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 Jan Lovell

Janet Isabel Burdin, known as Jan, was born in the historic market town of Pontefract on 9th December 1932. Shortly afterwards the family moved to the nearby town of Knottingley. Whilst she was still young it was discovered Jan had an eye defect which left her with very restricted vision. Jan went to a local school, where she passed her 11 plus to the local grammar school. The head mistress, however, decided she could not cope with a pupil with so little sight in her school. This left her parents with the uncomfortable decision to send her to a special school for the blind where she was required to board. Jan went to Chorley Wood College for blind and partially sighted girls in Hertfordshire. She was very unhappy there, and after two attempts at running away her parents removed her. She then went to the Royal National College for the Blind in Shrewsbury, where she settled well and created many friendships, some of them she sustained for the rest of her life.

Jan passed an RSA diploma in shorthand typing and secured employment with Remploy, whose aim was to assist disabled people into employment. From there she moved on to work at Wakefield’s architect department doing similar work. Around her late 20's Jan felt she wanted to do something more fulfilling so she trained for the home teachers course at Headingley Castle College in Leeds. She gained the CTB qualification, which gave her similar status to today’s social workers. She worked in this capacity in Wakefield where, at that time she was living with her first husband, Desmond.

Jan met Stan in 1969 when she was a delegate at the annual delegate conference of the National Federation of the Blind, which Stan was coordinating. A friendship formed which, in time, developed into a relationship, and saw them set up home together in 1972. At this time money was scarce, so Jan obtained work in her original capacity as a shorthand typist at British Petroleum in Harlow, where Jan and Stan had relocated.

Jan crammed a lot into her life, and she enjoyed a number of roles, including: Being a presenter on BBC Radio Leeds, hosting a programme for visually impaired listeners. For many years she assisted Stan organising many tournaments for the Braille Chess Association, both at home and abroad. She was awarded for her commitment by being made an Honorary Life member of the BCA. Another of Jan's passions was her work on the RNIB's holiday homes committee, where she was instrumental in helping to upgrade and modernise their holiday venues. She would visit the various holiday homes, later known as ‘hotels’, reporting back on how they could be improved. Another notable example of Jan's pioneering work involved her going into Wakefield prison to teach the long term prisoners Braille, so they could, in return, transcribe printed material into Braille. It was one of the first units of its kind in Britain.

In 1977 Jan and Stan went on a small cruise around some of the Greek islands. This was the beginning of their love of Greece. They returned many times, often twice a year. In the mid 1990’s they discovered the little island of Tilos, which became their favourite holiday destination. Thereafter they became regular visitors.

Jan had many interests including music, reading, the theatre and doing crosswords. She enjoyed listening to the radio rather than watching television, but she always looked forward to Wimbledon and she enjoyed quiz programmes and travel and nature programmes. Her favourite radio programmes were the last night at the proms and she loved the New Year’s Day concert transmitted live from Vienna.

Jan and Stan enjoyed cooking and shared the duties. Jan enjoyed her G & T before her meal and a generous glass of red wine or Retsina with the meal.

Stan received dozens of emails, many having similar themes, touching on how popular Jan was, her love of life, her sense of humour, her infectious laugh and love of people and her pleasure in helping them.

Jan was a special person who could relate to people regardless of age, culture or background. She will be missed by her family and friends, but she will be remembered with love and affection.

Jan was admitted into hospital on 6th June, after a short illness. On 12th June she was transferred into St. Catherine’s Hospice where she died peacefully on 15th June. The funeral was held at Woodlands Crematorium, Scarborough on Monday 3rd July. Around 80 people, including 11 BCA members, attended the funeral ceremony and the tea provided at Plaxton Court afterwards.