Duckworth joined the Harrogate Chess Club in 1953 and I believe played a
part when the club won the Woodhouse Cup in 1958; the only time to date we
have done so. However a defining moment had already come way before
that when Jack attended primary school with Margaret Wilkinson, later
Margaret Rowley, who would join the chess club only a few years after him.
The two would form a lifelong friendship – at the club dinner a few
years ago they performed a rendition of the comedy song I Remember It
Well (with a self-composed extra verse about chess).
left the area for some years to build a professional career. While
working in Singapore he played in a simul against Gligorić. His
game was the last to finish and the grandmaster sat at the board opposite
him to conclude it, which must have been an occasion. (Gligorić
accepted the offer of a beer afterwards but was whisked away by the hosts
for hospitality elsewhere.)
returned to Harrogate in 1975 and threw himself into the life of the club,
being a stalwart of the first team. Around this time he founded the
Harrogate and District Primary Schools Chess Association (HDPSCA), a
registered charity [registered 23/04/1981, webmaster], supporting
chess in primary schools locally, which is still active today.
after retiring Jack assumed the club presidency following the death of
Aubrey Spalton, with the idea that he and Margaret would alternate the
presidency between them. However it soon became apparent that Jack’s
abilities were wasted in a largely ceremonial role and he assumed instead
the role of club chairman, leading the club through a period of growth and
rebuilding in the early 2000s. Around this time he also took on the
role of bulletin editor for the Yorkshire Chess Association. From his
own recollections he had been approached for a senior role in the YCA back
in the 1980s but declined due to other commitments – he was made an
honorary life member of the YCA.
his later years Jack moved to Oundle in Northamptonshire to be nearer his
family. While his own chess activities were limited by advancing
years and, latterly, pandemic restrictions, he maintained a keen interest
in the game and remained in touch with Harrogate members. I last
corresponded with him following the death of Ernie Little, who he knew
of chess he served as a Liberal Democrat councillor on North Yorkshire
County Council for many years. His other great passion was music; he
possessed a fine singing voice and gave up his time to perform in
retirement homes locally. No club dinner was complete without him
leading us in song.
was no area of Harrogate Chess Club, and indeed the wider chess community,
where his influence was not felt. He will be greatly missed.