Bohemian Chess Club (Glasgow)

Formed in 1905, their early meeting place was Flint's Tea Rooms, 106 West George Street. (These premises were taken over in 1906 and became The Kettledrum.) No official date of the founding of the club has been discovered; the first mention of the club in the Falkirk Herald chess column is on 15 November 1905, when it was announced they would play in the Spens Cup. They received a bye in the first round but were then eliminated by Falkirk CC.

For the record, the team members on that occasion - some of whom may have been responsible for the club's existence - were: R.A. Blackwood, John McTurk, A. Stevenson, D. Blackstock, James Leith, W. Higgins, E. Sidwell and S. Wigley.

The Falkirk Herald column of 3 October 1906, reporting on the club being one year old, stated that it had a membership of 60 and it had announced that it expected a successful season, "with possession of the Spens Cup at the end of it."

The columnist - A.J. Neilson - wrote: 'Well, blessed are they who expect little, for they won't be disappointed in certain events.'

The confidence of the club was not misplaced for they duly won the Spens Cup in season 1906/7. (They also won in 1924, 1929, 1937 and 1948.

By October 1907, the club could report a further increase in membership, to nearly 100. The club now met at Cameron's Tea Rooms, 122 St Vincent Street. Soon after, however, they moved to Waddell's Restaurant at 60 Union Street. They remained here until 1913 when, by the start of the season, they were back at 106 West George Street, by now renamed the Linby. At the start of the 1914/15 season the club was at the Eldon Cafe, 94 Renfield Street; this would remain their home for the next 20 years, during which time their membership continued to grow - in 1921 they reported having 309 members. (P.B. Anderson wrote fondly about this particular period in his reminiscences.)

 

The El-Don Cafe, 94 Renfield Street, Glasgow
Situated on the east side of the street, between Bath Street and Sauchiehall Lane, this photo was taken in 1936 when the property was awaiting renovations after the cafe's closure the year before.
Courtesy of Glasgow City Archives

In the Richardson Cup, the premier team competition, the Bohemian CC never managed to break the almost complete hold of the Glasgow and Edinburgh clubs in the years leading up to WWII (only Central CC managed to wrest the trophy from these clubs, in 1914, 1925 and 1939). In discussing the teams in this competition for the 1921-22 season, the Glasgow Herald chess column of 24 September 1921 (p.4), edited by Carrick Wardhaugh, who had been a member of the club, said:

The Bohemians C.C. do not take their chess seriously enough to have good prospects. There is no doubt talent enough, but uncultivated talent does not go far.

The club would have to wait until 1949 to win its only Richardson Cup with a 4-2 victory against Glasgow CC.  

Glasgow League

The club had several successes in the Glasgow League competitions. They won the 1st Division title six times, in seasons 1930-31, 1931-32, 1933-34, 1936-37, 1946-47 and 1949-50, and they were 2nd Division winners on five occasions, in seasons 1926-27, 1929-30, 1930-31, 1933-34 and 1935-36.    

The Championship Trophy and the Pawn

For season 1908/9 the club introduced an impressive championship trophy, the first winner of which was Robert Angus Blackwood. In 1927, after it was won by William Ewart Brown, the club was faced with a serious problem.

A special committee meeting was called for Friday, 15 September 1927 to discuss an interesting development. William McIntosh, the proprietor of the Eldon Cafe, 94 Renfield Street, Glasgow, the club's rooms, had been advised by Detective Fraser, presumably of Glasgow Police, that the club's championship trophy had been pawned.

A meeting was held 21 September, at which the club president, James Borthwick, said he had contacted Detective Fraser about W.E. Brown pawning the cup. Mr Borthwick was advised that the Fiscal [Procurator Fiscal-Scottish prosecuting authority] refused to prosecute as there was no case against Mr Brown. The club secretary (Andrew Towers) was instructed to write Mr Brown at 4 Yarrow Gardens, North Kelvinside demanding the return of the cup within seven days, otherwise proceedings would be aken against him. Club members Mr J. Andrews and Mr A. Calderhead agreed to call on Brown's uncle and put the case before him.

At a committee meeting on 4 October 1927 the secretary intimated that he had not received any reply from W.E. Brown. Other club members reported that the pawnbroker was willing to return the cup on payment of two pounds and ten shillings. After a discussion the secretary was instructed to write to Mr W.E. Brown intimating that if he failed to return the cup before the 29th inst. he rendered himself liable to criminal proceedings.

No further reference to the trophy is made in the Minute Book.

W.E. Brown emigrated to Australia and in 1935 in Perth, Western Australa he formed a new club there which he called the Bohemian.

In May 2011 the trophy was offered for sale on ebay by a metals company in London. They hoped a buyer could be found or the item would be melted down.

In viewing the image it could be seen that W.E. Brown was the last engraved name (I thought I had retained a photo of the trophy but I cannot find it). 

Time to Move

At the start of season 1934/5 the club was still at the Eldon Cafe. However, by the first half of 1935 they were obliged to move as Mr McIntosh retired and the premises were going to be used by a new business. They found accommodation at the GHQ Tea Rooms at 136 St Vincent Street and remained there until the outbreak of WWII in September 1939 obliged the club to consider another move. Blackout conditions and transport issues would have caused difficulties for evening play. Also, the club's committee were not entirely happy with the GHQ, and by May 1940 they had moved to the King's Cinema Cafe at Charing Cross. However, the club soon suspended activities for the war years, regrouping in September 1945 in preparation for the upcoming season. Initially they were in the Trades House Restaurant, but within a few months they had moved to the YMCA, Bothwell Street.

Final Years

While the club still had some successes ahead - twice winning the Glasgow League 1st Division title and Richardson Cup winner in 1949 - things were slowly changing. Bohemian CC played their last league match in 1954 and declined to submit a team for the 1954-55 season. The club played its last Richardson Cup match in December 1957, losing to Bon Accord CC in the second round. It did enter a team for the 1958-59 Richardson Cup but, along with other clubs, withdrew from the event when the Scottish Chess Association refused to change its rule, introduced in January 1958, that individuals must be members of the SCA to participate in a competition organised by the national body.

In the Scottish Chess Association Bulletin, Nr. 2, winter 1960-61, P.B. Anderson commented:

Now, alas, the Bohemians are in a state of Quiescence and are in danger of extinction.

  Some of the Members

Considering the name of the club, it is not surprising that the membership covered a wide selection of personalities and nationalities. Some members were also associated with other Glasgow clubs.

Peter B. Anderson Scottish champion 1950 and 1954.

J. Andrews - club champion 1928 and 1930.

Rev Father Charles Annacker of the Jesuit Presbytery, Garnethill. Died suddenly November 1920, age 52.

George A. Birse, who later joined the Edinburgh CC.

Robert Angus Blackwood (1861-1922) first winner of the club's championship trophy in season 1908-09.

James Borthwick Scottish champion 1903, club champion 1911.

Hugh Brown, who died 8 February 1930, age 60.

A. Calderhead

Arthur Ford Cariss c. 1886-1967. Also a Polytechnic CC member.

John Connor, died 8 January 1920, age 76. Former headmaster of Garelochhead School. A great supporter of Scottish chess, he played in numerous SCA congresses. Won the 1901 Minor Championship of Glasgow CC, of which he was also a member.

James Crabb, admitted as a member 12 September 1921.

Myer N. Davis - club champion 1938

Frederick George Harris club champion 1913-15, 1917, 1918, 1920-26. West of Scotland champion 1916.

Gerald R. Hill was admitted as a member 13 October 1920. In September 1931 Mr Hill, a publisher with a printing business at 35 Dundas Street, Glasgow intimated his intention to publish the 'Scottish Chess Magazine.' A few months later, however, owing to Mr Hill's illness, a delay in producing the magazine was announced. Nothing came of the venture, unfortunately.

A. Klibanski

Gustaf Friedrich Krasser, often shown as F. Krasser.

J.R.K. Law brother of Andrew Bonar Law

Dr R.C. Macdonald Scottish champion six times.

Andrew Armour Marshall 1905-2003. Defeated Alekhine in 1923 simultaneous display in Glasgow.

Claud Marshall

A. Maung Maung, a visitor from Burma. In January 1921, shortly before Maung's return to Burma, the club arranged a special evening at the Eldon Cafe at which Bailie Shaw Maxwell presented him with a gold albert and pendant.

James Shaw Maxwell 1855-1929, often referred to as Bailie Shaw Maxwell because of his position on Glasgow City Council. Served as club president. one of the founders of the Independent Labour Party.

Michael Paton played football for Scotland.

Alfred John Pattenhausen, a former club secretary.

Henry M. Paulet c. 1880-1932. Of independent means, connections with Jersey, Channel Islands. Admitted as a member 16 December 1920 (Minute Book). Also a member of Glasgow CC.

J.T. Potts club champion 1916.

John Russell

J. Sachs club champion 1919.

Schotz brothers - Jeannot and Benno - from Estonia.

C.E. Simon

Narendra Singh

Archibald Stevenson, who later emigrated to Canada.

Joseph Strachstein

Andrew Towers 1872-1957. A long time member, and secretary.

Robert Weetch 1889-1948

James Young club champion 1910

Isaac Zeital from Russia, c. 1882-1936

 

Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland

Updated 13/5/2021