Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - January 1999

Edited by Peter Price
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.



It was with great sadness that we heard of the death, on the morning of 4th October, of Pat O'Brien, at the age of 64. Pat had been unwell for some months, but because she continued to give generously of her time and diminishing energies for BCA work, few members realised how ill she was. Pat played chess a little, but she will be chiefly remembered by all of us for her unstinting help to Sean and his colleagues on the tournament sub-committee over more than twenty years. Pat's special gift lay in attending to the complex accommodation requirements of ever larger BCA parties, necessitating the use of very large hotels. The layout of these can be bewildering to blind people at first. Pat appreciated this and, though generally busy and without full sight herself, would always offer assistance where she saw it was needed. She loved shopping and sightseeing, with the other non-chess-playing wives, in the various towns we visited, but she was always primarily there for Sean, to help him with BCA work. She will also be sorely missed at fund-raising events, where she always seemed to be everywhere at once, making herself useful.

Chess is only one of many interests that Pat and Sean shared during the 36 years of their happy marriage. One of these was their voluntary work for the benefit of blind people in their home area of Merton. Staff from the Merton Voluntary Society for the Blind helped Sean to make the funeral arrangements, and the whole day was a celebration of Pat's life, the only miserable element being the weather. It was wonderful to see such a large number of people from the locality, as well as some of our own members. The service was sensitively conducted, and Pat's love of piano music was reflected in the inclusion of a Chopin waltz, and of a recording made for Pat by Peter, the pianist from the Guide Dogs Association Hotel in Teignmouth. Pat owed this love of the piano to her mother, a fine pianist who died during the war, who would be glad to know that Pat retained it for so many year

As well as floral tributes, which would have delighted Pat, donations were made in her memory to the BCA and to the local Guardian Centre for the Blind.

Our hearts go out to Sean at what is inevitably a difficult time. I know he can count on many friends in the BCA if he needs help, and he is keen to get back to BCA business in due course. This is something that Pat, one of the most tireless workers the BCA has ever had, would understand.

Clare Gailans.