I accompanied him often on walks in the Peak District and in North Wales. The hill walking was an activity which he had discovered about 30 years ago and there was rarely a week when he failed to get out on a proper walk. Often it was limited to several miles in the hills of Derbyshire or Staffordshire, but he delighted in these as much as in the more challenging climbs up mountains like Scotland's Ben Nevis or ones like Snowdon, Tryfan and Knicht in Wales.
League chess he discovered even later in life. Mike's neighbour, Peter Woodward of Meir Chess Club (then known as the Creda club), had begun playing friendly games with Mike when they went to their local pub and Peter eventually suggested to him that he was playing well enough to enjoy competitive games. He joined the Meir club about ten years ago when it was still based at Creda and quite soon his game improved and he became one of the keenest players at the club. Even outside the regular league season it was unusual to find Mike missing a Monday evening at the club.
It was thanks to Mike that I was encouraged to join Meir about eight years ago.
If you play chess not just for the game but also because of the people you meet then a trip to Fenton was always eagerly anticipated as it represented an opportunity to meet up with Geoff, who proved that it is possible to be amusing and a character without being loud. His playing style was also original, showing particular inventiveness in the middle-game. Geoff was also a captains dream in that until his illness took hold he could be relied upon to turn out for almost every game on the fixture list. His passing leaves the local chess scene that little bit greyer.
During his later years he wrote fourteen books about Leek - the town of which he always felt a part - and the surrounding area. He was one of the founders of the Leek Historical Society and served as Chairman for many years. He remained a fount of knowledge on all aspects of Leek for the whole of his life. He was also an important figure in the Methodist Church of which he was a lifelong member and much requested local preacher. He was involved in every aspect of Leek life. He was a lifelong supporter of Leek Cricket Club — the subject of one of his many books — and Lancashire County Cricket Club as well as Port Vale Football Club and, to a lesser extent, Stoke City Football Club.
He was a devoted brother to Brian and father to his two sons, Stephen and the late David, and grandfather to Alice, Jamie, Emily and Mietta and was married to Dorothy for fifty five years. He was among the best of men and no-one ever said a bad word about him. He died early on Saturday morning 23rd March 2013 after a long, lingering and cruel illness. He will be sorely missed and can never be replaced.
Alan was a great supporter of chess in the area; he would frequently play in the many congresses in the region. He was always keen for the club to maintain its contacts with the North Staffs League and must have played in hundreds of matches over the years. Whenever the club was short of a player at short notice you knew that if Alan was not already in the team a quick phone call was all that was needed to get him to travel. Indeed, the only times I have known him decline were when Macclesfield Town played at home!
I was one of many to be made to feel welcome by Alan at the Macclesfield club on joining, and we regularly travelled together to play in congresses. Alan was a real gentleman, someone I never saw angry, generous with his time, and his loss will be hard felt.
I am sure that the records show that Simon had played for Kidsgrove for 40 years and for Electra before that.
Robert Milner confirms that Simon first played for Electra in 68/69 before moving to Kidsgrove for the 70/71 season.
Even though he was having difficulty playing through failing health, he still loved his chess and I was playing him just a couple of weeks ago at the club.
I've played Simon many times over the years and always found him very gracious regardless of the result - he truely played because he enjoyed the game rather than to massage his ego.
From 1984-1992 he acted as either the League's Competition Secretary or as its Match Captain and often as both. This was in an era when the League had annual matches against other local leagues such as Warrington, Crewe and also the Schools. Peter gave up the Competition Secretary's position when the Stockport Quickplay was firmly established. Not content with these roles he captained Macclesfield B and also ran a team in the Stoke League. How often do we nowadays cry out for someone prepared to take on responsibilities?
For Peter chess was to be played quickly and with his heart on his sleeve. If he made a blunder the whole room heard the groan, when he pulled off a swindle chuckles burst out and post mortems were conducted several decibels above a whisper. The etiquette may not have been perfect but only a fool would have objected to his transparent enthusiasm for the game. A man of trenchant views, he had no truck with the so-called benefit culture: when he had to give up landscape gardening because of back problems he took on three part time jobs to realise his dream of a life in the sun. Sadly that dream was curtailed too soon.
I regret to announce the death of Nick Salt who played for Cheddleton and Leek Chess Club for a number of years and found the game a refuge from the problems of everyday life.
Left: John in action on cup final night at Creda, 2005
Kind, considerate, friendly and loyal. These are the first words that come to mind when I think of John Donaldson. Sadly on Sunday 11 April 2010 John Donaldson lost his battle against a long illness.
It was through chess that I met John back in the late 80‘s when I poked my nose in the chess room to see what it was all about. JD was one of the key members of Meir Chess Club and gave me a warm welcome we had a chat and I was hooked. JD and I became very good friends and I came to realise he was an instrumental member of the club steering it to what it is today.
He approached all things in life with gusto and enthusiasm, he loved chess and worked extremely hard to support the club. It was very fitting that he became the President of the club towards the end.
John became like a family member to me and my family as did his wife Peggy. We were fortunate to get to know all his family, we met and socialised regularly outside of chess.
He doted on his family they all meant so much to him and he spent many hours strengthening his family ties with genealogy research going back many centuries.
As my thoughts go out to them and their sad loss I am sure those that knew JD probably longer than I will join me in offering heartfelt condolences.
Today the 23rd April we have an opportunity to celebrate Johnny‘s life at St Edwards Church in Leek, and remember his cheeky smile and sense of humour and also to say our goodbyes.
My fondest memory of JD is during pleasure chess he would regularly ask for a move to be taken back, of course we would oblige after all what did it matter it was pleasure chess. Then he would grind you into the ground and wipe you off the board. We always referred to it as the JD take back manoeuvre. As much as I would love to this time I cannot oblige, this is one move you can‘t take back.
Journey well Johnny, when you get there you can play chess with the best of the best.
Goodbye my old friend, you will not be forgotten.
Right: Dave at the 2008 Newcastle Mini Congress