Robert Kerr (1882 - 1963):
Robert Kerr, “Bobby” as he was known, was one of Canada’s leading athletes, a multiple record holder nationally and who competed successfully at the highest international levels.
Kerr was originally from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. When he was five years old the family emigrated to Canada and settled in Hamilton, Ontario. Kerr eventually became by profession a fireman, though he always keen on running, particularly sprinting. Already in 1904 he competed at the Olympic Games in St Louis, USA, though on this occasion not so successfully. He entered for three sprint events, 60 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres, but fell at the heats stages. Back home in Canada his performances improved. He set Canadian records in all sprint distances and won Canadian titles in the 100 and 200 metres. In 1908 he was in the United Kingdom, where he competed in the British Championships where he won both the 100 metres and 200 metres titles. 1908 was also the year of the Olympic Games at White City Stadium, London; Kerr placed third in the 100 metres and, the ultimate triumph, won the gold medal in the 200 metres.
During the First World War Kerr volunteered for service in the 205th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). This unit was based in Hamilton and was known as the “Tiger” Battalion as so many of its members were drawn from the Hamilton Tigers athletics club. It was also known popularly as the “Sportsmen’s Battalion”. He was commissioned in this unit. Later in the war, when conscription was introduced in Canada, there were structural changes within the CEF and Kerr was transferred to the 164th and later the 1st Tank Battalions, CEF.
After he retired from competitive sprinting Kerr remained active in the sporting world, coaching athletics and football teams in Hamilton. He was an official at two Olympic Games meetings, Amsterdam 1928 and Los Angeles 1932. He was active in the Canadian Olympic Association and was one of the organisers of the British Empire Games, held in Hamilton in 1930; this was the first Games of its kind and survives well into the 21st century as the Commonwealth Games.
Hamilton has the Bobby Kerr Park at 100 Reno Ave, named in his honour.
|Born:||9 June 1882|
|Died:||12 May 1963|
“Ulster and Canada”, pamphlet, Ulster-Scots Community Network; Herman De Wael: "Athletics 1908" (2001); www
© 2019 Ulster History Circle