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Betty Loach, 1935-2021

Betty Loach was born in Nottingham on 11th December 1935 and was brought up in Carlton. She was nearly 4 years old when war was declared and so skating was not a readily available pursuit for the next six years but when the Nottingham Ice Rink re-opened after the war, in late 1946, Betty was one of the first children to venture on to the ice.

Photograph courtesy of David Barker

Thus began a journey that was to take her through most of the rest of her life.

Betty took lessons with Daphne Taylor and later Joyce Ottley. Our records show that she passed her Preliminary Test in 1948.

Betty had to work very hard at her figures to pass the Bronze Test. In those days, a candidate could not take the free skating test at any level unless they had passed the figure test first. Like most, the figures were a struggle, and it was not until 1950, at age 13, that she passed but once she had mastered figures the improvement to her skating was meteoric and the test passes came very quickly. Betty was skilled at pairs and ice dance as well as figures and free skating. She proved to be a good all-rounder. It was evident from very early on that she excelled at Ice Dance, and it was not long before she had passed Gold Ice Dance, Inter Silver Figures and Free and Bronze Pairs Tests.

Whilst still only 13 years old, Betty was accomplished enough to be selected as a member of the Nottingham Formation Ice Dance Team, created by Michael Robinson, where he partnered her with Dennis Maddocks. By the time Betty had reached her fourteenth birthday she was also a member of the Nottingham Team, in The Northern Ice Dance League, this time with Jack Harding as her partner. Their speciality dance was the foxtrot.

At the same time Betty was entering Free Skating competitions, both in singles and pairs with Bernard Fletcher.

Her parents were very supportive and donated a number of trophies to encourage competition in Nottingham and were always ready to present them.

By 1955 Betty had turned professional and started a new career as a coach. This enabled her to continue competing but as a professional.

A highly successful chapter in Betty’s life had begun. She won ten medals at the World Professional Championships between 1956 and 1967. She and fellow Nottingham Professional Len Sayward entered the World Professional Ice Dance Championship in 1956 and were placed third. They finished on the podium every year up to and including 1960.

By this time Betty had moved to London and had joined the professional staff at the prestigious Queen’s Ice Club and had continued partnering Len Sayward professionally but that changed in 1962 when Betty entered again but this time with Keith Kelley, from Queen’s. Again, they were placed each year that they competed, 1962, 1963 and 1964. In 1966, with Howard Richardson as a partner, Betty tried again and true to form finished on the podium, now having medalled at every attempt.

1967 was to be her greatest achievement, when Betty and Howard beat all to be crowned World Professional Ice Dance Champions.

Betty and her husband, Peter Turner, had settled in Isleworth and she had ceased competing to devote herself to Queen’s and her pupils with great success. Her pupils were just as devoted to her as she was to them. Some of her notable pupils were David Barker and Rosalind Druce, a successful Ice Dance couple and Nick Cullen among many others. Such was their love of Betty that many remained close friends with her for the rest of her life. Betty also formed a close bond with fellow Queen’s professional, Diane Herman, which endured until her death.

Although Betty was devoted to the ice she was equally devoted to her husband, Peter. They had no children but were keen sailors and kept a boat, “Notre Joir” on the Thames and enjoyed nothing more than travelling along the river, aboard their craft.

Sadly, Peter died in 2017 but Betty was supported by her loving friends and wonderful neighbours.

Unfortunately, Betty had been suffering from bone cancer for the last four years and spent a lot of time in hospital, but her friends have expressed their gratitude to her neighbours, Katie and John Howe and their family for caring for her so well and so lovingly to make her later years more comfortable.

In June Betty returned to the West Middlesex Hospital for several weeks but because of restrictions in place her friends were saddened not to be able to visit her. At the beginning of July, Betty was transferred to a care home, where her neighbours and friends were able to visit at last.

Betty was loved by so many and described by some of her former pupils as a private but emotional person, a lovely lady, and a very loyal friend, who had a wonderful life. Betty Loach Turner died in the Atfield Care Home, Isleworth, on 11th July 2021 aged 85.

The funeral will take place at Mortlake Crematorium, Kew on 29th July at 10.40am.

Donations in memory of Betty can be made to RNLI or cancer charities via Lodge Brothers Funeral Directors, 1-2 The Pavement, South Street, Isleworth TW7 7AJ.

Obituary written by Elaine Hooper - BIS Historian


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