Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2016

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.

Christine Brown

Our former Ladies’ Champion and dear friend Chrissie Brown passed away on the 16th of May, aged 90. Civil celebrant, Mandy Applegate, and Chrissie’s family have kindly given permission for this obituary to be heavily based on Chrissie’s funeral service, which was written by Mandy.

Chrissie was born Christine Mary Johnson on the 25th December 1925 in Cheltenham to William and Rosetta. She was sister to Eunice and Desmond. When Chrissie was just seven years old she contracted measles which resulted in her going blind. She attended the Westbury on Trym school for the blind where she remained until she was 21 years old. The school taught their pupils skills that would help them gain employment and Chrissie’s skill was using a knitting machine. Eunice still has a pair of socks that Chrissie made for her all of those years ago.

Sadly Chrissie lost both her mother and her brother so when she came home from school she stayed with her sister, Eunice, and brother in law, Bill. She lived with them for 13 years. Eunice can’t ever remember having a cross word with her sister. Eunice says that Chrissie really changed when she got her first guide dog and became independent. Prior to that Eunice had been her guide dog!

When Chrissie was at school so too was Bob, but they didn’t meet each other until a school reunion. Bob won a game of ‘Penny in a Cup’ and took Chrissie for a drink. In the following year he started visiting her. Chrissie was older than Bob and everyone said it wouldn’t last more than six months. In January 1959 Bob proposed and luckily Chrissie said ‘Yes’. They were married in the October and went on honeymoon to Weymouth. This year they would have celebrated 57 years of marriage, which isn’t bad for a couple that was only given six months!

On Chrissie and Bob’s 30th wedding anniversary Penny and her husband, Ken, took them back to Weymouth without saying where they were going. When they arrived and told them where they were Chrissie broke down in tears. She was so happy to revisit where she’d been on honeymoon.

Chrissie and Bob worked incredibly hard to buy their first house. They became the proud parents of Penny, and Bob has wonderful memories of happy days when they’d all go out for a walk together. Chrissie would have one hand on Penny’s pram and the other would be holding Bell’s lead. They’d have such nice times walking and chatting.

Penny says that Chrissie was a wonderful mum. She was very practical, she worked, she looked after Penny, she did all of the housework and she was most definitely the boss over Bob! Penny remembers how the knitting machine would be set up in the corner of the dining room and she’d busily make socks. Penny and Ken still have the original sign that Chrissie hung outside her house ‘Mrs C Brown; Machine Knitter, Orders Taken’.

Chrissie was a wonderful cook and her Christmas dinners for twelve people were legendary. She’d make all the mince pies before the big day. Every Friday she’d make a roast dinner and the family would ask ‘What’s for dinner?’ to which she’d reply either ‘Meat!’ or ‘A muck up!’ It wasn’t all plain sailing though. There were cups of tea without the tea and a lovely salad sandwich which was actually a cabbage sandwich, but Bob ate it anyway!

Chrissie thought the world of her son in law, Ken, and was like a second mum to him. Chrissie also became a proud nan to Joe, whom she loved very much. Chrissie very much loved her nieces and nephews & great, great nieces and nephews. Among these is Matthew Williams, who is also a member of the BCA. She was one of those people that never forgot an occasion and sent a card.

At least once a year they’d go on holiday to places like Ireland, Scotland, Wales or Switzerland. Chrissie was never afraid to try something new. She rode in the cable car up Ben Nevis and said that even though she couldn’t see the view she could soak up the atmosphere. She commented that when everyone looked at the view from the top, it was like they were in church because everyone spoke in hushed tones. In Cornwall she didn’t think twice at all the walking up the side of hills and down narrow paths. She was a determined lady!

In the early 1990s Chrissie had not yet taken up chess, but she had many friends who played and were members of the BCA. Chrissie received her first annual membership of association as a gift from two of those friends and she began to learn the game. She was assisted by Bob, who had learnt chess at school, and coached by fellow Cheltenham resident, Colin Chambers. Chrissie quickly became hooked and her game went from strength to strength until she became Ladies Champion at the BCA British Championship in Morecambe in 2005! She regretted that she hadn’t learned to play earlier, and who knows what she might have achieved had she done so. She taught her grandson, Joe, to play the game at a young age.

Chrissie will be remembered for being a small lady with a huge determination to live her life to the full. She liked to laugh and always put herself out for others. She was the person you could always turn to if you had troubles. She never complained and was fiercely independent for as long as possible. She was a wonderful wife, sister, mum, nan and aunt and will be hugely missed by everyone who knew and loved her, including her many friends in the BCA.

Editor’s note: It is hoped that there will be pieces in memory of Kathy Cash and Steve Brown in the November issue. Please contact me if you would like to contribute any details towards an article on either Kathy or Steve.