, Graham Quint, Les Griffiths, Jim McCutcheon, Stan White, Betty Amess, Val Roberts, Mairi Connell, Gerry Leonard, and Teddi Higgs, who as Teddi Jenkins went on to win many Ladies titles and set new records." [16]

In 1948, Duke and long-time school friend David Morgan, became founding members of the Melbourne Amateur Speed Skating Club, for which he wrote the Constitution. He was later the first Secretary-Treasurer of the Australian Amateur Ice Racing Council (AAIRC). He won several Victorian and Australian titles over the years and at 17 he was a member of the 1951 Victorian team in the Australian Championships at Sydney. That week he won three Senior titles, Quarter-mile, Half-mile and 1-mile, setting new Australian records for all three although still a Junior (Ampol Book of Sporting Records, 1951-87).

For a time, Duke was unable to race because he was encased in plaster from neck to waist for 6 months after a serious bike accident. He was a member of Victorian Speed skating teams in 1948, 1950 and 1951. In 1948, Duke won the Victorian Junior Quarter- and Half-mile and the Australian Junior Quarter-mile championships in 1948-9. In 1950, he was a foundation member of Jaguar Speed Skating Club, and its Honorary Secretary. In 1951, he was captain-coach of the Jaguar; Honorary Secretary of the Victorian Speed Skating Union (VSSU); and he won the Victorian Senior Half-mile Championship, the Australian Senior Quarter-, Half- and 1- mile championships, breaking all Australian records at the age of eghteen. He took the quarter-mile in 42.55s, the halfmile in lm 27.1s, and the mile in 3m 10s at the Ice Palais, Sydney. He won the 'Rushall Trophy' 'for being Victoria's best skater over all distances'.

In 1952-3, he was President of the Southern Flyers Speed Skating Club and Chief Starter of VSSU in 1952. In 1953, he was Honorary Secretary-Treasurer of AAIRC, delegate to the Victorian Olympic Council (VOC) and donated the 'Len Duke Trophy' which has been raced for in Interstate competition for over 50 years, having celebrated its Golden Anniversary at Acacia Ridge Ice Rink, Brisbane in August 2003.

In 1954, Duke was Vice-President and Racing Secretary of VSSU, President of Southern Flyers, Honorary Secretary-Treasurer of AAIRC, and VOC delegate. He retained his interest in the sport for many years and served in various speed skating organisations. As a young man he wanted to join the police force but he was under the regulation height of 6 foot, although he eventually joined the Commonwealth Police Force in his 40s when the height requirement was reduced. Duke died in 1982 from a brain tumour at age 49. His wife returned his trophies to the VSSU, one of which was modified to become the Best & Fairest trophy for the Duke Perpetual competition. [16]

01. Historical Notes

The Olympic Southern Flyers Ice Racing Club Incorporated was founded in 1949 at the Melbourne Glaciarium. It was formerly the Southern Flyers Speed Skating Club prior to 1971, and the "Olympic" Southern Flyers Speed Skating Club, prior to 1987. The club is now in its sixtieth year — its Diamond Jubilee — of continuous involvement in the organised sport of Ice Speed Skating, and it is the oldest sanctioned club in Australia. It added "Olympic" to its name in 1971 after relocating from St Moritz Ice Skating Rink, St Kilda to the Olympic Ice Skating Centre, South Oakleigh. The club became an incorporated body in 1987 and it is affiliated with both the Victorian Ice Racing Association Inc (VIRA Inc) and the Australian Amateur Ice Racing Council Inc (AAIRC Inc), the State and National governing bodies.

02. Citation Details

Ross Carpenter, 'Duke, Leonard Charles Humphry (1932 - 1982)', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/bio-duke.html, accessed online .

03. Select Bibliography

Australian Ice Racing (AIR) Roll of Honour

04. Citations
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