OBITUARIES: Mollie Phillips

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Mollie Doreen Phillips, magistrate, cattle breeder, and ice skater: born 27 July 1907; British champion (pairs) 1933; European bronze medallist (pairs) 1933; JP 1956-77; OBE 1978; High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire 1961-62; died London 15 December 19


Mollie Phillips was a pioneering figure in the world of skating, both as a competitor and as a judge, and a well-known figure in Carmarthenshire. She was High Sheriff of the county in 1961-62, the first woman to hold that office - and also the first daughter to follow her father in that role. Her father was George Phillips, founder of the Phillips Rubber shoe-soling company.

Mollie Phillips had been a student at Law of Lincoln's Inn, but her career followed other paths. During the Second World War she served with auxiliary units at GHQ Home Forces, 1941-44; afterwards she held a great variety of public appointments, beginning in 1949 as County Commissioner for the Girl Guides Association, first in Cardiganshire and then in her home county. She was a Justice of the Peace for over 20 years, member of the local police authority for 15 years, and a General Commissioner of Incom e Tax from 1961. She also became manager of a dairy farm in 1949 and was later well known as a breeder of dairy cattle.

Phillips had taken up ice skating as a girl; she had lessons from Sonja Henie's trainer Howard Nicholson, and formed a pair-skating partnership with Rodney Murdoch. Together they won the British championship in 1933, and were bronze medallists in that year's European championship. After that, Murdoch gave up; he had weak wrists after breaking them, and he could not lift his partner effectively.

Phillips then concentrated on singles events, in which she had already achieved some success. She was ninth in the 1932 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, and became the first woman to carry a national flag at the opening parade of the Games. She competed in European and world championships for the next few years, her best result being seventh in the 1936 world event in Paris.

In 1939 she was the first woman to be elected to the Council of the National Skating Association, the sport's governing body in Britain - an event that caused great concern among the more conservative gentlemen in the association, as she afterwards recalled with amusement. She became a judge of national and international skating contests, and was the first woman ever to referee a world championship.

In all, Phillips took part in six Olympic Games: as a competitor in 1932 and 1936, and as a judge in four others, including Sapporo in 1972. The year before, she had been invited to referee national championships in South Africa. She estimated she had judged about 50 world and European championships in her long and active life.

She was a well-liked personality with a vast fund of skating experience and anecdotes. Her smile became a familiar sight on television as she held up her marks at a championship. Nothing gave her greater pleasure than to be able to reward an outstanding performance with a perfect mark of 6.0.

Dennis Bird 94.