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A Signifcant Fact

Perth County’s Fred McCarthy won bronze at the 1908 Olympics

Betty Jo Belton, Archivist, Stratford-Perth Archives

Fred McCarthy
Stratford Beacon-Herald June 29, 1935
John Augustus McCarthy
John Augustus McCarthy
Stratford-Perth Archives Photo

The Canadian bicyclists all showed up strong in the long hard races at the Olympics… It is a signifcant fact that the Canadians won a bronze medal in the pursuit race. This was a race from the crack of the pistol and the Canadians were at home in it, coming in third and beating France and Holland.

The Stratford Beacon-Herald, July 25, 1908

EIGHTY-SEVEN MEN travelled to England to represent Canada in the summer games of 1908. They were our frst offcial Olympic team and brought home 16 medals, ranking 7th overall in the games. Perth County’s Frederick Richard McCarthy was one of those pioneering athletes. He is mentioned in a local Stratford Beacon-Herald history book called Floodtides of Fortune. Author Adelaide Leitch, whose research is generally reliable, asserts that, while McCarthy made it to the 1908 Olympic Games in London, he failed to bring home a medal. And yet a note has been added to our copy of Leitch’s book -

He was part of the 4,000 metre Men’s Team – I HAVE SEEN!

The bright red ink and capital letters make the comment hard to miss. A researcher at the Stratford-Perth Archives added it to our copy of Floodtides of Fortune many years ago. It remains there and is absolutely correct.

McCarthy qualifed for the Olympics by competing in Toronto in May of 1908. Local sports historian Harold “Winger” Thomas wrote that at the trials McCarthy “won the 1000 metre, 2000 metre pursuit race, place third in the 5000 metre and fourth in the 20 kilometre event.”

According to, a website devoted to Olympic history, McCarthy was “a distinguished national and international cyclist during the early 1900s.”

He was part of the 4,000 metre Men’s Team Pursuit Bicycle squad along with William Anderson, Walter Andrews and William Morton. Great Britain won the gold and Germany took silver with Canada, as mentioned, taking the bronze. McCarthy competed in 6 other events at the 1908 Olympics but did not win any other medals. In a team pursuit race, two teams of four riders start from opposite points of the track. The winner is the team with the best time. The riders form a single line but take turns leading the pack. Stamina and precision are key as riders follow each other so closely. The finishing time is determined by when the third rider’s front wheel crosses the fnish line so that the team can afford to lose a rider during the race.

McCarthy’s grandfather, John Augustus, McCarthy, arrived in the Huron Tract in 1832. After a stop at the Fryfogel Inn, he made it as far as Stratford before his wagon broke down and he bought a farm just east of the city. He became the area’s first police offcer. One of his sons, Thomas B. McCarthy, became a “High Constable” as well. Thomas had sons of his own who liked to race bicycles. The 1901 Canada Census lists High Constable Thomas B. McCarthy and his wife Elizabeth along with ten of their children.

Thomas and Elizabeth McCarthy with their children.
Thomas and Elizabeth McCarthy with their children.
Fred McCarthy is in the back row, second from the right.
Stratford-Perth Archives Photo

Nineteen-year-old Freddie seen above with his parents and siblings – in the back row, second from the right – gives his occupation as Clerk. By the time Fred McCarthy appears on the 1910 U.S. census in Newark, New Jersey, he describes himself as a “Bicycle Rider, Track.” He was boarding at the same house as Christian Scheller and Percy Lawrence, who were also “Bicycle Riders, Track.” Later that year McCarthy married a Stratford girl, Evelyn Titchborn, in Toronto. On his marriage registration he describes Newark as his “usual residence.” It has been said that bicycle racers “from all over the nation and around the globe made the pilgrimage to the Newark Velodrome.” The 1921 Canada census taker found the McCarthys and their young family living in Weston, Ontario – where Fred was once again a Clerk. In his obituary in the Stratford Beacon-Herald in February of 1974, McCarthy was described as a “former Olympic cyclist” who “worked for the Canada Cycle and Motor Company in Weston until his retirement.” Fred McCarthy remained a competitive athlete throughout his life. At the age of 64, he won the old-timers’ cycling race at the Toronto Exhibition.

Stratford-Perth Archives preserves historical documents from the County of Perth and member municipalities and the City of Stratford. Visitors are welcome. For hours visit