Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - November 2014

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

Obituary for Lucy Walsh

Co-written by Gerry Walsh and Julie Leonard.

On the evening of June 19th, shortly before the final whistle in the England v Italy World Cup match, the BCA lost a much loved associate member when Lucy Walsh (Gerry’s Mam) passed away quietly at home. Active until the last, Lucy had put out her shoes and coat at half time ready to take the dogs for a walk when the football finished. Alas it was not meant to be. Her heart simply stopped beating and she departed this life peacefully, holding Gerry’s hand.

When asked her age, Lucy’s favourite retort used to be, “Come to my funeral and look on the lid!” She was blessed with a long life of 94 years and she lived it to the full. Her family and friends were of paramount importance to her. It was during the war, while serving drinks in a social club, that Lucy met the love of her life, Jim. Shortly after that, Lucy took a job at a local theatre, serving in the artists’ bar, where she met some of the great names of the day, including Old Mother Riley and a very young comedy duo by the name of Morecambe and Wise. Lucy was so highly regarded at the theatre that when she and Jim married in 1941 the members of the orchestra offered to play at their wedding reception. Many people had little to celebrate during those bleak war years, but Lucy and Jim’s wedding stood out in people’s memories as a truly joyful occasion.

Lucy and Jim worked hard and raised their family. In 1969 they moved to the house which would be Lucy’s home for the remainder of her days. By the early l970s, Jim’s work at the local steel works had taken its toll and he retired due to ill health. In order to top up the family income, Lucy began a college course in English, Business Studies and Typing. She proved to be a model student and passed the final exam with an unprecedented 100%! British Steel happened to be looking for a new secretary at the time and contacted the college to find a suitable candidate. On hearing of Lucy’s success, they lost no time in offering her the position.

In 1978, tragedy struck when Lucy’s beloved Jim died, aged just 63. The pain of this loss never left Lucy, but she did not allow it to dampen her spirits for long. She remained vivacious and was always busy, even after her own retirement in 1980. Lucy’s many interests included lawn bowls, which she played at county level. She relished new challenges and tried her hand at a wide range of artistic pastimes such as painting, and making porcelain dolls. She was exceptionally talented when it came to her handicrafts and among her many beautiful creations were some exquisite eggs, intricately decorated in the style of Fabergé.

Unusually for a teetotaller, Lucy loved her Gin and Tonic. However, Lucy’s Gin and Tonic came not in a glass, but on the end of a lead; they were her two pet dogs! When the original pair passed away Lucy missed them so much that she replaced them with two new dogs, named after their predecessors. The cycle was repeated so it could be said that Lucy was on her third Gin and Tonic!

Lucy’s first BCA event was the Golden Jubilee in Hastings, April 1982. She had been to the town on previous occasions for the annual international Grandmaster tournament, where Gerry officiated as an arbiter. Those events always started just after Christmas, when the temperatures were often extremely wintry, and Lucy had been looking forward to visiting Hastings in better weather. She loved the fortnight and soon afterwards began to attend BCA weekend events on a regular basis.

Overseas travel was something that Lucy enjoyed immensely, so on a number of occasions she took the opportunity to go to Haaksbergen and Dublin to attend events where BCA members were taking part. During Lucy’s first visit to a Dublin tournament, there was a memorable night when two Braille chess friends and Gerry were up late sampling some whiskey in Lucy’s room while she was sitting in bed putting in her hair pins! After returning home, Lucy delighted in joking with her friends that she had had three men in her bedroom! On subsequent visits to Dublin, Lucy took great pleasure from the lively singsongs in which many of our talented Irish friends participated. It was during a Dublin tournament that Olly Leonard drove Lucy and Gerry to Sligo with the intention of finding the hamlet where Lucy’s father had grown up in the late nineteenth century. By the end of the day, not only had the exact house where Lucy’s father spent his childhood been located, but a first cousin of Lucy’s had been traced and found living in a nursing home nearby. Until that day, the two cousins had been unaware of each other’s existence. When they met for the first time, they shared their recollections of family stories passed down over the years and it was a very moving encounter.

Lucy especially approved of the way in which BCA events are held in different towns from year to year, as it provided her with many shopping opportunities! A particular favourite was a hotel in Grantham, which laid on a bus service to and from the local shopping centre. Lucy also enjoyed the BCA Bring & Buy Sales, where she was always on the lookout for a bargain! Not being a chess player herself, Lucy valued the social side of the BCA and she made a great many friends in the association.

A number of times, Lucy remarked to Gerry that he would probably be the only mourner at her funeral. However, it was clear that she was much dearer to people than she herself realised so it was no surprise that her Requiem Mass was very well attended. A lifelong devout Roman Catholic, Lucy would have felt honoured that not one, but three priests presided over the occasion. The mourners included BCA friends Julie Leonard, Stan Lovell and David Welch. The service ended with a recording of “The Last Rose of Summer”, played by André Rieu. Lucy had enjoyed listening to this piece of music every evening in the months leading up to her passing. Therefore, it seems fitting to conclude with a couple of lines from the poem by Irish poet, Thomas Moore, for which the music was composed:

“Since the lovely are sleeping,

Go, sleep thou with them.”

RIP Lucy, reunited with Jim after 36 years.