Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2017

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 Derek Spink

Derek’s son, Keith, writes:

Dad passed away on the 23rd of May, aged 80. Throughout Dad's life, including to the end, he was a fighter. He would never let disability, blindness and in later life dementia, stop him enjoying the life he wanted to lead. He was certainly an inspiration to many, in particular to myself.

In addition to Chelsea FC, I would say that chess was a real passion of Dad's. He played loads of cassette based chess games, and loved it. It was his nightly routine once home from work. Dad also attended BCA tournaments and had a talking chess computer, just in case he ran out of cassette chess games!

Sadly, the loss of my Mum, Joan, in February 2010 was the turning point in Dad's life. He lost interest in everything, including chess and never recovered from this. In February 2013 Dad started suffering from dementia.

About fifteen years ago Dad made an audio recording in which he spoke about things that he had done in his life up to that time. Here is what he said about chess and the Braille Chess Association:

“In 1976 I helped to get the steering committee together for the Greenwich talking newspaper. A woman on the committee said a chap at Eltham wants to teach blind people chess. I was just coming up to 40. So I went along, and this chap said, do this, do that, do this, do that. I didn't have a clue whatsoever what to do. But he said I was doing really well. I went to work next day, got a Braille book and a printed book and a colleague and I went through it every day until I eventually started beating him at chess.

“Then I joined Barclays staff. A woman accountant said to me after a few months there, that I should play in the inhouse chess tournament. I entered the bottom section, the no-hopers section, and I won it on 3.5 points out of 4, and I got a nice trophy. Since then I have won three trophies.

“The Braille Chess Association goes to Holland every year and I've won several medals in that tournament.

“I joined the Braille Chess Association in about 1980 and I have been around the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland, France, Ireland. I play in sighted tournaments as well. I'm not the greatest of standards as I took it up too late, but I enjoy the game.”

BCA member, Martyn Wilson, writes:

On the 14th of June, myself, Richard Harrington and Jim Cuthbert from the BCA attended Derek Spink’s funeral at the Eltham crematorium in South East London.

It was a humanist celebration of Derek’s life presented by his son Keith. It opened with the Chelsea song Blue is the colour. Many of you will know that Derek was a massive Chelsea fan to say the least. Then Keith spoke for a few minutes about his dad, then there was a recording made by Derek about 15 years ago in which he spoke about things he had done in his life so far. Keith concluded by summing up his feelings about his dad and thanked us all for coming and wearing something blue as requested.

Afterwards we attended the wake at the local Harvester where there was a buffet and drink at which we met other friends we hadn’t seen for a while and also met some members of Derek’s family. About 30 people came to the event and I am sure we all recalled our own memories of Derek.

I used to work with Derek in Barclays Bank for a couple of years until he took early retirement in 1993 and I knew him before that when he used to organise the London social events for the Association of Visually Handicapped Telephonists back in the 1980s. He introduced Richard Harrington to the BCA in 1991.