Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - May 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 George Foster

George was born in Belfast and learned chess from his twin brother when he was just fourteen years old. Fully sighted in those days, George had a varied career which included engineering. He lived through the troubles in Northern Ireland and went on to work in security at Stormont, where he once declined to admit a certain Chris Patten, who had forgotten his identity pass!

When George was in his fifties his eyesight began to fade. He had several guide dogs over the years, which kept him very active. He was also a keen swimmer. Another of his hobbies was reading and he got a great deal of enjoyment from his In Your Pocket device which gave him access to Talking Books and a great deal of other reading material in audio format. His favourites were thrillers by Lee Child and war books.

A pivotal moment in George’s life came when he decided to register for the RNIB Talk and Support befriending service, which offers blind and partially sighted adults the opportunity to socialise in small groups online or by telephone. He was placed in a group with Jadwiga Kelly and they hit it off straight away, sharing the same sense of humour and immensely enjoying each other’s company. After a while they began to consider meeting in person, which was not going to be easy because Jadwiga was in Hereford. Eventually they decided to book a holiday on neutral territory in Teignmouth. When the time came they were both nervous and even a bit reluctant to go but they plucked up courage which was just as well because they had a wonderful time. By the end of the week neither of them wanted to go home! Six years ago, now in his sixties, George took the huge step of moving from Belfast to Hereford to be with Jadwiga. They both joined the BCA so that George could resume his interest in our game and they came to several of our week-long events in Bournemouth and in Torquay, where they made many friends. George enjoyed his training sessions and had great success, on one occasion even beating his trainer! Perhaps his most memorable contribution though was the song he sang with Jadwiga at our soirée in Torquay: A World of Our Own, by the Seekers. Their choice of song seems all the more poignant now we know the story of how they built their own world together in Hereford.

Sadly, it wasn’t to last. George was diagnosed with vascular dementia and towards the end of last year he was admitted to a care home for a short time. The plan had been for him to return home to Jadwiga when his medication had been sorted out and a care package was in place. However, an unfortunate accident in the care home resulted in a broken finger, which required hospital treatment. After returning to the care home George began to feel very poorly and tests confirmed that he had contracted Covid-19. He passed away on the 23rd of December 2020, aged 73. His funeral took place in Belfast and he is laid to rest in Roselawn Cemetery there.

Condolences to Jadwiga and to George’s family in Northern Ireland. Many thanks to Jadwiga for supplying the information that went into this tribute to George. She hopes to join us at a BCA event in 2022 and no doubt we shall all look forward to welcoming her back.