Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - November 2018

Sponsored by Geoff Patching
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.

RIP Mike Meaney 21st August 1940 – 20th July 2018

Philip Doyle writes:

Our friend and colleague Michael Meaney passed away on Friday 20th July 2018 after a long illness. Mike had been a member of the BCA for many years. He attended events on several occasions and was a regular at the Windermere Theme Break. He also took part in the Irish Open Tournaments and organised two of the most successful in his native Limerick. In recent years Mike was an enthusiastic participant in email and Skype tournaments. This is hardly surprising since it brought together two of his chief interests, computer technology and the Royal game.

Sean Loftus recollects:

I got to know Mike when he came to St. Mary’s school for the blind in Merrion, Dublin, in early 1946. He had some degree of vision at that time, but this was not enough to allow him to read print and he was very happy to learn Braille and to read it by touch. He and I moved at the same time to St. Joseph’s boys’ school for the blind in Drumcondra, Dublin, in 1951. When we returned from our summer holidays five years later, Mike had become totally blind. By then some of us had learnt the basics of chess, but there was no competitive element and interest soon faded.

By the time Ernie and I joined the BCA in 1960, Mike had become very interested in music. He pretty well taught himself to play the accordion and his ability as an entertainer soon came to the fore.

At the end of 1960 Mike moved back to his home city of Limerick and took up employment with the local health board as a telephonist. He joined Limerick Chess Club where he was a popular member for many decades. In the 70's, when athletics became an option for blind people, Mike became a regular competitor in events such as the shot, discus and javelin.

Philip Doyle adds:

In the 1980s Mike was B1 Irish Champion discus thrower and shot putter. He also competed for Ireland at the 1981 and 1983 European Athletics Championships. In 1990, Mike represented Ireland in the IBCA World Individual Chess Championship in Wunsiedel, Germany.

Mike was a former Chairman of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and a former guide dog owner who trained in England in the 60's and later at Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

But well ahead of any of Mike’s many talents and achievements came his musical prowess, be it with accordion or guitar. We all remember his wonderful voice and the songs that could have us close to tears or in stitches of laughter. Who for example can forget his rendition of "Paddy's Sick Note"? That song, together with other favourites such as “I’m My Own Grandpa” and “Piddling Pete” brought the house down at the BCA’s 70th Anniversary celebration in York in 2002 where Mike generously provided the entertainment. At that event and so many others, he was often seen surrounded by his admiring fellow BCA artists, which was a further indication of the esteem in which he was held.

May he rest in peace.

John Toothill (Grade 184) – Michael Meaney (Grade 64), French Fort Knox

Simultaneous display, Windermere, 27th January 2012

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bd7 5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. 0-0 Be7 8. Re1 Ngf6 9. c4 0-0 10. a3 Bxe4

11. Bxe4 Nxe4 12. Rxe4 Nf6 13. Re1 c5 14. Be3 Qc7 15. Rc1 h6 16. Qa4 Rad8 17. Red1 Ng4 18. h3 Nxe3

19. fxe3 b6 20. Ne5 Bg5 21. Kf2 cxd4 22. Ng4 dxe3+ 23. Kg1 Qc5 24. Kh1 e2 25. Rxd8 Bxc1 White resigns 0-1

Editor’s note:

Mike has given his many friends in the BCA so many wonderful memories to cherish; his music, his sense of humour, but above all his friendship. We will miss him very much indeed.

On behalf of us all, sincere condolences to Mike’s wife Eileen, daughters Aileen and Sinead, sons Mike, Damian, Alan and Jason and twenty-one grandchildren.