Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2018

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.

Geoffrey Ronald Patching 1924-2018

The following piece is based on a eulogy written by Geoff’s stepson, Mike, and given at the funeral by the local Methodist Minister, Paul Benney. Grateful thanks to Mike for providing it and giving us permission to use it.

Geoff was born on the 17th of November 1924 at Ashington in West Sussex. When Geoff was only eight years old his father died and just two years later Geoff’s older brother passed away as well. It must have been a hard time for Geoff and his Mum but they were part of an extended family living in Sussex with numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. All through his life Geoff thought of himself as a Sussex boy. He was a life-long supporter of Brighton and Hove football club! He even chose the unofficial county anthem “Sussex by the Sea” for his funeral.

Geoff was of an age when he would have fought in the Second World War but his eyesight problems were already prevalent so he was not recruited for active service. Probably rather serving in the Home Guard.

Geoff trained as a civil engineer and worked in Torquay before moving to Swindon in the early 1960’s. It was there that he met Margaret. They married in 1969 and Geoff became a stepfather to Margaret’s eleven year old son, Mike. The family set up home in Marlborough.

Geoff loved cycling and did drive as a young man before his eyesight stopped him. He retained an encyclopaedic knowledge of the UK road system in his head which used to cause a few arguments in the car when Margaret was driving. She had to point out the roads he remembered no longer existed! However only a few years ago Mike was taking him to a hotel in Paignton and got lost and Geoff was still able to work out where they were and what road should be taken.

One of the songs chosen by Geoff for his funeral was The Happy Wanderer: “I love to go a wandering along the mountain track, and as I go I love to sing my knapsack on my back!” Geoff loved walking and Mike remembers going out with him for Sunday rambles in Wiltshire with the local Rambling Club. When Mike was in his teens the family had a couple of couple of enjoyable summer holidays walking in the Austrian Alps with Margaret struggling to keep up!

Geoff had to retire early due to his eyesight which was unfortunate as he genuinely loved his job working as a water engineer in Swindon but he always kept busy. First moving to Devizes and doing up two houses and gardens with Margaret before she made him up sticks once again and move to Cornwall twenty years ago. Even then in his early seventies with very poor eyesight they first lived in a flat in Marazion and then took on a newly built house with a massive garden in Kenneggy before finally settling at Squirrels Heath in Perran Downs.

Apart from all the work on these houses and gardens Geoff loved to travel and went on many holidays around the world both with Margaret and also on his own. At home he was always off on his own by public transport all over the UK to go to chess tournaments.

He also loved mathematics and physics and often travelled to courses on these and many other subjects. He also loved singing. He never let his poor eyesight stop him from taking part in activities whenever he could including gliding, llama trekking and regularly sailing at St Mawes.

Geoff loved chess and he had an incredible ability to play chess in his head when he could no longer see a board. Right up to the end he was still playing four or five games remotely with other blind people by sending taped recordings of the game back and forth by post.

Sadly when Margaret died three years ago Geoff could no longer cope at home in Squirrels Heath so moved into Courtlands Care Home where he spent the last two and a half years being well looked after. I remember when he was in hospital for a few weeks all he wanted to do was get back to his room and the staff who looked after him and he referred to it as ‘home’. He listened to the radio following all the football and cricket, played chess, listened to his audio books and music tapes and kept up with all the news.

One thing about Geoff was that whatever life threw at him he never, never complained. He could be a bit argumentative and grumpy but I think all of us will remember him as a man who was basically decent and kind. He was also fiercely determined and independent never letting his disabilities get the better of him.

Geoff attended Goldsithney Methodist church and subsequently became a faithful member of the little congregation at Courtlands. The final piece of music he chose for his funeral was “Climb Every Mountain”, which reflects Geoff’s love of climbing but more than that his attitude to life and its knocks. Make the best and overcome until you find your dream.

He had a long and interesting life and will be remembered. He died on the 13th of May 2018 age 93.

Geoff’s close BCA friend, Richard Harrington, adds:

Geoff Patching, a long-standing member of the BCA, has died at the age of ninety three. I first got to know him when I joined the association in the early 1990's and we immediately became close friends. His tremendous enthusiasm for chess quickly made its mark on me. Whenever coaching was available at tournaments, he would be there making comments on board positions. He regularly attended the annual theme break at Windermere Manor and was a regular winner of the handicap tournaments that take place after the coaching sessions. He was a keen contributor to soirée events with his rendering of Cornish folk songs.

Outside of chess he was an active walker and always got to know his way around the locality where a tournament was being played. With this in mind he was always ready to take people out for a stroll. He loved to take part in quizzes and was a very useful member of a team because of his boundless knowledge.

Although he lived at the southern tip of Cornwall, he would always travel to tournaments wherever they were held. A truly dedicated member of BCA who will be sadly missed.

Editor’s note: A sad loss indeed. In addition to BCA events, Geoff was also active in mainstream chess. One of my own favourite memories of Geoff was when I bumped into him quite by chance at the Stroud Quickplay in the 1990s. We had a chat and he told me about another tournament he had played in recently where he had scored 0 from 7 games. I was about to commiserate with him, but there was a twinkle in Geoff’s eye which halted me. He went on to say how much he had enjoyed the event and how pleased he was with that result because he felt that he had given of his best against much stronger opposition. What a tremendous attitude! RIP Geoff.