SHEFFIELD Chess History



John Edward Williams

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12/07/1914, Sheffield




12/04/1998, Sheffield


24/04/1998, Sheffield


Non-Chess Life


John Edward (“Ted”) Williams was born in Sheffield on 12/07/1914 [3].


Ted was sighted in early childhood, but was blinded by an accident at about the age of 8 [1].


He was educated at Tapton Mount School for the Blind, and from there went on to work making coconut-fibre doormats, and similar items, at Sharrow Grange Workshops for the Blind, at the top of Sharrow Lane, Sheffield.


In 1936 he married Minnie Marsden (born 1890/91), with whom he had one son, Raymond Williams, who was born in 1937.  At this stage the family lived at 79 Washington Road, Sheffield.


Tragedy stuck with the death of his wife, Minnie, in 1944, at the age of 53, leaving Ted with his 6-year-old son.  Things must have been bleak, but in time Ted met widowed Ivy Squirrell.


Ivy (née Hickman) had married the improbably named George W Squirrell in Lincolnshire, in 1938.  This couple had a son, Graham Squirrell, in 1939.  Then, in 1942, Ivy’s husband died, leaving Ivy a widow with a 3-year-old son.


Ted and Ivy married at Sheffield in 1950, each bringing to the marriage a son from their respective previous marriages.


In 1951, Ted and Ivy had a son, Keith Williams.


Ivy was herself visually impaired, though was partially sighted, and could lead Ted on trips out of the house.  Ted was also able to get about with the aid of a guide dog, and he had the confidence to go out accompanied only by his dog.


Ted’s confidence took a severe setback in 1979 when, during an attempt to cross the road, both he and his dog were struck by a lorry.  Ted’s dog was killed, and Ted sustained serious injury.


Latterly Ted and Ivy had lived at 2 Porter Terrace, on a cul-de-sac off Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, but in time they moved into a care home.




One day Ted had a fall at the care home, breaking his hip.  He seemed to get through the surgery okay, but then died on 12/04/1998, apparently through his heart giving out.


He was cremated on 24/04/1998 [3].




Sheffield institutions for the blind are recorded as fostering chess since before Ted Williams was born, so it is likely he learnt chess either at Tapton Mount School, or at Sheffield Blind Institute, or at the Sharrow Grange Recreation Club on Sharrow Lane, Sheffield.


It was timely that the Braille Chess Association was formed in 1932; Ted soon joined the new organisation [3].


The Blind Institute had had a chess club since 1905, so it’s probable that that is where Ted learnt, or at least developed his chess.  The Blind Institute had participated in Sheffield & District Chess Association event before the First World War, but had withdrawn long before Ted’s chess-playing days.  However, in 1934, the Blind Institute had about 12 chess-players, of whom Ted Williams was one.  It started organising friendly matches, and the earliest record of Ted playing in a representative chess match may well be that of a 1934 Tinsley WMC v Blind Institute friendly match played on Thursday, 15/03/1934.


The Blind Institute and the club at Sharrow Grange had effectively merged for these purposes, and as Sharrow Grange the blind players entered the Sheffield Works Chess League from 1936-37 onwards.  Their first match in the Works league was a 4½‑2½ home win over Sheffield Transport, played on 04/11/1936, when “J. E. Williams” lost on board 2 to E. Atkin.


It seems Ted must have had significant involvement with the Blind Institute Chess Club, as the club’s championship shield eventually passed into his possession, and was displayed on a shelf at 2 Porter Terrace.


His first chess club, apart from the Blind Institute and Sharrow Grange, seems to have been West End, which he joined around early 1934 [2].  As a West End player he represented the Sheffield & District Chess Association in the 1934 “Annual Match” versus the Works.


Quite which clubs he played for after the war is unclear, but in more recent times he played for Ecclesall (which had absorbed the older Hillsborough Chess Club) when it set up its headquarters at the Ecclesall Non-Political Club on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.  This venue was particularly convenient for Ted, who was living at 2 Porter Terrace; Ted could be walked to and from the club by his wife Ivy.


In time, conditions at the Non-Political Club became unacceptable, primarily because of the installation of a snooker table in the room the chess club used.  Ecclesall Chess Club elected to leave the eponymous Ecclesall area of Sheffield, moving to the Robin Hood, at Millhouses, though it kept its name.  This prompted Ted, John Borrill and others the set up a new club, still in Ecclesall area.  A venue was found at the Banner Cross Inn, so the new club adopted the name Banner Cross.  (That club thereafter underwent a number of changes, was latterly called Phoenix, and folded after the 2014-15 season.)


The can have been few people with such a long, uninterrupted history of chess-playing in Sheffield.





Copyright © 2014, 2016 Stephen John Mann

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