Edinburgh Ladies' Chess Club


In the beginning the club was named the Ladies' Victorian Chess Club, having been formed on June 24, 1904 at 4 Hope Street by some members of the Victorian Club for Ladies' at that address.

There were nine members at the beginning, including Miss S.E.S. Mair and Miss Stella Malcolm, the honorary secretary and treasurer. Miss Malcolm would retain this position until her death in 1937.

Earlier, on May 7, 1904, at a meeting to conclude the Edinburgh Chess League season, Dr C.F. Knight announced his intention of forming a Ladies' Chess League. In response, Sir Robert Cranston, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and honorary president of the League, promised to provide a trophy for competition by them, provided at least three ladies' clubs were formed. The Cranston Trophy was initially competed for by representatives of the Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling Ladies' Clubs. However, after the demise of the latter club, the Edinburgh and Glasgow Ladies' competed annually for the honour.

In 1905, members of the club were involved in the formation of the Scottish Ladies' Chess Association.

In 1906 the club became independent, moved to 21 Stafford St, and became the Edinburgh Ladies’ CC.

From The Scotsman, Thursday 28 February 1907, page 5:

Presentation of Trophy

'There was a large attendance of ladies at 21 Stafford Street the other evening on the occasion of the presentation by Miss Houldsworth, the donor, of a handsome trophy for annual competition by the members of the Edinburgh Ladies' Chess Club. The trophy, which has been designed by Messrs Sharp & Wilson, consists of a two-handed silver vase on a silver and ebony base, with a cover, on which stands the figure of a chess queen, modelled in silver from that of an old Indian set of chess men. Miss Houldsworth, in presenting the trophy, said she hoped it would be an incentive to all the members of the club to increased study and practice of chess tactics, and so deepen and extend the members' knowledge of the king of games. MIss Houldsworth then consigned the trophy to the keeping of the hon. secretary, Miss Malcolm, and a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to the donor, on the motion of the president, Miss S.E.S. Mair.'

Later, the club would change premises on several occasions, first to George Street and then to Rutland Square.

In 1920 the club was amalgamated with the Scottish Chess Association.

In 1927, at the AGM, it was announced that new rooms had been found at 4 Melville Crescent, the intention being to move there at the end of May. A suite of three rooms were available for the 74 members.

The club remained at Melville Crescent until 1931; at the AGM on May 11 that year, it was announced that the club had purchased a flat at 1 Torphichen Place as a permanent home. The club remained at this address until it disbanded.


1904─1906 4 Hope Street
1906─1909 21 Stafford Street
1909─1920 122 George Street
1920─1927 20 Rutland Square
1927─1931 4 Melville Crescent
1931─1967 1 Torphichen Place


The membership in 1904─05 was 12. It increased steadily over the years, reaching its highest number ─ 94 ─ in 1930. 


The members organised a Girls' Tournament, which was held from 1927-1938. This may have helped encourage the Scottish Chess Association to organise a Boys' championship, which began in 1931.


Edinburgh Ladies' reached the final of the Spens Cup on five occasions, losing in 1920, 1921, 1924 and 1935, but winning in 1928. (Some of the members also played for the Scottish Ladies' Chess Association teams that reached the Spens finals in 1912 and 1913.)


The club celebrated its Jubilee with an "At Home" party on the evening of Monday, 18 October, 1954.


The club closed in 1967, the result of falling membership and the departure abroad of two prominent members, Mrs Foggie and Mrs Mitchell. The club's records were deposited in the Edinburgh Central Library - Local History Collections.

Scope: 1904-1967: minutes, account book, annual reports
Repository code: 580
Record Reference: NRA (S)3563
NRA catalogue reference: NRA 38890


Sarah Elizabeth Siddons Mair (1846-1941) - president of the club from 1905 until her death.

A great-granddaughter of the actress Sarah Siddons, Miss Mair was involved in many areas of education and philanthropy. She founded the Ladies' Edinburgh Debating Society, and was a great campaigner for women's suffrage.

S.E.S. Mair, c. 1902

Dame Sarah was awarded the D.B.E. (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1931 in recognition of her services to women's education in Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh conferred upon her the honorary degree of LL.D. as a tribute to her work in educational circles. (Glasgow Herald, 18 February, 1941, p 6.)

Miss S.V.A. Malcolm (1866-1937) - secretary and treasurer from formation of club until her death. Scottish Women's Champion 1928.

Miss Florence Hutchison Stirling - Scottish Women's Champion 1905-06-07, 1912 & 1913.

Miss Anne Dick Smith Cuninghame (1867-1915) - Scottish Women's Champion 1908 & 1915.

Miss Alice Taylor - Scottish Women's Champion 1909 & 1914.

Miss M.M. Mercer - Scottish Women's Champion 1910.

Miss M.C. Forbes - Scottish Women's Champion 1920 & 1936.

Several members of the Edinburgh Ladies' CC can be seen in the above photo, taken at the British Ladies' Championship in Edinburgh, 1920: Miss F.H. Stirling, Mrs Ritchie, Miss Forbes and Miss Gilchrist

Miss M.D. Gilchrist (c. 1882-1947) - initially a member of Glasgow Ladies' CC, but she later moved to Edinburgh and became the leading lady player. Scottish Women's Champion 1921-22-23 & 1938. British Women's Champion 1929 & 1934.

Miss Gilchrist, British Ladies' Champion 1934

Miss A. Heard - Scottish Women's Champion 1924.

Mrs M.M. Ritchie - Scottish Women's Champion 1925.

Miss A.M. Crum - Scottish Women's Champion 1935, 1946, 1948 & 1949.

Mrs R.P. Foggie - Scottish Women's Champion 1953 and 1955. Represented Scotland in the first Women's Olympiad at Emmen, Netherlands, 1957.

Miss Isabella Scott Robertson (died 1906, aged 65) - first honorary president of the Scottish Ladies' Chess Association. The Robertson Cup, in her memory, was competed for by the ladies' clubs of Scotland.

Miss Grace Milne Rae (sister of Lettice)

Miss Lettice Milne Rae (more accurately, Letitia Ghetal Rae).
Born Madras, India, 1882, daughter of the Rev. George Milne Rae and Janet (Gibb). She moved with her family to 9 Drummond Place, Edinburgh when she was 9, and lived there until her death on 24 June, 1959. Author of Ladies in Debate: Being a History of the Ladies' Edinburgh Debating Society, 1865-1935 (Oliver and Boyd, 1936); The Auld Alliance (Hodder & Stoughton, 1931).

Miss Milne Rae (far right) in the process of winning her game against W. Phillips on board six of a Spens Cup match against Dundee CC on 15 February 1936. On the next board the players are likely to be Mrs Prenter and D.J. Scott. (Evening Telegraph, 17 February 1936, p. 6.)


Miss Adams - who defeated Kostić in a simultaneous exhibition in the club on March 27, 1922.
Mrs C. Coast
Miss M.C.A. Fitzroy
Miss E.H. Henderson
Miss E.M. Humby
Miss J.V. Kessen
Miss A. Macdonald Clark
Miss E.D. McEwan
Miss M.G. Orrock
Mrs L. Prenter
Miss M.C. Robson
Miss G.E. Sanders
Miss F. Tweedie

British Chess Magazine: June 1904, p. 244; August 1925, p. 350; June 1927, p. 235; June 1931, p. 262;
The Scotsman, 23 October 1925, p. 9; 17 May, 1906, p. 5;
Glasgow Herald chess column, October 15, 1954, p. 4.
Scottish Chess Nr. 23, May-August 1967, p. 15.

Alan McGowan

updated 28/11/2022