Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2010

Sponsored by Sean O'Brien
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 Brian Perham

We were all sad to learn that Brian Perham died on the 10th April 2010 after a long battle with cancer.

Jan and I, along with dozens of other friends, family and admirers, attended the funeral of Brian Perham on 22nd April. I thought you might like to share the tribute which was written by Brian's two daughters, Alison and Vanessa, and read out during the funeral ceremony. It sums up Brian and his remarkable character better than I could do. Our sincere condolences go to Alison, Vanessa and the seven grandchildren.

It is incredibly difficult to sum up a person in just a few words but we’ll start with the facts. Brian was born on 3rd February 1935 in Hackney to Fred and Florrie and older brother also named Fred. As a result of inherent glaucoma, he didn’t start school until the age of 7 but was fortunate enough to attend the Royal Worcester School for the Blind and subsequently went on to Magdalen College, Oxford to read Law. After completing his Articles, he joined the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society in 1960 and married Shirley, whom he called Sue, in 1961. Two daughters followed: Ali in 1962 and Nessa in 1965 and then, in turn, seven grandchildren.

But now Brian as we knew him. Articulate, idiosyncratic, a tremendous hoarder, humane, modest, capable of great acts of generosity, droll with a keen sense of the absurd. Gregarious, intellectual and enjoying philosophical debate, incisive but at the same time, hugely indecisive; seeing all sides of any argument, often making a decision impossible. Completely lacking the comfort gene and a disciple of Heath Robinson, he would use an elastic band and a paper clip in any situation. He could be pedantic. He had a great love of music with an eclectic taste ranging from classical to Flanders & Swan and Tom Lehrer, and had a melodic voice, was a master of the understatement but above all, was independent, with the desire to seize all opportunities.

Google Brian and his name pops up on numerous charities including the RNIB, National Federation for the Blind, Lawyers with Disabilities and SOVIL and more locally, the Portal Group, campaigning for equal access to facilities and public amenities. This desire to facilitate equal access for all was fundamental to Brian’s character being essentially an immensely fair man with a strong sense of justice. The Internet also reveals Brian’s chess prowess. He was a member of the Braille Chess Association, actively competing both at home and abroad until recent years, and he passed this love on to his grandchildren, teaching them the game but never letting them win!

Brian was happy with his own company listening to the radio or music but unfailingly convivial, he also sought every opportunity to socialise; wine, food and good company being a cornerstone of his life. Whilst his preference would be for good wine and food, he wasn’t averse to making his own beer which periodically exploded from the airing cupboard pervading Nessa’s childhood bedroom with the smell of hops!

Brian’s legacy to us is a shared sense of humour and irony, the importance of mutual affection and respect, friendship and trust and a love of Radio 4. He was a good friend and the children absorbed from an early age that all of us are different, each unique, learning the value of tolerance and care. Perhaps the best way to sum Brian up is in his own words. When first diagnosed with bowel cancer and facing surgery, he commented: “a semicolon is one thing, but a full stop is just that.”