Yorkshire Chess History
(photo from The Chess Bouquet)
James White was a schoolteacher who became a member of Leeds Chess Club and came to edit a chess column in the Leeds Mercury’s Weekly Supplement, from 27th September 1879 to at least as late as 1st January 1906 and possibly later. Besides being a player, he was also a devotee of chess problems.
He was born on 20th June 1835 at the village of Avening, in Stroud Vale, Gloucestershire. Avening is 2 miles ESE of Nailsworth, which is 4 miles south of Stroud. He attended some type of “college”, where he learnt chess from a fellow student.
At some time, probably from 1856 to 1858, he took a wife, Mary, who was also born in Avening, about a year earlier than him.
By 1858 he was living in the village of Lowick, Northumberland, roughly 9 miles south of Berwick-on-Tweed, by the course of a Roman road known as the Devil’s Causeway. The Post Office Directory of Northumberland & Durham, 1858, lists James White as master of the National School at Lowick, “a handsome stone building, for boys and girls, supported by annual subscription and the weekly pence of the children.” Two daughters were born to James and Mary at Lowick, Mary A. White, born at 1860/61, and Harriet F. White, born 1862/63.
The family was still at Lowick at the time of the 1861 census, but by 1866 had moved to the hamlet of Beal, seven-to-eight miles SSE of Berwick-upon-Tweed, on a road which turns eastwards off the A1 and on reaching the coast continues off-shore as the causeway across to Lindisfarne. It had a population of only 48 in 1851. Nevertheless, Beal was of modest local importance as it was adjacent to, and east of, the railway line, and had a railway station, and so was the gateway for post etc between the local area and the outside world.
The railway provided transport to Berwick, and James White got involved with G. Macaskie of Berwick in reviving Berwick Chess Club. He proved to be that club’s strongest player. Whilst James was living at Lowick or Beal, H. C. Mott, editor of the chess column in Cassell’s Family Paper, invited him to enter a correspondence tournament being run by the publication. This 32-player competition lasted six years, and James White was the eventual winner.
While resident at Beal, he participated in the 1st meeting of the Northumberland and Durham Chess Association, which was held on Easter Monday and Tuesday, 2nd and 3rd of April, 1866, at the Central Exchange Hotel, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He entered Tourney B, but numbers of entries necessitated that it be split into two sections. Thus he ended up in Tourney B2, wherein he lost as White in round 1 to William Clay of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. That meant he could then enter Tourney D, which was for losers in Tourney B. There, as Black, he beat Thomas Semple of Stockton-upon-Tees in round 1. Then he beat George Henry Taylor of Houghton-le-Spring (formerly of Huddersfield), colours uncertain. That put him into the Tourney D final, with Black against Thomas Stokoe of Gateshead. Their first game was drawn. In the second game Stokoe retained White, which seems odd, and this time won, and so Stokoe won Tourney D, with James White in second place.
In time he moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, or thereabouts. At the Newcastle Chess Club, according to Gittins, he was the only player to defeat John Charleton, who amongst other things was the winner of the top section of the 1st Northumberland and Durham Chess Association Meeting, in 1866. In one club tournament James White managed to go through to win undefeated.
It was around this time that he started a friendship with Thomas Young Stokoe, who moved to Leeds at about the same time as him. (Click here for a photograph of the two playing chess.)
Around 1870 the family was living at Blaydon-on-Tyne, which is 5 miles west of Gateshead, and was then in County Durham, being on the south bank of the Tyne. Son Albert D. White was born at Blaydon in 1869/70.
Porter’s 1872-73 directory of Leeds lists James White living at 26 Brunswick Terrace, and working as a “professor of music”, an epithet popular with those who might simply be termed “piano teacher”. White’s 1870 directory of Leeds and the woollen district lists Mrs H. I. Brown, ironmonger, at 26 Brunswick Terrace, so James White’s move to Leeds was presumably around 1870 to 1872, and it may have been at the same time that he switched, for a while, from teaching in schools to private tuition in music.
He joined Leeds Chess Club, and won a gold medal in a competition within Leeds Chess Club and twice won its Silver Cup [per Gittins, though possibly he meant the Silver King presented by John Rhodes]. In Leeds he also became involved with chess columns of one sort or another.
A “James White” is said to have been chess editor of a column which ran in the Edinburgh Magazine, which ran from July 1872 to June 1873. This is assumed to be James White of Leeds.
The Recreationist was a monthly publication devoted to, amongst other things, chess and draughts. Volume 1 ran from June 1873 to Jan 1874, with F. J. B. Peters of Southampton as editor, James White being in charge of the chess, and John Hedley of Leeds in charge of the draughts. For volume II, which ran from February to November 1874, except May, production moved to Leeds, under the joint editorship of Leeds men White and Hedley.
Among recorded results of games played by James White is one in a 6-board match in which Wakefield beat Leeds, 11½-3½, at the West Yorkshire Chess Association meeting at Huddersfield, on 16th May 1874. He lost to John William Young of Wakefield on board one, the game lasting nearly five hours.
In 1875, White’s listed him living at 43 Coburg Street, Leeds, still as a professor of music. His former residence at 26 Brunswick Terrace was being used, along with 27 across the road, as a boarding school, by a W. Wilson. McCorquodale’s 1876 directory repeats the same information for James White.
About 1876 he seems to have revised his career plan, opting to go back to school-teaching. Kelly’s directory for 1877 lists James White living at 26 Springfield Place, off Nippet Lane, Leeds, and working as master at the York Road Board School. There were also a mistress, and an infants’ mistress listed on the staff. James Graham, travelling draper, now occupied the former White residence at 43 Coburg Street.
His most important journalistic enterprise was a chess column in the Weekly Supplement, which was published with the Saturday editions of the Leeds Mercury. The first edition of the column appeared on Saturday 27th September 1879, and contained two problems, one of which was contributed specially for the occasion by Walter Grimshaw of Whitby. The column ran to least as late as Saturday 1st January 1906, and is major source of information on chess in Yorkshire during that period. Initially there was no draughts column, but in 1880, a draughts column edited by John Hedley started appearing alongside the chess column.
The chess column of 01/01/1906 (missing from some microfilms), gave no indication of being the last one. Microfilms of the Leeds Mercury for the weeks immediately after 01/01/1906, and for randomly checked weeks in June and September 1906, lack copies of the Weekly Supplement, but it seems likely the Supplement and chess column continued.
He participated in the West Yorkshire Chess Association meetings of 1873 to 1889, except for 1877, and doubtless ones after 1889 (data not fully compiled at the time of writing).
The 1881 census records the family consisting of two parents and three children still living at 26 Springfield Terrace, off Nippett Lane, Leeds. (Presumably a terrace of homes known as Springfield Terrace was situated on a road called Springfield Place.) James was listed as headmaster of a Board School, with daughter Mary A. White as a “pupil teacher”. Younger children, Harriet and Albert were still at school.
James White played for Yorkshire against Lancashire in the 80-board match played in Bradford on 18th June 1887. He drew with Joseph Hodgson.
Kelly's Directory of Leeds, 1888, lists James White, schoolmaster, at 18 Crimbles Street, Leeds. Crimbles Street ran from Cross Elmwood Street to Meanwood Road, but of these three only Meanwood Road seems still to exist.
Kelly’s directory for 1892 lists one Solomon Gluba as resident at 18 Crimbles Street, so James must have moved on.
By 1901, he was living as father-in-law to the householder, in the Potternewton area of Leeds. This was presumably the household of a married daughter.
Besides his journalistic and chess-playing activities, he was also a devotee of chess problems, as a composer and solver. Gittins gives an impressive list of his successes in such competitions.
He died on 17th January 1907.
The Yorkshire Post of Friday 18th January 1907 carried the following on page 6, under “Deaths”:
WHITE.- January 17, at Rookwood, Gledhow Avenue, Gledhow Park, Leeds, aged 71, James White, late head-master of St. Peter’s Square School, and late chess editor of the “Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement.”
On page 8 of the same edition was a brief obituary which read as follows:
Mr. James White, of Leeds, who died yesterday at the age of 71, will be remembered by an older generation as an enthusiastic chess player and a writer on the pastime. He was formerly the head master of St. Peter’s Square School in the city.
He was buried in grave number 9608 of Beckett Street Cemetery, Leeds. The cemetery is opposite St. James’s hospital. The plot is located on the less-fashionable (probably cheaper) slope facing Stoney Rock Lane, away from the more ostentatious graves at the top near the busier Beckett Street, which are easily seen by passers-by.
The inscription on the headstone reads:
In Loving memory of
WHO DIED JANY 17TH 1907,
AGED 71 YEARS.
WIFE OF THE ABOVE,
WHO DIED MAY 25th 1913,
IN HER 80TH YEAR.
Chess Bouquet (F. R. Gittins, 1897) had him as one of its subjects, and was the source of some of the above.
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information