Richard Swarbrick Richard Joseph Swarbrick was a proud Scotsman. Born and raised in Glasgow, he left home as a young boy to travel the world as a professional roller-skater. He used the stage name "The Human Top" due to his incredible spins, but his specialty was chair and barrel jumping.

His travels took him around the United Kingdom, across the sea to North America, and as far from home as Japan.
He spent a great deal of time travelling up and down the west coast of the United States, and it was on this circuit that his show business career came to an abrupt end.

In an attempt to jump 12 chairs, which he had done many times before, his skates hit the last chair and he was thrown head first to the floor and knocked unconscious. When he awoke in hospital he learned that the show had gone on without him, leaving him alone, injured and penniless.

Years later he would say that this unfortunate incident might have saved his life. It seems that the rest of the troupe had arrived in San Francisco in time for the great earthquake and fire of 1906.

By the summer of 1915 he was living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in a rooming house at 18 Isabella Street. He worked as a clerk at F. Simpson & Sons, a fruit and vegetable market on Yonge Street in Toronto.

It was during this time that he met a young telephone operator called Alice Mary Maltman.


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PHOTO NOTE: Photo from the Katherine Hunt collection. Date c.1910/11, location unknown.