Born: January 28, 1925;

Died: July 2, 2021.

A DECIDEDLY colourful troupe of artists took part in the Glasgow Empire’s panto, Dick Whittington on Ice, in the winter of 1951-52. One man, a “genial Cockney”, had been involved in the opening night of a Munich theatre shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939, where the guests included Hitler, Goering and other prominent Nazis.

Another artist at the Empire was Jim Peters, an ice-skater whose natural prowess on the rink was evidenced by the fact that he had toured much of Europe in popular shows by his mid-20s.

He later emigrated to Canada with his young family, where his career ranged from radio-announcing to working for a leading toy-maker and selling real estate. He has died, aged 96.

James Wilson Peters was born in 1925 to Ann Milne and James Wilson Peters II. His mother ran a local shop, but when James and his two brothers, Willie and Doug, were in their teens she decided to move down to London.

James was educated at Dundee’s Morgan Academy, “which coincided with his thinking of wanting to be a pilot in the RAF and joining the war effort”, says his son, Ian. “He had already started his figure-skating career and had done well with it, but he wanted to fly so badly that he had had father take him down to London to sign up though, technically, he wasn’t of age. Once he was 18, he left for South Africa on a troopship to learn how to be a pilot”.

Peters learned how to fly on a Tiger Moth before graduating to Harvard planes, though he did not see active service – or as he would say, “I never saw an angry bullet.” Post-war, ulcer-related problems put paid to his hopes of becoming a commercial airline pilot and he focused instead on figure-skating.

His unquenchable passion for entertainment was funnelled into such ice events as skating, speed-skating and even competitive barrel-jumping. “He really loved taking part in the ice shows, including that panto at the Empire”, says Ian.

It was at a venue in Belfast that he met his wife-to-be, May Marshall, who was part of a non-skating troupe. They ended up skating together and they travelled across Europe with Shipstad’s and Johnson’s Ice Follies (known today as Ice Follies) before Ian came along in 1952.

“They loved skating and they loved travelling”, says Ian. “There are lots of old black-and-white photographs in the family of them in the shows, with intricate costumes from all around Europe”.

The couple wanted to make a fresh start in Canada. In December 1953 the well-known Ice Capades organisation wrote to say he had passed an audition and that he would be offered a place. The couple headed toward Eastern Canada, arriving in Montreal in 1954. They would have two further children, Patti and Graeme.

Peters later worked for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) when a base was being constructed at Great Whale River, in Quebec. He worked there as a radio announcer while also supporting the construction of the base. Wherever there was an opportunity for an audience, he would find it.

After 18 months. He returned to Toronto then transferred to Vancouver, and his family followed him there, where he began a career in real estate.

He continued to take a strong interest in skating, becoming the president of the local Connaught Figure Skating Club. He and Patti, a keen skater like the rest of the family, were dance partners for several years and were invited to dance in the Minoru Arena’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

They both carried on the passion of ice skating and hockey throughout their lives and later passed onto their children. Graeme went with the love of flight from an early age and can still be seen to this day soaring through the skies of Northern Alberta.

“Jim loved Canada but he missed Scotland and always talked of the old country,” recalls Ian. “He never forgot his roots, and would often sing old songs like Westering Home.”

His children were keen to see Scotland as well; Ian himself had flown back to visit relatives when he was 18. “I hitchhiked to Inverbervie and in a sweet shop asked them, ‘Do you know James Peters?’ And they said, ‘Ah, Jimmy! Of course we knew Jimmy’. One thing led to another and they invited me to stay, and I spent a week there. Our family is proud of our Scottish roots and the emphasis of family support was always a strong one, no matter the circumstance or distance.”

Peters was renowned as a good storyteller and entertainer. His grandchildren said he taught them how to speedwalk, “sashaying down the street toward the local Dairy Queen with heads held high and elbows higher up.”

For years Peters visited his daughter’s elementary classrooms dazzling the children with anecdotes of his days as a pilot and his skating escapades.

Each Christmas Eve, family and friends entertained through song or dance. The men once dressed up and performed the YMCA song. Full costume and choreographed number were expected, the mantra being “the show must go on”. “He was a light spirit. He was always such fun to be around”, the grandchildren add.

James was predeceased by May in 2008 and by his brother, Doug. He is survived by his brother Willie, his sons and daughter, grandchildren Adam, Kit, Lindsey and Kristi, and great grand-daughter, Kaylee.