Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2019

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 Sheila Milsom

From Sheila’s daughter, Joy.

Sheila was born and grew up at Bankside Cottage in Wraxall, the oldest of four children.

Sheila won a scholarship to Clifton High School, and then went on to work at the Post Office in Bristol. On the day she turned 21 she leapt up touched the ceiling and said to her mum “I’m 21 and I’m never going to get married”. You guessed it, before her 22nd birthday, she married David Milsom.

After a while, Sheila and David gave up city life, moved to the country and became youth hostel wardens. First at Chepstow (where their daughter Joy was born) and then at Holford on the Quantocks. At Holford they had a little menagerie with 2 pigs named Percy and Prue, a small herd of goats, and a flock of geese. They ate one of the geese one Christmas. Sheila said never again. David had several beehives and they used to sell the honey in the local village. Sheila would take the jars of honey around the village, carrying them in an open basket on her back. Joy would toddle along next to her, all through the village. When all the honey had been sold, Sheila would pick Joy up, put her in the basket and carry her home.

In 1964 David lost his sight, becoming totally blind. For many people this would be a disaster, something they’d never recover from. But Sheila and David were resilient, strong and resourceful. They persevered. David went away on many blind rehabilitation courses. Sheila stayed in Wraxall looking after Joy; and on Saturdays, when David was back home to take care of Joy, she worked at the SWEB in Nailsea to help supplement things. She also kept her hand in at the Post Office, looking after the Wraxall Post Office when the Postmistress went on holiday.

Eventually David got a job in Birmingham, and they moved. A huge change from the country to the second largest city in England! In Birmingham, Sheila worked as a library assistant at Bournville College. A job which she loved and where she formed lasting friendships - she was still in touch with three of her old colleagues, right up until the end.

A while after David’s death, Sheila moved to a retirement flat in Birmingham. There she became a kind of events organizer and social secretary, putting together coach trips to places of interest, organizing coffee mornings and other events. She was always active and busy.

Nine years ago Sheila returned to Somerset to be closer to family. She lived happily at Pegasus Court in Nailsea where she was again very active organizing things, including Macmillan Cancer Support coffee mornings. So many people at Pegasus Court have commented on how kind, thoughtful and helpful Sheila was.

A very large part of Sheila’s life was spent helping the Braille Chess Association. David was Treasurer of the association for a number of years; and Sheila would accompany him to chess tournaments and other BCA events. Through these trips she made many many lasting friends. In 2002 the Braille Chess Association gave Sheila a Service Award in recognition for her work, and in 2012 an Honorary Life Membership. She was deeply touched by these awards, they meant so much to her.

Here’s what Stan Lovell, a long-time member of the Braille Chess Association had to say about Sheila when he heard of her passing: “We have lost a lovely friend and great supporter. Sheila’s husband, David, joined BCA during the 1970’s and became our treasurer in 1980. He served for a number of years, with loyal help from Sheila. When we lost David, Sheila continued to give great support. Her quizzes became part of our seven day events. She also played an active part in Bring and Buy sales and ran many raffles at our events. There were many other ways in which Sheila helped, including escorting many for walks and shopping trips during our events. She was thoughtful and full of kindness to all. A dear friend who will be greatly missed.”

Stan’s words sum up how Sheila will be remembered:

Sheila loved people, loved helping people. She had a big heart. And she will be greatly missed.

Editor’s note: BCA members Gill Smith, Roger Waters and Julie Leonard represented the association at Sheila’s funeral service, which was very well attended. At the committee meeting in May it was decided that the 2020 Chairman’s Cup in Bournemouth will be held in memory of Sheila and David Milsom. See Forthcoming Events for further details of the event.