Burns Chess Club (Glasgow)

Founded circa 1892-3

This 'club' was formed by patrons of the Burns Tea Rooms at 245 Ingram Street, Glasgow. At a time when the popularity of tea rooms continued to grow, this venue, run by the 'Misses Burns", was operating by the beginning of 1889.

Glasgow Herald, 1st January 1889, p1.

The club ─ which, initially, was informal in nature ─ was organised around 1893. It first appears in newspaper reports and in the British Chess Magazine that year. At this time, before the formation of the Glasgow Chess League, clubs organised their own in-house tournaments or reached out to other clubs for friendly matches, chess and lawn bowls.

Scottish Referee, 26 May 1893, p2.

The club continued in their casual way until January 1897, when things changed.

A meeting of gentlemen interested in chess was held in Burns' Tea-rooms, Ingram Street, for the purpose, if so desired, of forming a club. Mr. Rennie, who acted as chairman, explained matters, and pointed out that hitherto they had no locus standi in the chess world, they not being a properly constituted club. He then moved that they form themselves into a club, and that the name of such be "The Burns Chess Club." This was carried unanimously. The following office-bearers were then elected:─ Mr. Edward Lang, president; Mr. John Rennie, vice-president; Mr. R. Macdonald, 51 Miller Street, hon-secretary and treasurer─these to form the committee. It was also carried unanimously that the subscription be a nominal one of 1s per annum. We understand that over 40 have already joined the above club.

Daily Record, Saturday, 9 January 1897, p8.

(Some of the new members came from the now defunct Central CC. In 1901 some of them formed the Cabin CC, named after the Cabin Tea Rooms. In 1903 they changed the name to Central CC, the third version of a club with that name.)

The Glasgow League was formed in 1908, with Burns club member Fernand Lacaille being elected Vice-president. In that inaugural 1908-9 season Burns CC were 2nd Division champions, winning all their matches.

The club regularly competed in the Richardson Cup, the premier team competition; they never won it, but they were finalists in 1903, 1905 and 1906, losing to Glasgow CC each time. 

Club members enjoyed their facilities until 1920, when changes were forced on them. Anne Burns, one of the propietors of Burns' Tea Rooms, died in 1911 and a few years later a Miss Janet B.M. Gibson was the tenant. Then, in 1920, it was reported that circumstances made it look as if the club would need to find new premises:

Falkirk Herald, 6 October 1920, p.4.

In December of that year the same newspaper chess column reported that the club now met in Lang's Restaurant, Queen Street, Glasgow. The club won the Spens Cup during this transitional season 1920-21.

However, in October 1921 it was reported that the club had "scratched" from the Glasgow League, suggesting problems in organising a team. The club did play in the Richardson Cup in season 1921-22, but were eliminated in the semi-final. They also participated in seasons 1922-23 and 1923-24, but were eliminated in the first round and semi-final respectively, each time to Glasgow CC.

Another sign that things were not going well was when the club "scratched" from their opening round Richardson Cup match in season 1924-25. The nature of the problems within the club are not known; perhaps some of the members, many of whom were also affiliated with other city clubs, did not appreciate the new premises.

Whatever the reason, the club 'faded' in later years and appears to have withdrawn from competitions. In the 1925 West of Scotland v East of Scotland match, only one member of the Burns CC, F. Lacaille, participated. In the Glasgow League v Edinburgh League matches of 1926, 1927, 1929 and 1930, no Burns CC representative is shown.

A 1941 newspaper report (Daily Record, 4 September) records a donation to 'Jock's Box,' Scotland's National war charity, from Burns Chess Club (per J.B), but this likely refers to a club that had been formed in Ayrshire in 1937.

Some members of the club:-

J. Beveridge - J. Birch, sen - J. Birch, jun - Hugh Brown - John Court - JLC Docherty

DCW Earle - William Gibson - JJS Gray - F.G. Harris - G.F. Krasser - E. Lacaille

 F. Lacaille - AC Kellie - Edward Lang - James Leith - Peter Lyle - R. Macdonald 

J. Mackay - James McGrouther - G. Melville - Joseph Miller - J. Munro, jun  

A. Murray, jnr. - John Rennie - John Russell - William Scott - JD Sutherland

JF Thomson - Robert Bruce Thomson - P. Wallace - Carrick Wardhaugh.

Further information about the club, particularly about its formation, would be welcomed. It seems that James Leith of Cathcart was a significant figure from the earliest days.

Alan McGowan, Chess Scotland Historian

updated 12/2/2022