Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - February 2021

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 Dorothy Hodges

Dorothy passed away on 29th October 2020, shortly after her 91st birthday. She played in many BCA events over the years and was held in high regard and great affection by her many BCA friends. Grateful thanks to Dorothy’s niece, Suzanne Flood, who has kindly shared the text of Dorothy’s funeral service with us. Quotes from family and friends recall how she enjoyed audio books, shopping and RNIB outings, especially if afternoon tea was involved! Although Dorothy’s body may have failed her of late, her mind was as sharp as a pin and she had an excellent memory. She had a gift for cheering people up! Words from BCA members were included too: Dorothy is remembered as “a very good and determined competitor” and “a lovely, gentle soul full of quiet wisdom”. (Written by Richard Harrington and Gary Wickett, these lines encapsulate the way many of us think of Dorothy.) Suzanne was surprised to learn that Dorothy was BCA Ladies’ Champion in 2007 as she had been too modest to mention it! Dorothy wrote her own life story and here is a lightly edited version.

I was born in Bournemouth then, when I was 2 or 3, my parents and I moved to Poole. An only child, I sometimes felt lonely, especially at Christmas. By age 6, my sight was fading. I struggled on in an ordinary school, where it took me an afternoon to thread a needle in sewing class. I could not see the blackboard and was very behind.

When I moved to another school, the new teacher recognised my poor sight; I was given a magnifying glass and could see the print of the Alice in Wonderland book. The headmaster pointed out to my mother that I could not see properly. We saw doctors and specialists, but this was the 1930's, so there were no antibiotics or steroids. One specialist asked my mother if they could afford to take me to London but this was unaffordable to my parents.

Aged 8, I went to a boarding school for blind children in Exeter. The education system suited me; I had girls my own age to play with. I was there all through the Exeter Blitz and for a short time we were evacuated to Blundle School in Tiverton. At 16 I was transferred to a school in Bristol, where Des, my future husband had been a pupil.

I trained to make socks on a knitting machine, and baskets, although I wasn't very good at the baskets. When I was nearly 20 I went home and made men's socks and football teams’ socks in a garden workshop. After 3 years someone from RNIB asked if I'd like to work in a factory. I decided it would be good to have a weekly wage and company. The firm was David Griffin. I did repetition work, making parts for aeroplanes, and enjoyed it.

After 7 years they had no more work I could manage so I was found a job in a much larger factory called Asteron Bird. It was noisy, the work was physically hard, joining pieces of metal together with a press. I enjoyed the company and had a good cooked dinner in the canteen. I moved departments after 16 years where the work was lighter but in 1981 Asteron Bird went into voluntarily liquidation.

My mother had died in 1979 and in 1981, aged 51, I found myself unemployed and needing to earn a living. After 10 months I went to an RNIB rehabilitation centre in a beautiful setting in Torquay to try different types of work. It was decided that I could manage telephony or audio typing. I was found an audio typist’s job at Barclays Bank in Poole, in a huge building with 2000 people and a lovely restaurant. I struggled, having had very little training so I went to an RNIB commercial college in London to learn how to be an Audio Typist. I stayed for 2 terms in an RNIB hostel. I had my own room and the food was good. After passing two exams with distinction, I returned to the bank. I was proud to work there. The atmosphere was very good. The little group of girls I worked with would often go out for supper. I was always included although I was in my 50's and they were in their 20's.

Meanwhile I attended the Bristol school for the blind’s annual reunions, where I met Desmond. He knew an ex-member of staff who thought it would be a good idea if we got together. He told Des that my name was Betty so the first letter that I received from Des said Dear Betty. We corresponded for some years especially on cassette tape, and in 1986 we decided to be married. 1987 was a very exciting year! I was engaged on New Year’s Eve and received presents when I returned to work, when we were married in May and on leaving the bank that July.

We were happily married for 10.5 years. We had many foreign trips with groups of blind people and guides. On one holiday, when Braille was not on our toiletries bottles, Des used what he thought was suntan lotion. Later, as it got frothy in the sea, he found out it was shampoo. We went to Jordan and Israel, United States three times and several European countries. We led a full life in Bristol going to concerts at the Colston Hall and plays at the Theatre Royal. After Des retired, we could go to lectures on poetry and music. Sadly, he died in 1997 and I had a struggle to put my life together. I went on one or two foreign trips with a group of blind people and guides and had holidays in Weston Super Mare. I joined the BCA and travelled to tournaments in other parts of the country.

Aged 81 my health deteriorated and I moved to Kathleen Chambers House, an RNIB care home in Burnham on Sea. I was well looked after and joined in some of the social activities. Some of my kind friends in Bristol visited me and Des' nieces and nephew kept in touch.

Condolences to Suzanne and the rest of Dorothy’s family. RIP Dorothy, reunited with Des.