Archive for the ‘Pioneers of Devon Chess’ Category
Dr. Robert Dunstan (1849 – 1927)
Probably the Best Cornish Player Cornwall Never Had.
A few days ago, someone asked me for information about a certain Dr. Dunstan who played for Surrey, Devon and Sussex during his long playing career. His was a name I’ve often seen in the records but otherwise knew nothing about, so I took the opportunity to dig a little deeper, and this is the result.
Dr. Robert Dunstan was born in Liskeard in 1849, the eighth of nine children born to Robert Dunstan (a Mine Agent born in Modbury, Devon) and Anne (born in Tywardreath, a small village between Liskeard and Fowey). They lived at 68, Trevecca Cottages, Liskeard. The family must have moved frequently, as all the children were born in different places in south west Cornwall.
By 1861 father Robert was listed as a Surveyor of Mines, so there was ambition in the family. By 1870 Robert’s sister Annie, 13 years his senior, had married John Rundell and they lived in London, so when young Robert went to study medicine at Guys Hospital, he was able to lodge with his relatives, which probably made his higher education financially possible.
Very soon after qualifying he married a Cornishwoman, Emily Jane from Launceston, and by 1880 they had 4 children under 5, though they put a quick stop to all that. The eldest child was born back in Cornwall, in St. Ives in 1875 and the following year Walter Robert was born in Wistanston, a small village between Shropshire’s Long Mynd and Wenlock Edge and his patients came from the nearby villages described so succinctly by A. E. Houseman …
“Clunton & Clunbury, Clungunford & Clun
Are the quietest places under the sun”.
Which suggests that he would have had to get experience through a series of temporary posts, but idyllic though these places undoubtedly were, he was keen to get back to London and by 1881 he was practicing as a GP in the Seven Sisters Road.
A decade later he was living at 61, Acre Lane, Lambeth and was listed as a “Surgeon in General Practice”. By 1901 they had moved to 282, Balham High Road.
His early chess career was spent in Surrey, joining first the Tufnell Park Liberal Club and then Brixton. In the season in which they won the League championship his personal score was 14½ / 15. He later became President of the Surrey C. C. A.
By 1904 he had moved to Devon and in 1905 was playing for his new county against Kent on Bd. 1 (drawn) and against Essex on Bd. 3 (Won), this latter game appearing in BCM analysed by Samuel Passmore. However, the following year he played top board for Cornwall against Devon, the only occasion I can trace. Apart from that he played for Devon on Bds. 1 or 2. However, even then he flitted from club to club, playing at one time or another, for Plymouth, Paignton and Exeter. To this extent, he is somewhat difficult to pin down. He is not mentioned in Gaige’s encyclopaedic Chess Personalia, there are no photographs and no games of his are to be found in on-line databases. Yet in the decade 1904 – 14 a game of his was published in BCM most years, indicating either his gifts for entertaining play or self-publicity.
In 1911 he became Devon Champion and was Runner-up in 1917 & 1918, winning it back in 1921 & 1922, then aged 73. That same year he also led Exeter to victory in Devon’s Division 1 – the Bremridge Cup. He had already led Paignton to victory in the same tournament in 1914.
During WWI he was a medical officer of troops in Paignton. This was probably at Oldway Mansion, the home of Paris Singer that he turned over to the war effort, becoming the American Women’s War Hospital, with Lady Randolph Churchill as Chairman of the Committee and Paris as her Deputy. It was a place where injured officers could recuperate. In 1951 this became the home for 60 years of the much-loved Paignton Chess Congress.
In 1914 he was recorded as living at “Russley”, Palace Avenue, Paignton, and was a member of both Paignton and Torquay, although playing only for Paignton in matches. In 1923 – 25 there was a paid-up member of the Teignmouth & Shaldon Club called Dr. W. Dunstan, but this was almost certainly his son, Walter Robert, who had also qualified as a “Surgeon in General Practice” and would have inherited at least some of his father’s chess talent. It’s easy to confuse the two from the records. His other son, John Arthur Dunstan also played and had two quick wins in the Knightsbridge Chess Circle Tournament published in the BCM in 1915.
Eventually he retired to Brighton where he played for the Christ Church Club and played for Sussex until he retired from county match play in November 1926. Ironically, his last game was against Surrey, and his win was published in BCM with the footnote by J. H. Blake: As this is understood to be (at 78) Dr. Dunstan’s last match game he is to be warmly congratulated on quitting the arena upon so happy and characteristic an effort. He died on 27th November 1927, aged 78.
And BCM noted He was gifted with a very quick sight of the board but was not a superficial analyst. On the contrary, he was always a dangerous opponent; and away from the board he was an adept at repartee.
The following game scores may be found in BCM.
|1901||DR||B||0||P. R. England||North||P. R. England||Postal gm|
|1903||DR||W||0||M. Jackson||North||Postal gm|
|1904||DR||W||1||H. E. Dobell||Hastings||F. J. Marshall|
|1908||DR||B||1||T. Taylor||Plymouth||C. T. Blanshard|
|1910||DR||B||1||C. Jenkinson||Cornwall||F. D. Yates|
|1914||DR||B||1||T. Taylor||Plymouth||C. E. C.Tattersall|
|1926||DR||W||1||W. Greenwood||Surrey||J. H. Blake|
This is a synthesis of material from (a) British Chess Magazine, (b) Chris Ravilious and Brian Denman published by Dr. Dave Regis in his book 100-Odd Years Of Exeter Chess Club (c) my own archives and (d) ancestry.co.uk.
John Doidge passed away recently at the age of 78, his funeral service being held at Torquay on 26th June.
He was born in Tavistock, the 3rd son of Edith and Charles Doidge, who themselves had been born in the town. The older brother died in infancy and John was brought up with his brother Bill. A fourth boy, David, appeared nine years later, about nine months after a family holiday to Falmouth.
John went to Tavistock Grammar School, where he won school colours at football, hockey, athletics, cricket (at which he was vice captain) and becoming school cross-country champion.
On leaving school he joined the South West Electricity Board as a junior clerk, and on subsequently being called up to do National Service he opted for the R.A.F. where he greatly enjoyed the opportunities this offered. At the end of the 2 years he was offered a commission by the R.A.F. but his parents could not afford the expenses involved, so he had to return to his job at SWEB.
At this time he became an expert at English country dancing and was recognised as a teacher of the art by the County Council.
At the age of 21, he was appointed Assistant Manager of a Tavistock firm of coal merchants. The manager was a keen chess player and introduced John to the game and the town club that met at Perraton’s Café in The Square. The members included an extraordinary trio of elderly siblings originally from the West Midlands, George Hadgkiss and his two spinster sisters, all of whom were strong players and lived together. Tavistock teams at this time often consisted of the three Hadgkisses, John and any one other. By 1960, John had succeeded D. H. Treloar, as club secretary.
In 1966 he left the coal business and returned to the Tavistock branch of SWEB, staying with them until his retirement in 1990. He had married for the first time in 1962 and a son, Stephen, was born the following year.
Alongside his chess, he continued to play cricket and was at times secretary, treasurer and chairman of the Whitchurch Wayfarers club, situated in the grounds of Whitchurch House, near Tavistock, and was secretary of the Tavistock Cricket Club from 1972 – 76. During this period he was largely responsible for getting the Gloucestershire team to play at the club. In one particular match, he was picked to play against a representative XI and, when the legendary Ken Barrington came in to bat, (131 innings for England at an average nearly 60), John dropped him first ball. He consoled himself with the knowledge that the crowd had come to see Barrington bat, not hole out in the deep.
John was made Manager of the Tavistock branch of SWEB and, such was the esteem in which he was held by the community, was invited to apply to become a magistrate. He was not selected but at the same time he was invited to join the Board of Visitors at Dartmoor Prison. This was an independent body reporting directly to the Home Secretary, and with a magisterial function within the prison. The prison had an almost legendary status in the national consciousness in general and the criminal fraternity in particular, although at this time it had been downgraded to a Category B institution, one level down from the very hardest regime. During his 13 years in this role, he became very involved not only in the magisterial side of the job, but also the parole side and other committees set up by the Home Office. In 1990 he was invited by Kenneth Baker, the then Home Secretary, to become Chairman of the Board, a position he held until he retired in 1993.
During his first week as Chairman, he was phoned by the prison governor to say prisoners were staging a sit-in in the exercise yard. John came in and prepared a report for the Home Office on how it was being dealt with. There is no suggestion that the protests were anything to do with John’s appointment, but 8 weeks later a full scale riot broke out, and John and his colleagues spent many weeks monitoring the situation and making recommendations to the Government. Eventually, he was called to give evidence to the Lord Justice Wolfe Inquiry that was looking into the prison unrest of the time, including those in Manchester Strangeways.
In 1984 his marriage broke up after 25 years, a period of great sadness, brought to a sudden end the following year when he met Elizabeth whom he married in 1986. Incidentally, Elizabeth was a twin, one of 5 sets of twins all on the roll at the small Kingsteignton Primary School, a fact that excited a certain amount of interest in the national press at the time. Another set was the identical Les and John Nicks, well-known to the writer.
After this marriage he was offered the managership at Paignton SWEB. In 1990 they made him a retirement offer he couldn’t refuse, as it enabled him to take on the onerous Dartmoor job. Later in the1990s he started to get heart problems, with a heart attack in 1997 and another in 1999. Even with a pacemaker fitted in 2000 he had to take it easy.
However, he couldn’t stay inactive for long and in 2005 the Newton Abbot Chess Club was revived after many years and his former interest was rekindled. In no time at all he was elected the Club’s Competition Secretary and Secretary of the Torbay League. He wrote a monthly chess column for the Torbay Herald, and when the British Championships came to Torquay in 2009, he cooperated with the events Publicity Officer in filing a daily article for the paper. In 2011 he became Competition Secretary of the Devon County Chess Association.
At this time he found he had developed cancer of the oesophagus, untreatable because of his other conditions, an illness bravely borne.
All his chess activities were characterised by his conscientiousness in wanting to do a thoroughly good job of the task in hand, and I suspect his many other roles were done to exactly the same level.
Sir Robert Newman – Lord Mamhead. (1871- 1945)
Robert Hunt Stapyton Dudly Lydston Newman, became the D.C.C.A.’s third President in 1920.
At the time he was the Conservative M.P. for Exeter, and it was quite usual for many of the city’s societies to invite a local dignitary to head their organisation in order to give it added kudos. After all, the Association’s first President in 1901 had been the then Exeter M.P., Sir Edgar Vincent, whose connection only ceased when he lost his seat in the 1905 election. The self-interest was mutual, as it suited the sitting member to be so involved in city life as it brought him into contact with the electorate, limited though it was at that time.
When the Association’s second President, Edward J. Winter-Wood, died unexpectedly in 1920, Sir Robert Newman was approached and readily agreed. There is no record of any chess activity on his part, but he must have been interested in the game as he remained in post for at least 15 years, possibly longer. Henry Lewis Bowles, who had lived and played chess in Exeter in the early 1870s recalled the names of several players he had met, and one of them was a Newman. This could not have been Robert, of course, but could have been his father, indicating an interest within the family.
He had been born in London in 1871, the son of Sir Lydston Newman (1823 – 92), but the family home was the Mamhead estate, situated between Dawlish and the Haldon Hills, overlooking the Exe estuary and Exmouth beyond. In fact, Sir Lydston only succeeded to the title after his older brother, another Sir Robert, was killed at the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War. It was one of the finest country seats in the county, the estate having been purchased in 1823 by Robert W. Newman, who had made his fortune as a Dartmouth merchant, and who himself became MP for Exeter.
He had a new house built on the Mamhead estate, designed by Anthony Salvin (1799-1881) and built in Bath stone. It was Salvin’s first major commission, and Newman’s faith in him was rewarded as Salvin went on to win a reputation as a leading expert on late mediaeval houses, applying the principles to the fashion for Victorian Gothic architecture.
Sir Robert succeeded to his father’s Baronetcy in 1892, and was elected to Parliament in 1918, in which capacity he served the city until 1929. Although a Conservative, he moved increasingly to the left on the political spectrum in the wake of the General Strike and the Depression that followed, until in 1929 he stood as an independent against the official Conservative candidate. Such was his popularity in the city that he was re-elected and stayed in the Commons until 1931, when he was “kicked upstairs” to the House of Lords, taking the title Lord Mamhead.
He was, by all accounts, a small, thin man, quiet and reserved, but also described by a friend as a man of strong character, independent views, sincere convictions and a delightful modesty. He was a devout Anglo-Catholic, and one of his housemaids recalled that each and every morning, after eating a boiled egg for breakfast and smoking his only cigarette of the day, he would walk to the local church to take Communion.
The Mamhead Cup: Silver hallmarked 1909 and donated to DCCA by Lord Mamhead in 1935, intended for the 2nd Division championship and still used for that today. The difference between the dates of its hallmark and donation suggests it might originally have been used for something else. Its value in 1994 for insurance purposes was over £1,000.
The first winners were:-
1935 Exmouth. 1936 Exmouth. 1937 Plymouth. 1938 Exmouth. 1939 Exeter. No contest. 1946 Exeter. 1947 Exeter. 1948 Exeter. 1949 Plymouth. 1950 Exmouth
Lord Mamhead died in 1945 at the age of 74. In 1954 the estate was auctioned off, and Mamhead House became a Christian centre. In 1963 all the house’s furniture and fittings were sold off, and it became a boys’ school. It is now owned by the Rockeagle property company, and several small businesses have their headquarters there.
In 2012, the house and accompanying 165 acres of gardens, park and farmland, were put up for sale with an asking price of £8,000,000.
At the moment, it is not clear whether the donation of the cup marked the end of Mamhead’s presidency – a sort of parting gift - or whether he stayed in office until the time of his death. If the latter, he would have been Devon’s President for a quarter of a century, and even if there is no evidence of his playing strength or activity, his longevity in office at a time of consolidation for the Association makes him eligible for inclusion in this list of Pioneers.
Stacey, C: Men of the West Stacey 1926
Who’s Who In Devonshire Wilson & Philips 1934
Fincham-Powell K & Williams J: Memories of Mamhead & Ashcombe 1999
Annetts, I. S: Devon Trophy Book 1997
Edward Douglas Fawcett.
April 1866 – 14th April 1960
Quite apart from being one of the founding fathers of the Devon County Chess Association in 1901, Douglas Fawcett was a pioneer in many different areas, from colour photography, through motoring, mountaineering, aeronautics, science fiction and philosophy.
Douglas was born in Torquay, in April 1866, the son of Edward Boyd Fawcett and his wife Myra Elizabeth (nee Macdougall). Edward Boyd had been born on 10th October 1839, the son of Henry Fawcett, of Broadfields, York, when he was staying at Poona, the Victorian resort in the Himalayan foothills to which the upper echelons of the Raj regularly retired to escape the heat of an Indian summer. E. Boyd Fawcett had gone to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won a Blue for cricket, going on to play for Sussex and the Gentlemen in 21 matches between 1859 and 1863. On leaving Cambridge, Boyd joined the Royal Cumberland Regiment and went east to help run the Empire. While out there, he met and married Myra Macdougall, the daughter of Col. Macdougall of the Bengal Army.
When their first-born was expected, they moved back to Blighty and Edward Douglas was born in Hove, Brighton in 1866. For whatever reason, their time in the orient was cut short, as by the time a second son was born the following year, they had moved to a house in Ashbury Dale, in the parish of St. Marychurch, Torquay. Quite why this radical change in residence and career is not clear, but in the1871 census Boyd is described as a “Share Holder”, which suggests he may have come into some money which he invested on the stock market.
The following year, a brother was born, Percy Harrison Fawcett, who later became famous as Colonel Fawcett, who, in 1925, led an expedition into the Amazonian rainforest in search of a fabled city, but was never seen again. In the absence of facts about his demise, legends quickly grew up about the man and his fate, and he was reputed to have become the model for the fictional character, Indiana Jones. However, truth often proves to be stranger than any fiction, and only recently has it been fully appreciated that Fawcett believed the earth was largely hollow and he was, in fact, looking for the lost city of Atlantis, still inhabited by Atlanteans, in caves deep beneath the surface of Brazil.
Be all that as it may, although history has concentrated its gaze on the conundrum of Percy Fawcett, his brother Douglas is an equally flamboyant subject for study.
In 1869 a sister Myra Evelyn was born, and Blanche Helen followed the year after. However, by 1881 the family had been living at No. 3, Barnpark Terrace, Teignmouth for several years for a third sister, Beatrice, had been born there and was already 4 years old.
Douglas was educated locally at Newton Abbot Proprietary College before winning a Queen’s Scholarship to Westminster School, and his brother Percy followed him through both schools.
Tragedy struck shortly after when their father died on 26th September 1884 at the age of 44, leaving a widow and five children. The 1891 census records that Myra was living at 24, Lansdowne Place, Hove, Sussex, with her three daughters, all unmarried and none with any stated occupation, Evelyn (21), Blanche (20) and Beatrice (14). The mother was listed as “living on own means”, so life could not have been terribly hard for them. However, the Kelly’s Directory for 1897 has Mrs. Fawcett as still owning the Teignmouth house in Barnpark Road, so it is not clear exactly which was her main abode.
At the same time, Douglas was living at Rutland Lodge in the Ilsham area of Torquay. He was listed as an author. In 1896, he married Miss M. B. V. Jackson.
At this time, he was working from home on his early science fiction novels. He published a book entitled Hartmann the Anarchist and subtitled The Doom of the Great City. (Edward Arnold 1893). Although today not deemed great literature by the standards of H. G. Wells or Jules Verne, it tells the story of an anarchist who bombs London in a series of great air raids – foretelling the Blitz of the 2nd World War, and as such, predates Wells’s The Shape Of Things to Come by some forty years. He had foreseen and demonstrated the military importance of airpower a decade before the Wright brothers’ first faltering experiments. The illustrator, Fred Jane, found lasting fame as the founder of Jane’s Fighting Ships.
Shortly after, he published The Secret of the Desert, or How We Crossed Arabia in the “Antelope“, probably the first fictional account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense, 20 years before the first tanks appeared in the Great War.
His third adventure story, published by Arnold in 1894, was called Swallowed By An Earthquake, with notable illustrations by H. C. Seppings Wright. As the title suggests the characters find themselves in an underground world, an idea genuinely held by his brother, Percy.
After the turn of the century, his writing concentrated more on his philosophical ideas. He was an Idealist, “whose distinctive mark is the discussion of Imagination as the fundamental reality of the Universe” (entry in Who’s Who). He was also a Theosophist, or believer in karma and reincarnation. These books are listed in Appendix A, where it can be seen that several were weighty tomes of around 600 pages each. Their significance may be gauged from the fact that several are still in print, and 1st editions of his science fiction books are priced in the hundreds of pounds each.
The year 1900 saw a great increase in chess activity and organisation in south Devon. A number of new clubs were formed and a parent body, the Devon County Chess Association, was set up in October 1901 to encourage and oversee inter-club competition. Compared to what had gone before, there was a sudden rush of matches and tournaments, and Fawcett was greatly involved, this being probably the busiest period of his chess career.
A new club was formed at Totnes on 2nd October 1901, with Edward Winter-Wood as President, Fawcett as Vice President and the hard-working Charles Blanshard as Secretary. The club had had its origins in the relationship between Fawcett and Blanshard who had been playing friendly games in Totnes for some time before. In addition to their love of chess, both had a love of mountaineering and life in the great outdoors, and would certainly have been on the same wavelength, swapping tales of their adventures.
The first congress to be organised was the Devon and Cornwall Tournament which was held in January 6th – 11th 1902, in Plymouth. This was not organised by the DCCA as such, but was a special one-man effort, C. T. Blanshard having done all the work. There were 14 entries, divided into 2 equal sections. Class I consisted of Rev. Henry Bremridge (Winkleigh), Charles Lambert (Exeter), Thomas Taylor (Plymouth), Rev. Arthur Baker (Teignmouth), Douglas Fawcett (Totnes), Clifford Kitchen and P. Motley. The games went mostly to form, with Fawcett out of the prizelist (1st Lambert; 2nd Taylor; 3rd Baker).
This was quickly followed by the D.C.C.A.’s own inaugural congress, held at the Barnfield Hall, Exeter, from 21st – 26th April 1902. The event was notable, not only for being a first, but for the presence throughout of the great American master, Harry Pillsbury, whose simultaneous, blindfold exhibitions were woven into the full week-long programme of county championships, Knockout and Lightning tournaments. Fawcett was one of ten players in the Championship Section, which finished:- 1st C. J. Lambert (Exeter) 8/9 pts. 2nd C. Tracey (Exmouth) 7½ pts. 3rd T. Taylor (Plymouth) 6 pts. 4th Rev. H. Bremridge (Winkleigh) 5½ pts. 5th= E. D. Fawcett (Totnes) & Mrs. Knapp (Exeter) 4 pts. 7th Palmer 3½ pts. 8th= C. F. Corke (Sevenoaks) & E. V. Hawkins (Exeter) 3 pts.
On the afternoon of Thursday 4th April, Fawcett sat down with 11 others to play Pillsbury, who was on a platform, the better for all to see, sat in an armchair with his back to the play. His regular habit was to call out something like “On Boards 5 and 11 P-Q4; on all the others P-K4″. He would then call out each board number and his move, and await the reply. He won ten games and conceded a draw to A. W. Peet of Newton Abbot. By way of an encore, in the evening Pillsbury took on 17 opponents simultaneously, allowing the first five to finish to start a second game, yet still winning all 22 games. Such was his memory that he could recall every game the next day and was happy to discuss individual mistakes and combinations from memory.
The following afternoon, Pillsbury took on 23 opponents simultaneously, including Fawcett, of which he won all but one, conceding just a draw. In the evening, Pillsbury took on 14 at chess and 5 at draughts, simultaneously and sans voir, winning them all except for one drawn game of draughts.
Pillsbury then went on to the 10th Hastings Chess Festival which finished on 3rd May. Fawcett met up with him again during Whit week when they both attended the 4th Kent Congress at Tunbridge Wells. Fawcett again tackled Pillsbury in a simultaneous blindfold display, and, perhaps benefiting from his experiences in Exeter, was the only one to secure a draw.
Fawcett played in the top section, but was somewhat out of his depth as it included a number of British Championship contenders.
4th Kent County Chess Association
Tunbridge Wells 19th – 24th May 1902
|1||Loman, R. J.||X||1||½||½||1||1||½||1||1||½||7||£10|
|3||Michell, R. P.||½||½||X||1||0||1||0||½||1||1||5½|
|4||Thomas G. A.||½||½||0||X||½||1||1||0||1||1||5½|
|9||Fawcett, E. D.||0||0||0||0||0||0||½||1||X||0||1½|
|10||Joyce, F. A.||½||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||X||1½|
Later that year, the Southern Union, as a vote of encouragement to the new Devon association, held their congress at Plymouth. Fawcett’s picture at the top of this article is a detail from the group photograph taken at this event, and is the only one of him so far discovered. He played in the top section and his performance was respectable. Taylor, for example, who finished well below him, was Devon Champion on many occasions. (see his biography for details).
Southern Union Congress – Plymouth 1902
1st August – 11th September
|1||W. H. Gunston||X||1||1||1||1||1||1||½||1||7½|
|3||J. F. Allcock||0||½||X||½||0||1||½||1||1||4½|
|5||E. D. Fawcett||0||0||1||0||X||1||1||½||½||4|
|6||R. B. Jones||0||½||0||0||0||X||1||1||1||3½|
|8||Dr. D. Dunstan||½||½||0||0||½||0||½||X||0||2|
In October 1902, Devon played the first of many matches against Cornwall. Rather surprisingly the venue was Truro, almost as far from Devon as one could go. The result was an even bigger surprise to all concerned.
|1||Philip Dancer||Helston||0||1||Thomas Taylor||Plymouth|
|2||Charles Masson Fox||Falmouth||1||0||Henry Bowles||Exeter|
|3||R. Davy||Penzance||0||1||G. M. Frean||Torquay|
|4||A. Mayne||Falmouth||0||1||C. F. Cooper||Plymouth|
|5||F. Harry Pascho||Plymouth||1||0||E. Douglas Fawcett||Totnes|
|6||F. H. Carlyon||Truro||1||0||W. W. Rickard||Plymouth|
|7||Stanley Y. Williams||Penzance||1||0||W. H. Phillips||Plymouth|
|8||C. E. Trethewey||Truro||½||½||W. W. Hooper||Plymouth|
|9||C. Dowsell||Wadebridge||1||0||Rev. Henry Bremridge||Winkleigh|
|10||T. G. Mead||Falmouth||1||0||Arthur Stoneman||Plymouth|
|11||W. E. Grenfell||Truro||0||1||E. Pearse||Devonport|
|12||Dr. Butlin||Camborne||1||0||Col. Bennett||Plymouth|
|13||C. E. Harby||Wadebridge||½||½||Mrs. Rhoda Bowles||Exeter|
|14||F. R. Pasco||Truro||½||½||Charles Blanshard||Totnes|
|15||A. Menhennick||Wadebridge||1||0||T. Whitby||Devonport|
|16||H. Tonkin||Penryn||1||0||S. Ward||Plymouth|
|17||William Boxhall||St. Austell||0||1||F. Langdon||Devonport|
|18||Leslie Hall||1||0||Rev. H. R. Kruger||Exeter|
|19||C. Hoadley||Helston||1||0||Rev. H. D. Nicholson||Plymouth|
|20||E. Retchford||Penryn||0||1||C. W. Wood||Plymouth|
|21||A. E. Preston||St. Mawes||0||1||R. S. Nicole||Exeter|
|22||H. Knowles||Helston||1||0||E. A. Pryer||Axminster|
|23||F. Marsh||1||0||W. H. Daw||Teignmouth|
|24||H. T. Robinson||Camborne||0||1||Rev. Moyle||Devonport|
|25||C. Jenkin||1||0||Miss. M. Hunt|
The 1902 – 03 season started busily. Fawcett drew on Board 5 for Devon in their 8 – 8 draw against Gloucestershire on 13th December 1902. At the start of the new year, a chess tour was arranged. Firstly, on January 9th he drew on Board 4 for Devon in a 12 – 10 defeat of Somerset. The next day 26 Devonians travelled up to London for a match against Kent. Reinforcements pushed Fawcett down to Board 8, where he lost to H. Webb and the team by 17½ – 8½.. On Monday January 12th the team met the strong Metropolitan Club over 20 boards, losing 13 – 7.
On 23rd January, Devon were set to play a second match over 25 boards against neighbours Cornwall, at Plymouth. Devon would have been entitled to hold the match as far from Cornwall as possible, in somewhere like Tiverton, but common sense prevailed and Plymouth, on the border of the two counties, was chosen. Having lost the first encounter by a considerable margin, Devon were keen to avenge that defeat, and so they did, though it was a close-run thing.
|1||Thomas Taylor||Plymouth||0||1||Philip Dancer||Helston|
|2||Henry Bowles||Exeter||1||0||Charles Masson-Fox||Falmouth|
|3||C. F. Cooper||Plymouth||0||1||R. Davy||Penzance|
|4||E. Douglas Fawcett||Totnes||1||0||Dr. F. H. Carlyon||Truro|
|5||W. W. Rickard||Plymouth||1||0||Harry Pascoe||Plymouth|
|6||A. W. Peet||Newton Abbot||½||½||Stanley Williams||Penzance|
|7||E. Palmer||½||½||N. A. Prettyjohn|
|8||H. Dobson||1||0||C. Dowswell||Wadebridge|
|9||Carslake Winter-Wood||Torquay||0||1||C. R. Trethewey||Truro|
|10||G. F. Thompson||1||0||T. Mead||Falmouth|
|11||Rev. Henry Bremridge||Winkleigh||1||0||Dr. Butlin||Camborne|
|12||Charles T. Blanshard||Totnes||1||0||Roger Turner|
|13||Ellison Pearse||Devonport||1||0||E. Harby||Wadebridge|
|14||Col. R. D. Bennett||Plymouth||0||1||Leslie Hall|
|15||T. Whitby||Devonport||½||½||A. Menhennick|
|16||Mrs. Rhoda A. Bowles||Exeter||½||½||F. R. Pascoe||Truro|
|17||Arthur Stoneman||Plymouth||0||1||C. Jenkin|
|18||R. S. Nicole||Exeter||0||1||William Boxhall||St. Austell|
|19||J. E. D. Moysey||Totnes||1||0||W. A. Bunt|
|20||Rev. T. H. Moyle||Devonport||1||0||H. T. Robinson||Camborne|
|21||H. G. Phillips||½||½||C. Hoadley||Helston|
|22||W. F. Holmes||0||1||E. Retchford||Penryn|
|23||H. J. Luxton||1||0||A. E. Preston||St. Mawes|
|24||C. J. Meads||½||½||William Tangye|
|25||E. Clark||0||1||E. Sedding|
5th Kent County Chess Association
Canterbury 1st – 6th June 1903
|2||Thomas G. A.||0||X||1||1||0||½||1||1||½||5||£5|
|4||Loman, R. J.||1||0||½||X||0||1||0||1||1||4½|
|6||Jones, R. F. B.||0||½||0||0||1||X||1||0||1||3½|
|7||Finn, Kate B||0||0||1||1||½||0||X||0||½||3|
|9||Fawcett, E. D.||0||0||0||0||0||0||½||1||X||1½|
At this time, he was spending more and more time in Switzerland, until he reached the point where he lived there permanently. He made his mark early on, when, in 1904, he drove an 8 horse power De Dion car from Chamonix, up a mule track to reach the Mer de Glace, at about 1,400 metres on the northern slopes of Mont Blanc. This was a significant milestone in the development of road transport in Switzerland and the opening-up of the high Alps to tourism.
Left: A 1903 De Dion car, such as Fawcett drove up a mountainside in 1904.
Left: The Mer de Glace.
By 1921, he had made sufficient a mark in life to merit an entry in Who’s Who, which continued for 40 years.
His address, as given in Who’s Who, was different in every edition; Chalet Sommeheim, Wenden, Bernese Oberland (1921); Villa des Alpes, St. Gingolph (1926); Villa Vincent, Montreux (1928) and Le Verger, Clarens (1932). This gave way to him nominating a London branch of the National Provincial Bank who would forward all communications to him, wherever he happened to be living at the time.
Conquering the Matterhorn was an annual event for Fawcett. His final ascent as a climber was in 1932 at the age of 66. It was during the middle part of the climb that he suffered a heart attack which forced him and his companion to spend the night on the mountain. Overnight, he recovered enough to complete the ascent the next morning.
Yet that marked the end of his climbing career. Undeterred, however, he simply learned to fly so he could still be among the peaks. His experiences formed the basis of another book, From Heston to the High Alps, which contains 31 photographs of Alpine peaks taken, probably by him, from the air. (See appendix for details). The Heston referred to was Heston Aerodrome, situated adjacent to the present-day Heathrow, which was operational from 1929 to 1946, and from where Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his famous “Peace in our time” speech.
Left: The control tower at Heston Aerodrome in 1930, where and when Fawcett learned to fly.
After the war, he settled back in England. In 1947, he married Mrs. Vera Sybil Elise Dick-Cunyngham (née Pryce), the widow of George Dick-Cunyngham whom she had married in 1908. The new Mr. & Mrs. Fawcett lived at 98, Walton Street, London SW3.
He continued with his Alpine flights until 1950. One can imagine him then, in his 80s, struggling to steady his light aircraft against the swirling updrafts among the mountain peaks, while photographing the grandeur beneath him. Eventually, the authorities refused to renew his pilot’s licence – probably a wise decision in the circumstances.
In his final years, he settled into a routine of entering the same congresses each year, mainly Hastings in the New Year and Paignton in September. He tended to enter sections that were too high for his declining powers, often finishing last, though it is unlikely that this worried him overmuch.
Paignton Congress Record.
He missed the first Paignton Congress in September 1951, but played in every one after that until his death.
1952: Major “A” – 2nd with 4/7 pts.
1953: Premier Reserves “C”: 7th with 2/7 pts.
1954: Prize list not published
1955: Not in prize list
1956: Not in prize list.
1957: Premier Reserves “D”: 6th with 3½/7 pts.
1958: Premier Reserves “C”: In his report for BCM, Bruce Hayden made special mention of him, saying “Of the veteran players, ninety-two year old Mr. Douglas Fawcett, of London, played some good games in the earlier rounds, and delighted everyone with his reminiscences of Pillsbury and his first game with Steinitz, which he played in 1879 (!)”.
1959: Premier Reserves “D” 1/7 pts.
Hastings Congress Record.
1950: Premier Reserves “C” 10th / 10 with ½ point
1951: Major “A” 9th / 9 with 1 point.
1952: Major “A” 8th / 10 with 3 points.
1953: Premier Reserves “C”: 10th / 10 with ½ point.
1954: Major “A” 8th / 10 with 2½ points.
1955: Premier Reserves P.M. Section: 5th / 9 with 4 points.
1956: Premier Reserves “E” 10th / 10 with 1 point.
1957: Premier Reserves “E” 10th / 10 with 1 point.
1958: Premier Reserves “E” 7th / 10 with 3 points.
1959: Premier Reserves “F” 9th / 10 with 3 points.
1960: Premier Reserves “F” 10th / 10 with 1½ points.
This was his last congress – he was 94 years old and died 12 weeks later.
Douglas Fawcett never quite scaled the heights in chess as he did with his beloved mountains – he had far too many interests and diversions to be able to devote the time necessary for that. Pioneering novelist, philosopher, pilot, sportsman, racing motorcyclist – it’s a long list. However, he certainly qualifies as a Devon chess pioneer as well. His most active period coincided with the creation of the DCCA. He played on a high board for the county and supported all their early events as long as he lived in the country. Given the many other calls on his time, this demonstrated his commitment to the game in his native county and guarantees his place in our hall of fame.
© R. H. Jones 2010
Bibliography of books by E. Douglas Fawcett:
Hartmann the Anarchist or The Doom of the Great City.
An early work of science fiction/fantasy in the dystopian tradition, pre-dating but having much in keeping with both the political allegories of H. G. Wells and the global adventures of Jules Verne. Edward Arnold 1893.
Swallowed By An Earthquake: Illustrations by H. C. Seppings Wright. Arnold 1894.
The Secret of the Desert or How We Crossed Arabia in the “Antelope”: Arnold 1894 probably the first fictional account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense.
Early philosophical works:
The Riddle Of The Universe – Being An Attempt To Determine The First Principles Of Metaphysic, Considered As An Inquiry Into The Conditions And Import Of Consciousness. 456pp Edward Arnold 1893.
The Individual And Reality; an essay touching the first principles of metaphysics & occultism. Longmans, 1909.
The World as Imagination: 664pp Macmillan 1916.
Divine Imagining – An Essay on the First Principles of Philosophy. 276 pp 1921 Kessinger Publishing.
Later Philosophical works:
The Zermatt Dialogues – Constituting the outlines of a philosophy of mysticism – Mainly on problems of cosmic import. Five climbers, representing five world-views, are in the High Alps where they combine a little mountaineering with huge amounts of philosophical disputation. The author’s intention is to further the claims of his theory of Imaginism, in which the idea of ”consciring”, seems to play a crucial part. Ten plates of Alpine photographs, several of which show mountaineers in action. 541pp Macmillan 1931.
Oberland Dialogues: This book “offers suggestions touching the solution of a special minor riddle, that of the standing and prospects of the human ’soul’.” 542pp Macmillan 1939.
From Heston to the High Alps: This book was written to encourage amateurs to the joys of flying for pleasure. Chapters are titled How I became a pilot – On some truths of first importance to the joy-flyer - The pilot finds his reward in the High Alps - A visit to the Matterhorn: October 2, 1934. Looking down on Mont Blanc and the Savoy Alps: September 23, 1934. From Berne to Venice and back: October 22-23, 1934. A flight from Berne over the Matterhorn and back (“Over the Matterhorn”: A Poem): September 26, 1934, second visit. 31 photographs, mostly of mountain peaks from the air, 74pp. Macmillan 1936.
Light Of The Universe - Being An Account of The Flight Beyond the Grave of Douglas Leslie, aviator. 152pp Sidgwick & Jackson 1957.
Obituary from The Times. 18.05.1960.
Douglas Fawcett, who died on 14th May 1960 at the age of 94, led an adventurous life both in thought and action. He was a notable mountaineer, and it was among the mountains of Switzerland, where he lived for many years, that he reflected and wrote upon a variety of philosophical idealism that became known as “Imaginism”.
Edward Douglas Fawcett was the elder son of of E. Boyd Fawcett, an equerry to the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) and was the brother of Colonel Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the interior of Brazil.
He was a Queen’s Scholar at Westminster School and gave early evidence of imaginative power and precocious erudition in his first published poem, The Wrath of Ana, written at the age of 13. For fun and a bet, he surprised his Headmaster a few years later by winning a gold medal for Latin verse. But his passion for adventure dominated his youthful scholarship and from journalism he turned to science fiction. He was well ahead of H. G. Wells: his Hartmann the Anarchist (1891) described the bombing of London from the air, and his Secret of the Desert (1894) was, surely, fiction’s first account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense.
His first marriage took him to Switzerland where he became a well-known mountaineer and pioneer skier. After showing his prowess in England as a racing motor cyclist, he made the first (and probably only) ascent of the mule track from Chamonix to the Mer de Glace in a De Dion of 8 horsepower. That was in 1904, and it opened up a new era of motor roads and tourism in Switzerland.
Living on in Switzerland after the death of his first wife, Fawcett devoted himself to his two favourite pursuits in combination and became a mountaineer philosopher. His two major philosophical works, The Zermatt Dialogues (1934) , a cosmology, and The Oberland Dialogues (1939), a study of the soul, are in a mountain setting. The distinctive mark of Fawcett’s philosophy is the discussion of imagination as the fundamental reality of the universe, and this was clearly displayed in his Divine Imagining (1929) and epitomised in his final epic poem, Light of the Universe (1957), which he wrote at the age of 91.
Fawcett was ever adventuring. When, at the age of 66, he was making his annual ascent of the Matterhorn, he had a heart attack, and with his companion, had to lie up in snow for the night. Next morning the two men went to the summit, but that was Fawcett’s last climb on foot. At 68, pining for the peaks, Fawcett learned to fly, and thereafter, year by year, (excluding the war years), until he was 84, he would battle with the turbulent air among the Alpine heights, flying his light aeroplane and plying his camera. When no longer allowed to renew his flying licence, Fawcett became a player in chess congresses at national level. He played his last match at Hastings a few months before he died.
Straight-backed, six feet two inches, monocled, Douglas Fawcett combined a universality of mind with a gentle modesty. He married again in later life Mrs Vera Dick-Conyngham, daughter of Mostyn Price, and was accompanied in all he did by his artist wife, who survives him.
© R. H. Jones 2011 All rights reserved.
Who Was Who? Vol. 5 1951 – 60.
Di Felice, G: Chess Results 1901 – 1920. McFarland 2006
BCMs Various years.
Gaige, J: Chess Personalia McFarland 1987
Obituaries from The Times 1951 – 1960 Newspaper Archive Developments 1979
Denys Pepperell Bonner.
(29.09.1919 – 03.10.2009)
Denys Bonner was most active in the post-war years, first in his home town club of Exmouth, and after his move in 1954 to Yeovil, in his adopted county of Somerset. He operated at a high level in four areas of active play, correspondence chess and both composing and solving chess problems.
He came from two long-standing Sidmouth families. His father, Ernest Bonner, was a bank manager, firstly with the South West and London Bank and later the Westminster Bank. While working in the Sidmouth Branch of the S. W. & London Bank between 1908 – 1918, he met and married Emma Pepperell, whose father James ran a dairy business in Sidmouth Market Place which involved Emma and her sister. The Pepperells could trace their family back through Sir William Pepperell, a 17th century English settler in the New England state of Maine, though Sir William’s descendents, as loyalists, fled back to England on the eve of the American War of Independence in 1777. This line can be traced right back to the Norman Conquest.
Their first child was Kenneth Harding Bonner, but with Emma pregnant with twins, Ernest joined the Westminster Bank and was created Manager in Wandsworth, London, where Denys and his twin sister Muriel (known as Mimi within the family), were born in 1919. About 1930, Ernest gave up his job with the bank and moved to Exmouth, where he took on the Moriglen Private Hotel in Salterton Road (below).
Denys attended a small private school, St. Martin’s in Sidmouth, and probably had much contact with his maternal grandparents, the Pepperells. On leaving school, he followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Westminster Bank. His first post was in Crowborough, Sussex, before moving to the Paignton branch.
At the outbreak of war, brother Kenneth joined the RAF and was later killed in action. Denys himself was later called up but within weeks of leaving home developed pneumonia, was released and returned to Exmouth. After the War, Mimi became a GI bride and emigrated to the U.S. where she lived for the rest of her long life.
In 1943 he moved from Paignton to Exmouth. It is not clear how he spent his leisure time during the decade 1933–43, but on September 18th 1943, he got his first mention in the Exmouth Chess Club’s records by attending the A.G.M. where he was immediately elected Secretary and Treasurer, on the recent death of M. Tucker, who had filled both posts since the club’s resurrection in 1929. His position at the bank would have qualified him as Treasurer, but quite how a newcomer, as he appears to have been, could be elected to two such key posts in a matter of days is unclear. There is no evidence of any chess activity on his part before his move back to Exmouth; his first problems were published from 1943 onwards, but he may have been a member of the Paignton Club during his time there.
In February 1946 he married Betty McDonald, an expert tennis player who had won trophies at Junior Wimbledon and was equally good at Table Tennis. Denys himself was good enough at table tennis to be a Division 1 player in the local league, but Betty was better than him, eventually becoming English Ladies Over-60s Champion. They lived first in a flat in Rolle Street, Exmouth before moving to the leafy Avenues district of the town, 58, Douglas Avenue, where two daughters were born, Daphne and Penny.
During this period in Exmouth his involvement in the world of problems increased dramatically. He subscribed to B. H. Wood’s young magazine Chess (founded 1935) and in the June 1944 issue had his first 2-mover published, even though it was incorrect. It was one of a set of six positions by different composers, and the Problem Page editor, C. S. Kipping, adds the question – “Do you see anything wrong in one of these?” It was Bonner’s that was wrong, and the errors were pointed out in a subsequent issue. Quite why Kipping published an incorrect position, instead of starting a dialogue with Bonner and putting it right before publication, is not clear. Perhaps he detected the potential talent. No more problems appeared until after his marriage to Betty, when he had positions published in August and September 1946.
In addition to the composing, he was also heavily involved in solving. In Chess, Kipping published a page of problems each month in a Ladder Competition. Interested readers were invited to send in their solutions each month and points were awarded. A list of the top 150 or so was published periodically, and at the end of the year prizes were awarded on the basis of the most points gained during the previous 12 months. In March 1943 Bonner was Runner-Up, repeating the achievement in 1946 and 1947. Then in 1948 he achieved what must have been his ambition of becoming “Champion Solver”, ahead of such luminaries as Denis Mardle and Geoff Berryman. He repeated this the following year, when Kipping was moved to observe…”Mr. Bonner is to be warmly congratulated in securing the maximum points and thus winning the Championship for the second year in succession. He had hardly done any solving until he entered our lists in 1944…. Our Champion is 29 and has other activities in the way of bridge and table tennis. He has published about 16 problems and Mrs. Bonner has published two.”
Betty’s first problem had appeared in March 1947 together with one of Denys’s own – a possible contender for a small bit of chess history – husband and wife publishing problems on the same day. It is thought that it was unlikely to be a fix – though she never took up the game seriously, the family think that she knew enough to be able to compose a problem or two, with Denys on hand to check its soundness.
Chess at this time also ran tournaments for postal chess, both for teams and individuals. The records are patchy at best and difficult to plough through, but their June 1945 issue records, in an individual knockout event, Bonner beating Dr. Maurice Jago, who was Cornwall’s top postal player for many years, capable of beating anyone, and also a noted problemist. This gives some indication of the level he was playing at.
The Exmouth Club’s minutes from the early post-war years seem to be obsessed with the matter of premises and make no mention of internal tournament winners, but Bonner was probably the strongest player until the arrival around 1950 of G. T. Womack, who retired to the town and was an experienced and even stronger player. This marked the start of a minor golden period for Exmouth. Firstly, they won the Mamhead Cup that year (Devon’s Division 2 tournament), repeating the feat in 1951, 1952 and 1954.
Mamhead Cup DCCA Div 2 1950
The challenges within the Exmouth Club may not have been enough for him, as he joined Exeter as well and won their championship in the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons. To put the achievement into some sort of perspective, the winners of that competition before and after that 2 year period were D. J. P. Gray and F. E. A. Kitto respectively, who both represented England around that time.
At the Exmouth AGM on 26th September 1953, a new venture, the creation of an Exeter & District Chess League was flagged up, and Denys Bonner was deputed to attend an exploratory meeting at the Exeter Club three days hence, to assess the interest. He was an obvious choice as he was a member of both clubs.
At this meeting, Bonner was joined by Ted Hesse (Civil Service), Denys Gray, (a pupil at Exeter School and later to become Sir Denys) and G. R. Cottew, T. J. Maddick and S. P. Gibbons of the home club. It was clear that the will was there, so the plan was put into action and a set of rules agreed. Cottew, formerly a member of the Exmouth Club before transferring to Exeter, and clearly the driving force behind this move, was elected League President and donated a cup, the Cottew Cup.
Two weeks later, Bonner reported to a Committee Meeting of the Exmouth Club. The rules were read out and discussed, and the five members present voted unanimously to join in. Womack was elected as Match Captain for the League Team, as Denys Bonner was due to move to Somerset before the end of the year.
In the event, the League’s first season comprised six clubs, namely Exeter, St. Luke’s Teacher Training College, St. Loyes College for the Disabled, Exeter School, Exeter University College and the Civil Service. Exmouth had no trouble in winning the League in its first season and becoming inaugural winners of the Cottew Cup. Unfortunately for Exmouth, Bonner moved to the Yeovil branch of his bank and Womack died suddenly at the end of the season. This knocked the stuffing out of Exmouth’s 1st team, and they won no more major cups in any competition for almost 20 years.
He moved to Somerset, where he rose within the ranks of the Westminter Bank, transferring at intervals between their branches at Yeovil (Chief Clerk), Glastonbury (Deputy Manager), Warminster (Manager) and back to Glastonbury as Manager.
He seemed to go from strength to strength, and played a major part in Somerset county chess in a way that he had never done on the wider Devon scene. His record of county championships over a 20 year period was second to none.
|1958||D. P. Bonner|
|1959||D. P. Bonner|
|1961||D. P. Bonner|
|1962||D. P. Bonner||R. H. Northage|
|1963||D. P. Bonner||R. H. Northage|
|1964||D. P. Bonner||R. H. Northage||Rev. P. R. Kings|
|1966||D. P. Bonner|
|1968||D. P. Bonner||R. H. Northage|
|1970||D. P. Bonner|
|1971||D. P. Bonner|
|1972||D. P. Bonner|
|1973||D. P. Bonner|
|1974||D. P. Bonner|
|1975||D. P. Bonner|
He was first a member of the Yeovil Club, but after leaving there joined Wells. It wasn’t long before he had established himself as Somerset’s most versatile chessplayer. By the end of the decade he had won the county championship twice and was Somerset’s No. 1 postal player.
His problem solving and composing continued apace, becoming Chess magazine’s Solving Champion in 1957, 1958 and 1959 after which Wood stopped the competition, or Bonner would have had more successes. Instead he won the Championship of the British Chess Problem Society in 1960 and jointly in 1962.
In 1968 he took over as Somerset team captain for a few seasons and by 1972 had become a Vice President of the county.
In October 1971 Peter Clarke and his committee of six, called The Hexagon, organised the 1st Barnstaple Open, a 5 round weekend congress, a relatively new venture in its time, which attracted 70 players including Bonner. Not a large entry in number, but as regards quality, Bonner at a grade of 180 had 21 players above him. He finished with a 50% score, level with, among others, P. C. Griffiths (205) and B. H. Wood (199). It appears that the only OTB game of his that survives from his entire career is his 1st round game against committee member P. A. Jones which appeared in the congress booklet. It was a quick draw against an opponent 50 points lower-graded, played on the Friday evening after a tiring week at the bank. He probably decided that the weekend congress scene, although rapidly increasing in popularity at this time, did not fit in with his many other interests and family commitments.
His daughters Daphne and Penny, for example, had inherited all his interests and talents. Daphne was an outstanding academic, ultimately gaining an honours degree in Maths from Cambridge and a PhD from Aberdeen. She was no blue-stocking, however, playing bridge, table tennis and chess, just like her father. Aged 16, she was the youngest player at that time ever to play Table Tennis for Somerset. But her sister, 3 years younger, soon overtook her, becoming champion of both Somerset and Wiltshire and having trials for England while still in her mid-teens. She later became British Ladies Over-40s Champion. They both played chess, too, but in this it was Daphne who was the better, twice winning the Somerset U-18 Ladies’ Championship.
The talents continued down through the generations as the grandchildren continued the chess and table tennis tradition, with Grandad Denys helping with the coaching whenever the opportunity arose. Penny’s own son, Alex Perry, twice became National Table Tennis Champion and has 3 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals. Her daughter Lucy played for Wales in the 2006 World Championships and other son Simon won medals at the British Universities Table Tennis Championships. Daphne’s sons, Mark and Luke Russell both play, winning junior chess championships wherever they happened to be living, in Newcastle and Aberdeen, Luke becoming British U-12 Champion in 1990 at Eastbourne.
Denys retired as Manager of the Glastonbury Nat West bank in 1979 at the age of 60. In retirement, in addition to his ongoing activities in chess, bridge and table-tennis, he converted the large wooden shed at the back of his house in Street where he had a table tennis table permanently set up, into a cattery where he and Betty cared for up to 15 stray animals at a time. He also involved himself in his passions for disarmament and the future of the railways by writing letters to local and national newspapers and his MP, all those published being meticulously pasted into a cuttings book.
As regards chess, he gave up active play and concentrated on problems. In February 1986 he was one of only 13 contestants in the British Problem Solving Championship, held at the Grosvenor Hotel, London. By then approaching 70 yrs he didn’t stand much chance against the likes of Peter Clarke and double GM-in-waiting, Jonathan Mestel, but the experience was memorable (see below).
Back in 1972 he had made the acquaintance of a monk at Downside Abbey School, Dom Cyprian Stockford, having played each other when the Wells Club met Downside in the Somerset League. Although they only very rarely met in person after that, they kept in touch by letter as they explored new ideas in problems, gradually extending into the more esoteric fields of Fairy Chess, in which new pieces with different powers are added to the usual armoury, and Patrol and Orphan Chess. The latter was only devised in 1971 in which an “orphan” is an unidentified piece, powerless and immobile until such time as it is attacked, whereupon it assumes the characteristics of the attacker. In Patrol Chess, devised in 1975, a piece can only capture or give check if it is protected by one of its own side. By involving himself in these kinds of complex problems at this early stage, Denys really was pushing back the boundaries of the game itself.
Dom Cyprian recalls Bonner’s “generosity to lesser mortals”, always appreciating and encouraging any fledgling talent whenever and wherever he came across it. They often submitted Fairy problems under both names, but Cyprian happily concedes the original ideas were generally Bonner’s.
In 1993 the couple moved to Summerway in Whipton, Exeter to be near their daughter, Penny. Denys became involved in local politics, campaigning on behalf of the local Lib. Dem. candidate, Dr. Jonathan Underwood, another excellent chessplayer.
In 2003, when the Exeter & District League was celebrating its 50th Anniversary, I visited him as part of some research I was doing on the history of the League. I had never met him before but knew that he’d started his chess career in Exmouth, and was keen to record his memories. Game as ever, he expressed a willingness to re-join the Exmouth Club and felt the train journey and walk in the dark at each end would be no problem, but then in his mid-80s it was more than anyone could expect of him, and it never materialised.
Betty died in 2001, but Denys stayed on in the house until he became too ill to care for himself. He died just days after his 90th birthday, which he had celebrated with all his family around him.
By involving himself in four different aspects of the game, not even to mention his many other interests, it might be said that his talent was spread a little too thinly, and he might have achieved an even higher level if he had concentrated on just one aspect. Yet by limiting himself in any way, he would probably have lost more than he gained. No one can balance that particular equation.
He was true chess pioneer in, first of all, leading Exmouth to early successes, and late in life working at the very frontiers of chess problem composition.
R. H. Jones.
Testimony of Daphne Russell & Penny Mann (daughters) and Dom Cyprian Stockford.
Pritchard, D. P: Encyclopaedia of Chess Variants Games & Puzzles Publications 1994.
Hooper, D & Whyld K: Oxford Companion to Chess 2nd ed. OUP 1992
Copyright © R. H. Jones 2010 All rights reserved.
Henry D’Oyly Bernard
(2nd March 1878 – 23rd Nov. 1954)
Henry Bernard was one of a number of Devon-born problemists who made a major contribution to the art at a national and international level.
H. D’O Bernard was born on 2nd March 1878, the first child of Arthur Francis and Mary L. Bernard. At that time, his father was 27 and his mother 21 years of age, and the family lived at a house called The Abbots in the East Devon village of Combe Raleigh, just a mile from Honiton. Arthur had been born in nearby Sidmouth, while Mary’s somewhat more exotic birthplace was somewhere in Eastern India.
Two views of the Bernard family home in Combe Raleigh, built c. 1790 and taken here c. 1900 when Arthur Bernard was a magistrate on the Honiton circuit. The tower of the 15th century village church can be seen in the background of the left hand picture. (from the collection of Alfred Newton)
In 1880, when Henry was 2, a sister, Ruth Capel Bernard, was born, and this small family was supported by four female servants, an indication of a very comfortable background. The name Henry Doyly, being one of the nobles who signed Magna Carta in 1215, also suggests the family had historic connections or pretensions. As White’s Devonshire Directory of 1850 lists a Rev. William Bernard as being lord of the manor of Combe Raleigh, this may well be true.
By 1901, he had a further three siblings, all living at home in Combe Raleigh; Charles, 19, a lieutenant in the Lancashire Artillery, Muriel, 15, and Marjorie, 13, the household kept going with the help of a cook, maid, parlourmaid, housemaid and kitchenmaid. However, Henry himself, now 24, had married Elionor (sic) 4 years older than himself, and who, like his mother, had been born in India, in the North West Provinces. Also, the couple had moved to London, living at No. 36, Primrose Mansions, south of the River Thames bordering on Battersea Park.
By 1911, he had risen to Clerk in Principal in the Probate Registry, working in Somerset House, the national headquarters of registration of births, marriages and deaths. He had moved to 101, Albert Bridge Road, Wandsworth in the Parish of Battersea, London. He had a daughter, Ursula aged 8, and a son, Nigel aged 4.
Henry had learned the game at home, but, as was typical of Devon’s rural communities at the time, having few opportunities for over-the-board games, he turned to problem composition as an outlet for his new enthusiasm. He specialised in 2-movers and made his mark in the field of mutates, in which field he was a true pioneer and was described in his BCM obituary as “a persistent and leading figure”. He proved “its most artistic and thematic interpreter with his glorious 1st Prize in the Chess Amateur of 1918 – 19″.
He was highly self-critical and expected the same standards of others. On one occasion, when acting as judge to the Western Morning News problem competition, he famously returned all entries to the Chess Editor, refusing to award any prize at all, deeming them all just not good enough.
He worked as a civil servant in London, at one time serving at the Probate Registry in the department of Receiver of Wills.
He had suffered all his life with asthma, and later in life, to alleviate the associated symptoms, moved to Monaco, from where he kept in close touch with the British chess problem world. He was made a Fellow of the British Chess Problem Society, and made several generous gifts to its Permanent Fund, successfully avoiding any cash-for-honours scandal, and made generous donations to other bodies, including the BCM.
He died in Monaco in the winter of 1954.
His problems may be found today in magazines, books and newspapers around the world, and are a lasting tribute to this true Devon Pioneer.
Left: Henry Bernard in later life.
Bibliography: BCM 1955.
Watts, W. H. (Ed.) Chess Pie BCF.
Gaige, J: Chess Personalia McFarland 1987.
White: Devonshire Directory 1850.
House pictures from English Heritage NMR.
© R. H. Jones. 2010 All rights reserved.
Charles Thomas Blanshard M. A.
(26th Jan.1852 - Aug. 1924)
Charles Blanshard was born in Leeds in 1852, the son of the Rev. Richard Blanshard of Lincoln College, Oxford. An ancestor of his was William Isaac Blanshard, a barrister at law and an expert at taking notes in a shorthand he devised himself, and published a book on it in 1779, though it never reached the popularity of Pitman’s method. He also helped defend Warren Hastings when he was impeached in 1787 for corruption in his position as first Governor General of India.
Charles attended Clifton College and took a scholarship to Queen’s College, Oxford, and in 1874 took first class degrees in both Chemistry and Physics, the first person at Oxford to do so. In 1880 he took up the study of phonography, much like his forefather, William. He started the Oxford School of Shorthand and tried to get the University authorities to take the subject seriously, without any lasting success.
His main occupation was teaching, natural science, shorthand and modern languages being his forte. There was a Charles T. Blanshard listed as headmaster of Calday Grange Grammar School, on the Wirral, between 1886 – 1891, who could be our subject – the name, initials, profession and dates are exactly right, but there is, at present, no corroboration.
He was a great traveller, having visited most countries of Europe, including Scandinavia and Russia. Three of these trips he made in a canoe. He was fond of mountaineering and cycling.
Apart from his many writings on shorthand and articles on various scientific topics, he published five books on chess, including a series entitled Chess Master Play, which gave the best games played in international tournaments between 1887 and 1896. There were also three small volumes called Classified Chess Openings. These were later published in one volume.
He started a chess column in the Plymouth-based Western Daily Mercury in August 1902, which he edited for a year, together with Philip Dancer, General Secretary of the new Cornwall C.A., who contributed the Cornish input.
That he was not among the strongest of Devon players at that time, is illustrated by the fact that he lost to Mrs. Rhoda Bowles on Board 8 of the North v South Devon match in 1902. But at the same event, he gave a blindfold exhibition, conducting two Knight’s Tours simultaneously, so clearly possessed a considerable mental dexterity. In fact, the Knight’s Tour held a special fascination for him, as it did for several other chess-playing mathematicians. H. E. Dudeney was a leading expert at the time, but Blanshard, working independently, made several discoveries in this field which he published in the Chess Amateur in August 1923 (p.349).
At the Southern Union Congress in Plymouth in 1903, he played in the third American Section, where he won but a solitary point out of seven, and that was against a Miss Hunt from North Devon, who scored a complete blank. Henry Bremridge came 1st= with 5½. Yet the fact that in the photograph below he was seated front centre hints at the esteem in which he was held by his peers.
A group from the Southern Union Congress at Goodbody’s Café, Bedford Street, Plymouth, September 1903.
Front row: G. E. H. Bellingham, A. Clark.
Seated (l – r): C. J. Lambert (Exeter); Rhoda Annie Bowles (born in Dawlish); R. F. B. Jones; C. T. Blanshard (Totnes); Rev. W. C. Palmer; Mrs Joughin; F. W. Forrest.
Standing: E. D. Fawcett; Thomas Taylor (Plymouth); A. Emery; Henry L. Bowles; W. P. Weekes; C. F. Lewis; Rev. J. F. Welsh; C. F. Cooper.
Back row: F. J. Welsh; J. A. Parry; W. P. MacBean; W. H. Watts; A. Axtell.
When the Devon Association was founded in October 1901, Blanshard was on the committee, and he founded the Totnes club at this time. It is not clear whether he stayed in Devon throughout the remaining 23 years of his life. He certainly played postal chess for the county during this period, and as late as 1922 was paying an annual fee of 52p to be one of the Association’s 28 Vice Presidents, but was not listed among the membership of any Devon club. So perhaps he was living a distance away in his later years, but maintaining contacts.
At the DCCA’s A.G.M. in October 1924, the General Secretary, George W. Cutler, reported on the passing, that year, of a great swathe of Pioneers, including Carslake Winter-Wood and his sister, Mrs. W. J. Baird, the Secretary of the Totnes Club, the “genial and much loved J. Darley Dingle”, and followed by “Mr. C. T. Blanshard, who was playing for Devon in a correspondence match at the time of his death, and whose name and connection with Devon Chess from the foundation of Association will be familiar to very many of you”.
Having been so active at the time of Devon’s Chess “Big Bang” (1901 -02) Charles Blanshard was indeed a true Pioneer.
R. H. Jones. copyright 2011
Bibliography: BCM 1903.
Website: Knight’s Tour Notes by George Jelliss.
Website: Calday Grange Grammar School, The Wirral.
George W. Cutler. (1845 – 1927)
Photograph by T. Arthur Goard, son-in-law, fellow member of Exeter Chess Club and Vice-President of Exeter Camera Club.
George Cutler was a tireless worker for the Devon County Chess Association for almost a quarter of a century from the time of its formation in 1901.
George William Cutler was born in Christchurch, Hampshire in August 1844. He first learned the game about 1868 and for about 10 years was his main recreation. Then his career in banking took over and he didn’t play for about 20 years. He retired as a Bankers’ Accountant and moved to Exeter in 1896 and finding himself with more leisure time returned to the game, joining the Exeter Club and playing most days.
The 1901 census records that he was a widower and lived with his daughter Matilda Ellen and her husband, Thomas Arthur Goard, a 35 year old dentist living at 7, Elm Grove Road, Exeter, with their 3 year old son Arthur. Goard was also a member of Exeter Chess Club and a keen photographer (see above)
When the Devon County Association was founded in 1901, although the Rev. Henry Bremridge was the hard-working figurehead, he had Cutler’s full and active support. At the Association’s 1905 A.G.M. Bremridge had determined to give up the posts of both Secretary and Treasurer. In the end, a compromise was reached when Cutler took over as Treasurer on condition that Bremridge remained as Secretary.
The BCM of January 1908 contained a very affectionate portrait of Henry Bremridge, written by Cutler, in which he stated that he was a regular visitor to Bremridge’s Winkleigh Vicarage. The Editor added the footnote, “The kindly sentiments expressed here show how close is the bond of friendship is between the two leading officials of the Association”.
Eventually, in 1909 Bremridge did resign as Secretary, and it wasn’t long before Cutler held both key posts himself. He held these posts as late as 1924, when he was still living at his son-in-law’s house in Elm Grove Road. According to the Exeter club minute books, Cutler attended their A.G.M.s but played no active role in the club’s administration, reserving his energies for the Devon Association.
He was a strong correspondence player, having played 9 games for Devon by 1906, winning 7 and drawing 1. In Rhoda Bowles’ postal tournaments in Womanhood, he played 25 games of which he won 17 and drew 5. He won 2nd prize in Section B of the 4th Tournament and was awarded the Brilliancy Bronze medal.
In 1927, Goard died aged 61 (“one of the club’s oldest members”) and Cutler, then 82, left Exeter and moved to 3, Kingsdown Road, Epsom. He died there in November 1927 aged 83. There is no mention of his death in the Exeter Club’s minutes nor any obituary in other contemporary chess literature. He seems to have died a forgotten man, but someone who devoted himself to the first quarter century of the D.C.C.A. must be remembered as a true Pioneer.
© R. H. Jones 2010 All rights reserved.
BCMs 1906 & 1908
Exeter club minute books.
1901 & 1911 census online.
Timothy James Hay.
(31.03.1946. – 24.01.2011.)
Tim Hay was a life-long chessplayer who was brought into the mainstream of Devon chess from about 1985 onwards as he encouraged his son Stephen in the game, and came to achieve great things for the county in his capacity as Match Captain of both the Junior and Senior teams.
He was born in Retford, Nottinghamshire, the elder of two boys born to Robert and Katri Hay. Tim’s maternal grandmother was called Goode, a family of minority Protestants from County Wexford in the Irish Republic, while his father was of Scottish descent; Tim was very proud of the Clan Hay and wore the tartan from time to time. In WWII Robert Hay had been a Major in the Royal Artillery (71st West Riding Regiment). Originally part of the 1st Army in North Africa, where he was awarded the MC and was mentioned in dispatches, he was involved in the landings onto the Italian mainland at Salerno, and was later one of the 105,000 Allied casualties in the four battles for the Monte Cassino monastry, where he lost a leg.
After the war, being a talented engineer, he went to work for the Marshall Richards Machine Co. of Crook, Co. Durham, starting as PA to Mr. Richards and eventually rising to become Managing Director.
When he was 2, with a baby brother, Patrick, to be compared with, Tim was clearly not developing physically or mentally as he should have, but it was years before it was discovered he had a malfunctioning thyroid. By the time this was diagnosed he was several years behind average both in height and attainment at school, but a course of medication put him on the road to recovery. This was not helped by having some allergies and contracting every common infectious disease possible, including pneumonia.
At the age of 8 he was sent to Bow School, (right) the preparatory department of Durham School, where sport is highly rated. Tim and his brother both played for the school cricket team, reportedly once bowling out an entire visiting team for 0 runs.
At about this time, a visiting relative gave the boys a chess set. Tim was immediately hooked, as it appealed to his competitive instincts without requiring any verbal or academic skills. He played the game from then till the day he died.
Both boys had their names put down for Repton, the noted private school on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border, whose alumni included such sporting legends as C. B. Fry, Harold Abrahams and Bunny Austin, and in more recent times, Jeremy Clarkson and Dr. Graeme Garden of the Goodies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with his track-record, Tim failed the entrance exam and was sent instead to Brickwall School, now called Frewen College, a school specialising in dyslexic and dyspraxic pupils, situated in a magnificent Jacobean manor house in the East Sussex village of Northiam, East Sussex. This recent aerial photograph shows a chessboard fashioned in topiary, created in 1980.
Patrick later got into Repton, and it would be understandable if Tim had felt something of a failure, or jealous of his brother’s success, but this was not to understand him. He loved his school, the Headmaster, the educational projects and the sport, where he excelled at hockey, tennis and cricket, while his brother hated every minute of his time at Repton. Tim finished with 5 GCE ‘O’ levels, an excellent achievement after his unfortunate start in life. Perhaps it was a reflection of the residential nature of his schooling, but he also had an ambition to become either a chef or go into the hotel business.
Meanwhile, during the school holidays, in his early teens Tim purchased an old banger, (a Standard Flying 12) for £10, that the brothers used to drive around the family’s 5½ acre estate, devising hair-raising stunts that terrified their mother, who hadn’t forgotten how Tim had broken his arm performing some madcap stunt on his bike when aged 10. One prank involved Patrick hanging from the lower branch of a tree and dropping onto the car roof as Tim drove beneath it – or vice versa. Such fun! After all that practice, Tim passed his driving test first time and invested in a 1937 Bentley 4.25 for driving on the open road. After rumours reach his mother that he once did 100 mph in it, she took fright, and when they returned from school for their next holiday at home, they found the car missing. On asking its whereabouts, their mother said “I sold it for £25 and here’s £12-10 shillings for each of you”. They never forgave her for that.
After school, Tim was determined to follow his career inclination and started work at Ye Olde Bell Hotel in Barnby Moor, near Retford where he was born, and he quickly rose through the ranks.
He then moved to the 5 star Westbury Hotel, one of the finest venues in London’s Mayfair. This was at the height of the Swinging Sixties when London was the centre of the universe and Tim made sure he didn’t miss out – he was at the epicentre. Without in any way neglecting his hotel duties, he was a founding member of the Playboy Club and Crockfords, the famed exclusive gaming club, where he was to be seen in hand-made tuxedo and silk-lined cloak. After 2 years in London he got a post at a 5-star hotel in Cologne, before moving to one of Europe’s most luxurious venues, L’Hotel de Crillon in Paris (below).
He then returned to England, to work at the Salcombe Hotel in Devon, before moving to the Tara Hotel at Upton St. Leonards, near Gloucester (since re-named the Hatton Court Hotel). Here he met Rosamund (née Crozier) who worked at the same hotel and in 1973 they married. Ros already had two children and a son, Stephen, was born in 1975.
In 1977, they decided to go in with another couple in buying the Moors Park Hotel in Bishopsteignton, near Teignmouth, Devon, but in 1981 the partners decided to return to Gloucester, and they were forced to sell up. With Stephen having started at the local primary school and Tim having joined the Teignmouth Chess Club, they had put down roots, and as they wanted to stay in the village, they purchased the Manor Inn. To help with the income, Tim decided to fall back on his other love of cookery, and started by making a few pasties on the kitchen table and selling six a day to the village butchers nearby.
From that small beginning they built up a home-based business called the Pasty Mine that employed 14 people. To expand further would have meant acquiring an industrial premises, and this they were not prepared to do, so the Hays kept the business at a level they were happy with, and so it continued this way until 1998.
During this 17 year spell, Tim got involved in village affairs, playing in the village cricket team and serving on the Carnival Committee, and was elected as Liberal Democrat member for Kingsteignton on the Teignbridge District Council. At the chess club he helped found the annual Teignmouth RapidPlay Tournament, which still runs today. As his son reached the top end of his junior school, he went in to take a weekly chess club. From this he was appointed Team Manager of the South Devon Primary Schools Chess Association, taking teams to national tournaments all over the country. The young players all responded to his leadership, which culminated in 1992 when he led the team to the National Under-11 Championship, an unprecedented feat for a provincial team against the might of those from the big conurbations.
The details below demonstrate the magnitude of the achievement:-
List of Previous Winners (by way of comparison).
|1975||London||1985||N. W. London|
|1976||Manchester||1986||S. E. London|
How the Devon team performed individually.
The final team table.
On the strength of this Tim was appointed Match Captain of Devon’s senior team. Success again followed when in June 1996 he took two teams to the National Final of the Inter-Counties Championships – in the Under-150 and Under-100 sections.
After victories for the stronger team over Leicestershire (10-6) in the Quarter-Final and Cambridgeshire (11½-4½) in the Semis, they faced Nottinghamshire in the Final in Birmingham. With three games to finish, the match could have gone either way, as Matthew Leigh, Paul Carpenter and Mark Abbott all had very close endgames. They asked Tim if they could agree a draw, but he refused and made them play on, wisely as it turned out, as all three went on to win, making the final score look more comfortable that it actually was.
|1||D. Hill||142||0||1||A. Blake||148|
|2||J. G. Gorodi||140||½||½||N. Graham||148|
|3||S. Webb||146||1||0||A. Dyce||148|
|4||I. Taggart||145||½||½||J. Tassi||147|
|5||C. Brookwell||149||½||½||B. Hayward||145|
|6||P. E. Halmkin||143||½||½||W. Selby||143|
|7||M. Leigh||149||1||0||A. Wright||143|
|8||M. Hamon||148||0||1||J. Cast||143|
|9||P. Carpenter||145||1||0||N. Bowler||142|
|10||P. Scott||140||1||0||Z. Yahya||141|
|11||R. Towers||143||½||½||M. Shaw||140|
|12||S. Pope||142||0||1||R. Taylor||139|
|13||D. Ruddall||141||1||0||I. Nicholson||137|
|14||M. V. Abbott||139||1||0||G. Beales||136|
|15||I. S. Annetts||131||1||0||M. Taylor||131|
|16||K. J. Bloodworth||135||0||1||P. Kirby||127|
l-r: Peter Halmkin; Steve Webb; Danny Hill; Matthew Leigh; John Gorodi; Ian Taggart; Tim Hay (holding cup); Ken Bloodworth; Sean Pope; Paul Carpenter; David Rudall; Patrick Scott; Chris Brookwell & Ivor Annetts.
However, in 1998, all this joy came to a sudden end in a most unexpected way. While he was making a routine delivery of pasties to a shop in Exeter, he was stung by a bee in the cab of his van. As Tim knew he was allergic to bee stings, he prepared to drive back home immediately, taking the precaution of asking the shop manager to follow his van to make sure he got home safely. This was duly achieved and from home he was taken by ambulance to hospital, where they discovered that not only had he been stung, but he must, at some point, have fallen against his van in Exeter and hit the back of his head. The next day he had a cerebral haemorrhage and spent a month in hospital.
After this he attempted to carry on as before, but had two fits whilst driving his van. After a third fit resulted in his crashing into a ditch, it was discovered these were as a result of epilepsy, and he was banned from driving for a minimum of three years until the condition could be stabilised.
The business could not function successfully under this handicap, so Tim and Ros sold the Pasty Mine to a former employee and moved into a flat nearby.
After this, Tim gave up chess for almost a decade, but in 2008 they moved into Teignmouth and he started to get involved again in the local scene, re-joining the Teignmouth Club and playing in local congresses. He got involved in the chess element of the Twinning between Torbay and Hellevoetsluis in Holland, joining groups of players to visit the Dutch town and hosting them in return. In the summer of 2010 he arranged for a match between the two sides to be played at Forde House in Newton Abbot, the very house in which William III stayed on his first night in England, having landed his troops at nearby Brixham, on his way from Hellevoetsluis to London to assume the British Crown. The Dutch appreciated the significance.
In December 2010, during a bitterly cold spell, he was returning to his house when he slipped and fell on some steep steps leading to his front door, fracturing his skull. He was taken to hospital but never recovered consciousness.
His memorial service was held at Torquay Crematorium on 4th February 2011, when chess colleagues joined with family members in celebrating Tim’s rich and varied life.
With thanks for information and family pictures to:
Ros Hay; Tim’s mother, and brother Patrick; Tim Onions;
Rowena Mary Bruce (née Dew)
(15.05.1915 - 24.09.1999)
Rowena Bruce had perhaps the highest public profile of any British lady player in the middle decades of the 20th century, amassing eleven British Ladies Championship titles, more than any other.
She was born in Plymouth, the youngest child of Harvey and Mary (“May”) Dew. Her brothers were Clement Harvey Dew who came to work in electronics and lived to the age of 90 and Lanning Dew, an artist and pianist who died at 50. The Dew family lived at 18, Cheltenham Place, Mutley Plain, Plymouth.
Mary Dew (née Rowe) was the daughter of a Redruth bank manager and had 5 siblings. She had been a member of the Plymouth Chess Club for many years and had tried to interest her sons in the game, each in turn as they grew up. The boys were not particularly keen or able, but, watching her brothers at the board, Rowena took to it from an early age. By the time she was 10, her mother, who herself was later to become Devon Ladies Champion and play in the British Championship, quickly realised that the girl’s talent was such that it needed someone of greater ability than she possessed to bring out Rowena’s full potential. So she approached the fast-rising star of the Plymouth Club, Ron Bruce (22), and he agreed to take the girl for two lessons a week at his house. Thus began a partnership that was to last unbroken for 65 years.
With his speech impediment and serious manner, it is not easy to imagine Ron in the role of inspiring teacher of 10 year olds, but whatever he had worked well enough, for within 9 years Rowena had become FIDE World Girls Champion.
Rowena attended Gunnerside School in Plymouth, a private all-girl establishment. Her secondary education was interrupted when she had a mastoidectomy, resulting in the loss of a year’s schooling and suffering with tinnitus. In spite of this break in her education, or perhaps even because of it, she was able to concentrate on her chess training and music practice. She played the cello as a pupil and continued with this, eventually becoming Principal ‘Cellist with the Plymouth Orchestral Society.
Early in 1935 she competed in FIDE’s 10th Annual Girls’ Open Championship. In spite of its rather grand-sounding title, and the fact that it was won in its first 2 years by the renowned Vera Menchik, on this occasion, for whatever reason it attracted only 12 entrants, all from the UK. They played in two sections of 6, with the top two scores from each section playing in a Final.
|Section A||Pts.||Section B||Pts.|
|1||Rowena Dew||9||Eileen O’Dell||8|
|2||Mary Clouter||6½||Elaine Saunders||7½|
|3||Margaret Belson||5||Beatrice Walsh||7½|
|4||Margaret Gurney||5||Muriel Ballard||5|
|5||Gladys Kay||3||Teresa de Rome||2|
|6||Barbara Bairnsfather||1½||Alice Symington||0|
In the play-off, Rowena beat Clouter by 2 – 0.
The BCM reported… Miss Rowena Dew from Plymouth proved the conquering heroine this year, after a tie in the final stages. ….. Miss Dew is to be congratulated, not only on her fine performance, but also on the serious way she takes the game which should never be taken any other way. It is an example well worth following, and those who do will receive their reward in a marked improvement in their game. One who needs no urging in this direction is little Elaine Saunders who celebrated her 9th birthday last week, and whose score shows the high standard she has reached in so few years.
Rowena and Elaine were destined to become life-long friends in chess.
Above: Rowena with her FIDE Trophy.
In 1937 Rowena and her mother went to Blackpool for the British Championships. Mrs. Dew competed in the 3rd Class Division 2 where she finished with 5½/10 and just out of the prizelist. Her 18 year old daughter on the other hand won the British Ladies Championship with the considerable score of 10/11. The BCM observed “Miss Dew gives all the credit for her success to R. M. Bruce, the Plymouth C.C. captain, who has assiduously coached her for the congress”.
On Saturday April 1st 1939 Ron and Rowena were playing for Plymouth in an away match against Paignton in the Bremridge Cup, Devon’s premier team tournament. It may have been the date or the exhilaration of a win under his belt, but there must have been something in the air that day, for on the way back to Plymouth, Ron suddenly pulled the car into a lay-by at South Brent. He didn’t know what made him do it at that particular moment, it was just on a whim, but he proposed marriage to his sole passenger. Rowena accepted, though they would have to wait till she was 21 the following year, which they duly did, eventually marrying on 13th July 1940. This little episode explained the name they later gave to their family home, Brent Whim – they had got engaged at Brent on a whim. From then on, for many years every time they passed that spot on the old A38 they would just touch hands and smile to each other.
The 1939 British Championships moved to Bournemouth but with the political uncertainty of the time, and the absence of the top players competing in the Rio de Janeiro Olympiad, the men’s championship was scrapped in favour of a more general Premier Tournament which included Euwe and Landau of the Netherlands. The usual trio of Ron, Rowena and her mother spent the fortnight there.
The Ladies Championship proceeded as usual but Rowena was well and truly upstaged by 13 year old Elaine Saunders who scored 10/11 without a loss, while she recorded a very modest 5. Her head may have been full of wedding plans.
The war interrupted her chess career, as the couple adjusted to married life and the destruction of Plymouth in the Blitz. Rowena worked in the W.V.S. throughout the war.
In August 1945 she gave birth to a son after a difficult pregnancy. Christened McKay Bruce, the baby died after 10 days and she was advised that it would be unwise to try again.
In the first post-war season, chess activity resumed for Rowena with a vengeance, especially in the summer of 1946. The Devon team got through to the final of the Montague –Jones Cup, competed for by the rural shires of the S.C.C.U. The Cup winner would meet the winner of other section involving the metropolitan counties. On Saturday 25th May, 1946, at the Great Western Hotel, Swindon, they met a Cambridgeshire team, led by F. E. A. Kitto, then shortly to be demobbed from the RAF before moving to Devon. Rowena was one of Devon’s two winners that day, as they lost 5 – 6, one of the scheduled 12 games being unplayed.
About 4 weeks later, on 19th June she was involved in the Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess match. It was a daunting prospect, as the Soviet team comprised twelve legends, (in order) Botvinnik, Keres, Smyslov, Boleslavsky, Flohr, Kotov, Bronstein, Bondarevsky, Lilienthal and Ragosin, and with Vera Byelova and Ludmila Rudenko as the two lady players. Rowena’s lady partner was Eileen Tranmer, principal clarinettist at Sadlers’ Wells.
(Photos: right – Planet News. Left – Central Press Photos).
The event had a high profile nationally, with generous financial backing from the Greyhound Racing Association and Cable & Wireless.
Tranmer lost both of her games against Bykova as did Rowena against Rudenko. A clue to the quality of their opposition was that Bykova was shortly to beat Rudenko 8-6 in the first post war Ladies World Championship final in 1953. The British team as a whole went down 6 – 18, though this was better than the U.S.A. had achieved in an earlier phone match.
In August the family all went to Nottingham for the British Championships. Rowena tied for 1st place with Elaine Saunders, the defending Ladies Champion from 1939, both on 9 points. Mary Dew also competed, scoring 2½. Ron, meanwhile, had tied for 3rd place in the Major Open Section 4 with Ritson Morry.
The following month, she was involved in a 4 game play-off with Elaine. After a loss and a draw, Rowena lost the 3rd game and with it the match.
Below: Group photograph of the Plymouth Club in its 1st post-war season, 1946. Rowena and her mother are seated. Ron Bruce is standing 2nd left; new boy Ken Bloodworth 7th left; Jack Goodman 8th left; T. V. H. Walkey 11th left.
In 1950 she regained the British Ladies Championships at Buxton, the first time under her married name.
The summer of 1951 was particularly busy for the Bruces. All the while in the background preparations were under way for the 1st Paignton Congress, in which Euwe was due to participate. On top of this, at Newquay, Ron became the West of England Champion jointly with F. E. A. Kitto, the only time he was able to do so. Rowena had come 9th=.
Rowena had qualified for the Women’s Zonal Tournament, part of the 22nd FIDE Congress held in Venice 5th – 11th July. The top two places would go on to compete in the Candidates Tournament in Moscow, the other English player being Eileen Tranmer. She played well in the early stages, reaching 3½/4, but was later hampered by a series of adjourned games, which made the run-in a bit nerve-wracking. On one occasion, for example, she was playing till half past midnight to complete one round, and had to be back in the playing hall for the next round at 9 a.m. Notwithstanding the tight schedules, trips out were organised, and there were opportunities to fraternise with Golombek, Wade and Barry Wood who were involved in the FIDE conference going on at the same time in the same building. However, she finally qualified for Moscow along with Fenny Heemskirk of Holland.
Then straight back to England where she successfully defended her National title at Swansea, never seriously troubled in any game. Ann Sunnucks was 2nd though significantly, neither Saunders nor Tranmer, the other two tetrarchs of British ladies chess at the time, played.
This was quickly followed by Paignton where she tied 1st= with H. H. Cole in the Premier Reserves “B”. She was certainly now at her best; in form and playing with confidence. FIDE awarded her the Womens’ International Master title at this point.
The big event of 1952 was the Moscow Candidates. There had been sufficient interest in the UK for the BBC to broadcast a series of short talks each night on the Third Programme, each given by Rowena, in which she described as best she could for a largely lay audience the progress of the tournament, but also describing the setting and something of Moscow itself as they went out on trips around the city.
Among her first broadcast was this descriptive passage…..
“The tournament is held in the Hall of the Soviet Army and we are playing in its theatre which is tastefully decorated in cream and blue. At a rough guess, I would imagine it would hold about 500 and usually, especially towards the end of the meeting it gets pretty full. On the wall are huge demonstration boards so that spectators can see at a glance what sort of game you are playing and, believe me, it is a horrifying thought to realise that every one of the audience can see quite clearly if you are getting into a jam. You can sometimes feel the excitement mounting amongst the spectators and often of the umpires has to get up and say “Sleechkom shoomno!” which means, as if you can’t guess, too much noise. There is silence for perhaps half a minute, then someone makes a surprising move and the buzz starts all over again, The audience contains also many officers and men of the Soviet Army, a good sprinkling of women and an astonishing number of youths and boys. In England chess is by no means as popular as over here … in fact if there are a couple of dozen of onlookers it’s almost a crush….”
A later radio talk cast a light on both her musical appreciation and shopping the old Soviet way.
“There was a welcome break last Friday evening when we were taken to the Bolshoi Theatre to see The Fountains of Bachesari”. The story of the ballet is based on the poem by Pushkin, with music by Asajiev. Although written only in 1934 the music is by no means modern – it contains many simple yet haunting melodies. I think the composer tried to give a bit of fat to every section of the orchestra – in one scene it was the pleading note of the clarinet which depicted the heroine’s sadness at being imprisoned; another scene had an important off-stage trumpet solo, whilst in another the cor anglais, far too rarely heard these days, reflected the mood of that particular scene, and in the act where Zaremah pleads with her rival there is a lovely duet between the solo violin and ‘cello. The story is based on the old, old one of the eternal triagle, though as this one concerns discord in a harem, perhaps I should more correctly say the eternal polygon.
There were one or two amusing incidents the other day when three of us, Eileen Tranmer, Harry Golombek and I went out shopping without an interpreter. In a shop window we spotted some bread rolls which looked tempting but inside the shop the queues were tremendous. Apparently, you have to queue up at the counter to ask for what you want, push your way across and queue up at the cash desk to pay for it, and then push your way back again to collect your purchase. We, of course, hit upon the brainy idea of dividing our forces; one at the counter, one at the cash desk with the 3rd person acting as runner, (or should I say pusher?). However, all these incidents only add to the general good humour and our fumbling is always taken in good part by the assistants.
That’s all for now – Goodnight Ron. I hope to be speaking again tomorrow on the football cup final which I saw yesterday. Goodnight Mum and Dad.”
Golombek’s much vaunted linguistic abilities don’t seem to have been much help in a Russian shop.
1952 was a significant year in her private life as well. Unable to have more children, the couple decided to try for adoption. After some enquiries, they identified a 4 year old girl in a Barnado’s Home in East Anglia and it was agreed they should foster her for a trial period of 2 years with a view to adoption if the trial was successful. They gave her a new name, Rona, being comprised of the first two letters of Ron’s name and the last two of Rowena’s. The fact that her new second name was Mary, meant that they were now a family of three, all with the name R. M. Bruce, which must have been the cause of some confusion, at least when the postman called. However, it was made clear from the outset that having a child in the home would not curtail Ron or Rowena’s chess activities in any way. So Rona was taken along to the usual series of chess venues; Paignton, Hastings or the British Championships, wherever they happened to be.
The extra responsibility seemed to have had little effect on Rowena’s performance; she won or shared the British Ladies Championship a further eight times, making the unbeaten total of eleven titles. And this was in the face of competition from her three great contemporaries – Elaine Pritchard, Ann Sunnucks and Eileen Tranmer.
From 1959 to 1964 the BBC broadcast a series of radio programmes on chess on a Sunday afternoon on their Network 3 channel. It was a magazine type of programme and included players going through their favourite (or worst) game. Rowena’s choice was one from the Plymouth Club Championship which she won with a spectacular mating combination that started with a Queen sacrifice. At the end, she revealed the name of her opponent; “Well, Black is my long-suffering husband! I was a bit reluctant to choose this particular game but, on the other hand, maybe it could be regarded as a kind of tribute. If he had not been such a capable and patient master all those years ago when he first started giving me lessons, this queen sacrifice would never have occurred.” She was ever ready to give Ron the credit.
The Plymouth Club had always sought to put on simultaneous exhibitions against the great players of the day, from Blackburne in 1888, and including, among others, Lasker, Frank Marshall, Mir Sultan Khan and Koltanowski and in January 1966 it was the turn of Boris Spassky. At home Rowena kept a special chess board the back of which was signed by all the great players she had met, from Capablanca onwards. Spassky duly added his signature on this occasion.
Above: Rowena with Spassky and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Pascho.
(photo: Western Morning News)
She got Spassky to add his autograph to the reverse side of a special chessboard she kept at home for this very purpose. It was already covered with the signatures of great players from Capablanca onwards.
1970 marked the start of the age of Jana Malypetrova who won 8 of the next 10 British Championships under her married names of Hartston and Miles, though Rowena was 3rd in 1971 and Runner-up in 1972. This made her eligible to represent England in the East European Zonal Tournament held near Sofia, Bulgaria in November 1972 a remarkable achievement at the age of 53, and a watershed.
In round 2 she was playing top board at the front of a stage before a large audience, when suddenly she slumped forward over the board, scattering pieces everywhere. She’d had a cerebral haemorrhage, and was rushed to hospital where she spent several weeks in intensive care. She had not been accompanied by any family on this occasion and they had great difficulty finding out what was going on, as communications between Plymouth and the remote Communist dictatorship were fraught. Eventually, when well enough she was flown to Heathrow where she was met at the plane by an ambulance that took her direct to hospital in London. After several more weeks she was taken by ambulance to her home. Even then, her right side was paralysed, she was unable to speak and her twisted mouth dribbled constantly. Yet by sheer force of will, she taught herself to speak and walk again, and other basic skills. Her recovery could never be complete, as she could only walk with a limp and would never be able to play her beloved ‘cello again.
Perhaps not surprisingly, she missed the British Championship at Eastbourne, but was well enough to play in the Challengers “A” at Paignton in September and incredibly just missed out on a prize, scoring 4/7 points. Thereafter, in 1974 she recommenced her annual participation in the British Ladies Championship, right up to the mid-1980s, though she generally struggled to reach a 50% score, age and infirmity taking their toll.
She was elected President of both the Devon Association and the West of England Chess Union (1965-66). The Bruces’ joint contribution to chess at all levels was widely recognised and they were awarded the B.C.F.’s President’s Award in only its second year, 1984.
Their daughter, now Rona Ross-Bryant, had given them three grandchildren, Emma, Kate and Toby.
Rowena and husband Ron continued to live a busy round of chess events; club nights, matches, congresses, championships, etc. and as if this were not enough, they were expert and regular bridge players, though on a strictly non-competitive basis. In later life, not unnaturally, she was generally happy to settle for quiet draw rather than have to endure a long tense struggle. As her husband often said, when a player at a county match almost apologetically reported a draw, “I don’t mind the draws – it’s the losses I can’t stand!”
Ron, constant support in chess since the age of 10, eventually died in April 1990, aged 86, but she stayed on in the family home of Brent Whim in Mannamead, Plymouth, until she began to suffer a series of mini-strokes, and she died there on 24th April 1999 at the age of 84.
Her chess belongings, mostly a couple of clocks and fancy sets, were sold at a specialist auction in London. Her special autographed board was bought for £900 by Terence Chapman, who in turn presented it to Gary Kasparov on the occasion of their challenge match.
The steely determination with which she followed her chess career and her recovery from serious illness belied her gentle nature; she was a modest, kind and gracious person who always thought the best of others.
For a further dimension on the couple’s chess legacy read Ron’s own biography on this site.
Various BCMs and Chess magazines.
Klein E & Winter W: The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess match Pitman 1947
Tiller, T: Chess Treasury of the Air Penguin 1966.
Testimony of Rona Ross-Bryant.
Photographs: Collection of Rona Ross-Bryant except where stated otherwise.
© R. H. Jones 2010. All rights reserved.