Reflections from Downend

Today we welcome yet another new columnist to the Bristol Chess Times, Ian Pickup from Downend & Fishponds CC. Sparked from a conversation over email, Ian has been collating and writing up amusing anecdotes from his 53yrs spent playing for the club. You couldn’t make some of this stuff up…

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Downend play an annual match against Pentrych CC, this shot is from 1999.  A host of excellent images and historical references for the club can be found on Downends website (editors note – ECF 2017 Website of the year) 

In 1950 the Downend club, as it then was, in its very first year of existence, decided it needed a motto and “Fortiter et Recte” came into being. The minute book shows that it was conceived by a Dr A M Maiden and, browsing the internet out of curiosity, I found that he was none other than the author of “A system of judging flavour in bread” for the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology in 1936. Fame indeed! Beat that if you can!

Around that time a veteran player from Clifton joined Downend. According to Ken Cleak’s history for the League’s 75th year anniversary, W J Matthews was “our king pin who taught us all the rudiments of strategy, the strength of the pieces, what the ‘opposition’ was all about and much else.” Michael Wood recounted many anecdotes from the 1950s, one of which told of Mr Matthews’ trip to Charfield to play Mr A I H Weaver in an individual tournament. Henry Weaver had been the prime mover of Charfield Chess Club, “The largest rural chess club in the Empire” for decades. WJM arrived in Charfield one bleak Saturday afternoon to find he was unexpected. “Oh dear, I am not ready to play you.” said Henry. “But I’ve come all this way, surely we can play?” “Oh, very well but I shall have to change into my chess playing attire.” An hour or two later, with the host in his tweed jacket with the leather patches, WJM was clearly winning when Henry announced it was time for tea. “But I must catch the last train back to Bristol.” “No, it must be tea first.” The written word cannot adequately convey the humour in Michael’s re-telling but I do believe that WJM got his win. In the 1960s, several D&F members and some from other Bristol clubs used to join the festivities at the Charfield Christmas Party. Who can forget the fun and games and the singing with resident accompanist, B K Booty at the piano? WJM’s widow was our much loved Vice President for many years after he passed away.

It was “Downend and Fishponds” by the time I joined in 1964, when still at BGS. I managed to persuade Michael and Mike Passmore to come one evening for a tandem simultaneous. The results are lost in the mists of time but what is never to be forgotten is the suggestion, in front of the master in charge, that I should join them at the pub afterwards!

Peter Millener, our Treasurer for several years in the sixties and seventies, worked for a firm of ships agents and when a Russian freighter was stranded in the Royal Portbury Dock because of some administrative hitch, he arranged for us to play the crew, home and away. The trip on board was memorable for the hospitality and the quality of the Napoleon brandy chasers in the Captain’s cabin meant that not much of the chess remains on record. The following week we welcomed them to the Portcullis and amused ourselves trying to figure out which members of the team were in reality KGB minders.

Those were the days!


ianpickup

Ian Pickup

After leaving school Ian trained as an accountant, therefore missing his true vocation, to take over from John Arlott as the BBC cricket correspondent.

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