John Blair Wilson Robertson

Born: 8 October 1908, Ochiltree - Died: 7 February 1998, Ayr

From Scottish Chess No. 155, p 4. Obituary by John Glendinning: John (JBW) Robertson, who died in Ayr on 7 February 1998 at the age of 89, was secretary of the Scottish Junior Chess Association from 1968-1975. He was active in many strands of chess organisation in Ayrshire, and helped organise the British Championships when held in Ayr in 1968. He revelled in the intellectual challenge of chess and played competitively for many years and socially until just before his death.

I met John when, as a pupil of Allan Glen's school in Glasgow in the mid 60s, I travelled to Ayr on many occasions to play one of our main rivals, Ayr Academy. John had retired early from the Colonial Service and was a part-time Latin teacher at the school. He seemed to be a full-time chess coach! He encouraged the young Ayr Academy team to excel and they repaid his investment by winning the British Schools Team Chess Championship twice, in 1971 and 1972 - a magnificent achievement.

During the period, he gave endlessly of his time in taking the players to chess tournaments where they could gain better experience, and in bringing them together at his home for practice and coaching. John's talent in creating success and enthusiasm made it natural that he should become involved at national level. The Scottish Junior Chess Association was formed in 1967 and I was delighted when John agreed to become its secretary the following year. he held that post until 1975, during its crucial formative years. His measured approach and mature judgement were invaluable in steering the association through a period when its membership grew to over 100 schools and most of today's established competitions were created.

But I will remember John more for his non-chess intellectual prowess and remarkably full life, with a wealth of anecdotes to testify to both. He toured Spain by bicycle in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War was looming. He spoke French and Italian fluently, and learned Spanish to higher level when he was 75. He mastered elements of Arabic from when he was Deputy Director of Education in Aden, where he had responsibility for the transfer from British to local rule. he spoke in glowing terms of Tuscany, and I was glad to be able to bring him up to date news and photographs after visiting the area - and in particular San Gimignano - a few years ago.

An unassuming man, whose quiet inspiration created much that will long be remembered.

This photograph was taken at the opening dinner for the 1970 Glorney Cup, held in Bearsden, near Glasgow. John Robertson is on the far right. Next to him is Walter Munn, President of the Scottish Chess Association; William Fairhurst, giving a speech; John Glendinning, non-playing captain of the team; the Provost of Bearsden, William Cumming. (larger image)


Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland