Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - November 2007

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

Obituary for Peter Price

Peter “Dai” Price died on June 25, three days before his 76th birthday. During the last six months of his life, punctuated as they were by periods of illness, serious surgical intervention, periods of recovery and relapse, he never gave up his belief that he would eventually recover.

Peter Price was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the youngest of three, the brother Edward and the sister Ruth who survive him. He was born blind, and his parents realised early that his best chance lay in being educated by people who were trained to prepare children for a life without sight. At the age of three he became the first toddler to join the newly opened unit at Chorleywood College, soon to be joined by John Wall, John Way, Tony Debonnaire and others. All of them passed on to Worcester College at the end of the ‘thirties, Peter in 1939.

It is said that people who spend their formative years in institutions away from their families, develop properties which make it difficult for them to fit easily into the social fabric. It is a tribute to the loving care of his family that Peter’s continuous absence from home, apart from holidays, for sixteen years had no adverse effects on his personality. He early developed and never lost his conviction that a large part of one’s life should be devoted to helping others. What certainly helped to keep the family together was the parents’ decision to have both siblings boarded in schools at Worcester, Edward at the King’s School and Ruth at the Alice Ottley.

As Peter grew up, he became increasingly engaged in non-academic activities at the college, particularly chess and rowing, the latter to be continued at the Mortlake Rowing Club, while he studied and worked in London. He also joined the college band as a trombonist.

In 1949 Peter entered the RNIB school of physiotherapy, qualifying in 1952. Afterwards he worked at the Central Middlesex Hospital and at a private practice in Knightsbridge. In 1965 he received a call from his school friend and colleague Keith Hallam to join a private practice recently established in Edgbaston, Birmingham, where he was to spend the rest of his professional life. The practice was founded by Bernard Thomas who became the physiotherapist attached to MCC touring parties. Their experience in treating sports injuries gained them a national reputation, and the practice eventually supplied services to the Wimbledon lawn tennis championships, the Warwickshire County Cricket Club and the Edgbaston Golf Club. Soon after settling down in Birmingham, Peter stood for and was elected to the Council of the Association of Blind Chartered Physiotherapists on which he served for many years, ending up as vice-president.

In 1962 Peter befriended Joy who was working as a radiographer in London and in 1966 they married. However, within a year or two Joy became ill. Reluctantly, Peter let her go, and she died some years later.

Peter’s retirement from work in 2000 coincided with the closure of the clinic. Most people put their feet up on retirement and devote themselves to their hobbies. Not so Dai Price. Ever since his move to Birmingham he had done voluntary work for the local blind society, Focus on Blindness, helping people beginning to lose their sight to come to terms with their problems. By the time of his retirement, having already been a member of the board for many years, he volunteered to relieve the switchboard operator for half a day every day throughout the week – without any additional training – a commitment from which even the onset of age-related deafness could not deter him. This, of course, put him in direct contact with people who needed help, and with his vast experience of blind welfare and targeted technology, he was able to give them the advice they needed.

For years Peter’s mellifluous voice had been familiar to listeners of Birmingham’s Talking Newspaper; now he was asked to join the committee as well. His love of literature and fluency in reading Braille made the “poetry corner” he regularly organised in Birmingham and at meetings he attended, an event to be remembered. After the Disability Discrimination Act was passed, Peter became much in demand for reading reports from all kinds of authorities and organisations right across the country on tape, making him a celebrity in the world of the visually impaired, like the familiar voices on BBC radio, always heard and never seen.

In the 1980’s he rediscovered his love of chess and joined a local chess club and the Braille Chess association, taking an active part in its schedule of over-the-board tournaments and postal competitions. He also became the editor of its gazette, and during his editorship it doubled its frequency from two to four a year. As well as chess news, he always found space for word games, another of his hobbies.

Even if one accepts that no one who is able to live a normal life without sight is just an “ordinary person”, Peter was remarkable in that he never allowed any of the twists of fortune that befell him to change his philosophy. His passing will leave a gap in the lives of not just his relatives and friends but also of many people throughout the country. I would like to leave the last word to someone who met him late in life and speaks for all of us and them.

“This is a sad occasion. Peter was a true and learned gentleman. Through his editorship of the BCA Gazette, his kindly and cheerful spirit was able to reach out to all of the BCA. He will be universally and sadly missed.

Peter was the first opponent I ever played at a BCA event in a ‘friendly’ game with clocks. Afterwards when we were going over it together, his love and deep appreciation of the game of chess shone through. It also became quickly apparent to me that he had a wonderful love of life generally – it was rare to see him without a smile on his face – and he also had a deep understanding of his other main hobby, namely music.

Peter was unfailingly cheerful and always had a good and often apt word to say, whatever the occasion. Similarly no-one ever had a bad word to say about him. Perhaps it was appropriate that he should have lived in St. Peters Road in Birmingham.

Let us rejoice that we knew Peter. I am sure that in Heaven Peter will be rejoicing that he knew us. Peter was that sort of man. I shall miss Peter greatly, and I know many of you will too. Hans Cohn and Juliet Reeve.

Editor’s note: Peter remembered the BCA in his will, leaving several chess sets and a couple of chess clocks to the BCA. The committee felt they would like the sets and clocks to go where they were most needed. If you feel you might benefit from them, please contact Norman Wragg.