William Albert Fairhurst, CBE

21 August 1903, Alderly Edge, England - 13 March 1982, Howick, New Zealand

Fairhurst in 1937


  • British Champion 1937.
  • Scottish Champion 11 times: 1932/33/34/36/37/38 - 1946/47/48/49 - 1962.
  • West of Scotland Champion 16 times: 1932-37; 1946-49; 1951; 1953-54; 1959; 1960, 1961.
  • Glasgow Chess Club Champion 18 times: 1932-38; 1945-49; 1952; 1955-58; 1963
  • He won the Championships of Scotland, West of Scotland, and Glasgow CC every time he entered.
  • He represented Scotland in four matches against England: 1951, 1955, 1958 and 1962.
  • He played top board for Scotland at the Olympiads of 1933, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1966 and 1968. After moving to New Zealand, he represented that country at the 1974 Olympiad, again on top board.
  • He was also Cheshire County Champion four times, Manchester Champion four times, Lancashire Champion twice, and 'Three Counties Champion' (Birmingham Post Cup) eight times.
  • International Master 1951.

Fairhurst was born in Cheshire, but his family moved to Manchester when he was five, and he learned to play chess at the age of thirteen. He failed to get into a grammar school because his interests were purely technical: "Classics escaped me completely." Fairhurst attended Salford Technical College and Manchester Tech., where he gained a diploma in engineering. By the age of twenty, he had started the designing of bridges, which was to become his life's work.

Fairhurst came to Glasgow in 1931 to join the firm of F.A. Macdonald & Partners from British Reinforced Concrete Engineering Company Limited. He had been invited to apply to fill the vacancy of "chief assistant" by Arthur Legat, one of the two principals (along with George Dunn) of the firm at that time, and with whom he had earlier worked at B.R.C.E.Co. [History of W.A. Fairhurst & Partners - company web site.]

Fairhurst became a director in 1938, and Managing Director of F.A. Macdonald (Glasgow ) Ltd. in 1941. In 1946, the then directors moved their office premises to 11 Woodside Terrace, Glasgow.

Fairhurst's name is associated with several books relevant to his professional work. In 1945 there was published Arch Design Simplified, a text-book on the rapid and economical design of arch bridges. By 1946, at which time he was Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Institution of Structural Engineers, he was also associated with the "Whitson-Fairhurst" housing system, which involved a special framework for a prefabricated house.

After World War Two the firm expanded into many areas of work, although designing bridges retained its importance following publication in 1948 of "Design and Construction of Reinforced Concrete Bridges", which was co-authored by Fairhurst, Legat and Dunn. [Incidentally, there are several references to Fairhurst playing chess with a G. Dunn in the years 1940-42.]

At the very end of 1959, it was announced that the firm had been appointed as engineers for the design of the Tay Road Bridge.

'This was a major commission at that time, attracting much public attention via the media, and one which was ultimately to be the catalyst for the change of the firm's name to W.A. Fairhurst and Partners.' [Company web site.]

Fairhurst incorporated chess motifs in the design of the Tay Road Bridge.

He was awarded the title C.B.E. in Queen's Birthday Honours List of 1961.

Fairhurst and Scottish Chess

After arriving in Glasgow in 1931, Fairhurst immediately involved himself in the chess life of the city. He became a member of Glasgow Chess Club and Polytechnic CC, as well as involving himself at national level. He won every tournament that he entered in Scotland, as indicated above; 11 Scottish Championships; 16 West of Scotland titles; 18 times Glasgow Chess Club Champion.

But Fairhurst also has to be recognised as an outstanding force of motivation in Scottish chess. He guided and encouraged young players; organised a series of Scotland v England matches to give Scottish players exposure to higher levels of play; was involved in bringing internationally recognised players to the Glasgow International Tournament of 1953 and the Dundee Centenary Tournament of 1967, and brought visiting masters to Scotland to provide training opportunities.

He became the Chess Correspondent of the Glasgow Herald in 1959, after the resignation of D.M. MacIsaac.

Fairhurst, who was president of the Scottish Chess Association from 1956 to 1969 not only contributed a great amount of time and energy to the development of chess in Scotland, he also contributed generously to many events with his own finances.

After retiring from his professional life, Dr Fairhurst emigrated to New Zealand, where his son lived. He retained a connection to Scotland as he visited the country almost every year, and in 1981 the Glasgow Club presented him with a scroll on the occasion of his 50 years of membership.

Dr Fairhurst continued to play chess in New Zealand, taking part in several national championships, and representing the country on top board at the Nice Olympiad of 1974.

At the time of his death he was survived by his wife, Elizabeth (Jardine), whom he had married in 1937, as well as his son and a daughter.

Other tournaments:

  • 1927 Scarborough: =2nd, including wins against Colle and Bogolyubov.
  • 1928 Tenby: =4th & 5th, scoring 6½/11 in the British Championship.
  • 1930 Scarborough 1930 (Major Open): 1st, with 9½11 ahead of Noteboom.
  • 1932 Glasgow: 'Blindfold' simultaneous display, 27 February, by arrangement with Polytechnic CC. Played twelve opponents of good average club strength, winning 9 and drawing 3 in five hours.
  • 1932 London: British Championship.
  • 1934 Chester: =2nd in the British Championship.
  • 1935 Margate
  • 1937/38 Hastings
  • 1946 London (Section 'A').
  • 1947 Harrogate: British Championship.
  • 1947/48 Hastings: 5/9, unbeaten, scoring eight draws and one win.
  • 1948/49 Hastings: 5/9, sharing 4th-6th places.
  • 1949 Felixstowe: British Championship (Swiss System) 6½11.
  • 1950 Buxton: British Championship.
  • 1951 Oxford: Commonwealth Championship, 1st.
  • 1952/53 Hastings: scored 5/9, a half point behind four players on 5½.
  • 1953 Glasgow International Tournament: shared 2nd-5th places with 4½/7, behind J. Penrose.
  • 1954/55 Hastings.
  • 1957 Dublin: Zonal Tournament (FIDE)
  • 1959 Ilford
  • 1959 Paignton


  • 1933 Glasgow: drew a six game match with Erich Eliskases, the Austrian master.
  • 1937 Glasgow & Edinburgh: 1st match against Dr J.M. Aitken, won by Fairhurst 3½-2½.
  • 1937/38 Glasgow & Edinburgh: 2nd match with Dr J.M. Aitken, who won 5½-2½.
  • 1937 England v Holland: Fairhurst drew both games against Fontein on board 4.
  • 1938 England v Holland: lost one game and drew the second against Euwe.
  • 1946 Britain v USSR Radio Match: scored 0 ½ in two games against Flohr on board 5.
  • 1946 Scotland v Northern Counties Chess Union.
  • 1947 Britain v Czechoslovakia: on board 4, scored 0 ½ in two games with Opočenský.
  • 1947 Britain v USSR: on board 7, Fairhurst draws both games with Flohr.
  • 1947 Britain v Australia Radio Match: on board 7, Fairhurst defeated M. Green.
  • 1948 Britain v Australia Radio Match: on board 5, he drew with M.E. Goldstein.
  • 1949 England v Holland: on board 4, Fairhurst lost both games to van Scheltinga.
  • 1952 England v Holland: on board 8, he drew both games with Bouwmeester.
  • 1953 Glasgow: Match v R.G. Wade. Fairhurst loses 2½-5½.
  • 1954 Britain v USSR: on board 8, scored 0 & ½ in games with Boleslavsky.

Notable Games

  • Colle-Fairhurst, Scarborough 1927: a fine win against Colle's favourite system.
  • Fairhurst-Bogolyubov, Scarborough 1927: just because it's Bogolyubov
  • Fairhurst-Atkins, British Championship 1937: the year Fairhurst won the British.
  • Fairhurst-Flohr, Britain v USSR Radio Match 1946: an outstanding draw.
  • Larsen-Fairhurst, Moscow Olympiad 1956: a fine win against the rising star.

CHESS - February 1937; July 1946, p 226; March 20th 1960, p 179; BCM 1982, p 197; Scottish Chess 69.

Compiled by Alan McGowan

updated 6/6/2020