David Youle still remembers the first time he put on skates – “those double runner skates you strap on, they were awful.” It was 1930 and Youle was skating at a downtown Ottawa arena, when an older skater grabbed hold of him and helped him glide along. As he felt the air pass him by, he knew immediately “This is for me.”
Youle was enthralled with the sport and became a member at the famed Minto Skating Club, at the time run out of the Rideau Rink on Waller Street in Ottawa (later destroyed by fire in 1949). He has many fond memories of the club, including watching a young Barbara Ann Scott learning to skate and honing her skills on the Minto ice. Youle progressed through testing, earning his silver figures.
Under the encouragement of coaches, Youle was teamed up with Mae Simpson. Simpson and Youle were fortunate to learn from legendary coaches Otto Gold (Barbara Ann Scott’s first coach), and Gustave Lussi (coach of many champions including Dick Button, Donald Jackson, Barbara Ann Scott, and Dorothy Hamill). Simpson and Youle competed in junior pair, reaching the Canadian championships in 1941 and 1942. The pair skated well, but unfortunately never medalled at the event.
Shortly after the 1942 Canadian championships, amidst the war in Europe, Youle enlisted in the military. His skating career had effectively ended. Youle wasn’t the only skater to have made the career move, noting friends Dennis Ross and Pierre Leduc had done the same.
Following training, Youle became a member of the advanced flying unit. His abilities earned him a promotion to the role of flying instructor. Under this role, he was dispatched to the UK, where he would spend the next three years (1942-1945) training Canadian air force pilots. Although he wasn’t on the front lines, he met and trained many Canadians that would never return.
A gentle, caring individual, Youle suited his role as a flying instructor. “In retrospect, I wasn’t that anxious to kill anybody, or to be killed.” Following the Second World War, he continued with the military from 1950-1966 in regular service, moving around to various locations.
Towards the end of his regular service, Youle realized that he once again wanted to become involved and give back to the sport he loved. He became an official at the age of 40, a role he would continue for 25 years. Youle was a free skate, dance, and figures judge, judging up to seventh level figures. He was even given the ability to conduct single panel judging, due there being a small number of available judges in the Maritime Provinces. This was a highly trusted role, as he was the lone official at many of the events he judged.
In 1984, one of his later years as an official, Youle was recognized with the President’s Volunteer Award for the countless hours he contributed to the sport as an official. Youle often reflects on the relationships he made through his involvement in skating: “I met a lot of great kids, great parents, and great friends.” Although he is no longer involved as an official, he continues to skate recreationally.
Youle hasn’t skated yet this season due to a cold, but he’s glad to have “all of my joints still working” and plans to get back on the ice shortly to enjoy his life-long passion. He skates at the St. Margaret’s Bay arena, home to the St. Margaret’s Bay Skating Club in Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia. Youle is excited to get on the ice after his most recent award: “Just last year I was given a free pass at the age of 90, for being visibly the oldest skater out there.”
As for today, Youle will be attending what will likely be his fourth Remembrance Day ceremony of the year. As a veteran, he attends multiple Remembrance Day ceremonies each year, reminding us of the sacrifices made, which allow us to enjoy our beautiful country as we do today.
Lest we forget.