Glasgow Chess Club

From the unpublished History of the Glasgow Chess Club:


On the death of Hon President Mr D.E. Outram in 1893 the minds of the committee were turned towards the possibility of getting together a History of the Club from recollections of old members, and in the following year Mr Wm Tait (President), Mr Robert Pirrie and Sheriff Spens were appointed a committee to enquire into the possibility of getting up such a history. So far as is known, nothing further was done and it was left to Mr Thomas McGrouther, Librarian and Secretary, to collect from old Glasgow directories all references to the Club to be found there. These, with lists of office bearers 1862 to 1869, lists of members and other interesting matter are to be found in a bound volume in the Club Library.

Chapter 1

As a game in Scotland, Chess did not find any general favour until the nineteenth century was well on the way. The Edinburgh club, generally acknowledged to be the oldest in Scotland, was founded on 4th November 1822 and the Glasgow Chess Club was founded soon after; but just how soon after is at the present time (1940) not known.

By a disastrous fire which broke out in the premises of Mr A.K. Murray in 1856 all records of the Club and a priceless Minute Book were destroyed; but patient investigation and enquiry may yet reveal the exact date of the Club's foundation.

Up to 1908 it had been generally accepted that 1840 was the date of constitution, but the following notice gifted to the club by Mr Robert Pirrie, Hon President 1895-1913, indicates that the club was actually in existence before 1827, there being funds from which tea and coffee were to be provided.
The Notice reads:
                                                                                                                                         "Glasgow, 7th. Nov. 1827"
"The Chess Club will meet in the Royal Hotel Georges Square
"on Monday first the 12th. curt., at 7 o'clock Evening and on
"every following Monday during the season.
"Such of the members as wish it may have Tea or Coffee
"till Eight o'clock from the funds of the Club.
"Jno. Ross, Secretary."

and was addressed to -     

"A. Glasgow, Esq.,
  "Messrs. Frew & Glasgow
     "North Albion Court."

Mr Glasgow, for several years proprietor of Auchenreith, Lanarkshire and afterwards of Old Court, County Cork, was Mr Pirrie's uncle.


The 'A. Glasgow' referred to is likely Alexander Glasgow, born 1 November 1792, Glasgow, died 19 October 1873, Cork, Ireland. Probate of his will refers to Robert Pirrie as one of his Executors.

In regard to the then club secretary, John Ross, The Glasgow Directory 1827-29 records two people of that name: a grocer with his business at 227 Argyll [sic] Street; a merchant whose business address was 131 Ingram Street and whose home was at 5 West Bath Street.


Andrew Gairdner
The loss of documents and a Minute Book in the disastrous 1856 fire means that virtually nothing is known about the early members of Glasgow CC. (However, see the 1865 match report below.)

An exception is that of Andrew Gairdner, and we only know of him because of the kindness and consideration of someone who had no connection to the club, Dr A. Stanley Nance of the Royal Navy.

Around October 1914, while on shore leave in Aberdeen, Dr Nance picked up an item in a  market stall. It was an electro-plated medallion with the inscription:-

 Presented by the Glasgow Chess Club to their Secretary, Andrew Gairdner, Esq., 1842.

The Falkirk Herald chess column of 21 October 1914 suggested that the date was likely that of Mr Gairdner's retirement from office.

Dr Nance wrote to the club, offering to send on the medal and this was gratefully accepted. I would be interesting to know what happened to that piece of memorabilia.

Andrew Gairdner (1792-1856), a merchant and commission agent, was born in the Inveresk/Musselburgh area. He died at 36 Dalhousie Street, Garnethill, Glasgow on 30 May 1856. 

Early days
Particularly interesting comments about the history of the club were made in the chess column of the Falkirk Herald of 7 June 1922, p.4. The editor, A.J. Neilson, a member of Glasgow CC, commented about its age after reading through some old journals and said:

'So far back as the year 1810, we find reports of the Glasgow Chess Club carrying on an active, but somewhat precarious existence: and it is referred to at odd times, particularly during  the '20s' of the last century. In 1810, and later, the club was struggling with financial difficulties, and was never out of trouble in regard to a habitation, continually changing its abode.'

Mr Neilson did not indicate which journals he was referring to.

Even if further information about the 1810 reference was found, it appears that the Edinburgh Chess Club would still be the second oldest continuously existing club in the world after Zurich (1909).

It appears that there were several breaks in the continuity of the club. Note the following references from Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle:-

1835, 2 August: We should be glad to be informed as to whether there is a Chess Club in the Queen of the West─Glasgow, and, if so, where and when they meet.

1837, 3 September: There is now no Chess Club in Glasgow. An English player, Mr Nixon, Music Professor, has lately settled there, whose skill in chess is very great, and if the Glasgow players have spirit to form a chess institution, let them seek him out and rally round him.

1840, 19 April: The Glasgow chess club meet at the Star Hotel.

 1840, 10 May: The Glasgow Chess Club now meet in the Assembly Rooms, instead of the Star Hotel.

However, confusion may have been caused by later announcements the same year:-

1840, 6 September: We do not [know] of any Chess Club in Glasgow.

1840, 20 September: There is a chess club at Glasgow which meets at the Assembly Rooms, Ingram Street. There is also a chess club at the Star Hotel.

And the following references are of particular importance:-

Post Office Glasgow Directory for 1863-64, (pub. 1863).

GLASGOW CHESS CLUB. Instituted 1862. This club, the second of the name, was formed in the above year by members of the previous club and others, for the purpose of keeping up and extending an interest in the game of chess in Glasgow. Meets in the Scottish Exhibition Rooms, Bath Street, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 7 to 11 p.m.
J. R. Richardson, president; W. W. Mitchell, vice-president; J. W. Paterson, George Heggie, jun., A. L. Lang, M. Provan, B. Eckhout, R. M'Whirter, directors; R. S. Moffat, 133 West George Street, secretary; R. Fowler, British Linen Bank, treasurer.

Glasgow Daily Herald, Tuesday, 28 February 1865, p.3

'Last night a friendly match at chess between members of the Old and New Clubs came off in the Bedford Hotel. These clubs have for some time been merged into one, under the name of the Glasgow Chess Club, and have since prospered with the increased strength which union confers. It was expected that Sheriff Bell would have been able last night to act as judge, but in consequence of the illness of a near relative, he was prevented from being present. The match was commenced at six o'clock, and continued till ten P.M. In the course of the evening there were about 50 players engaged, this number including those who took part in the game, and others who merely played amongst themselves. Messrs. J.R. Richardson, George Heggie, jun., M. Provan, I.W. Paterson, and B. Eekhout, played some very fine games during the evening. The playing, as a whole, was considered to be exceedingly satisfactory. As will be seen from the subjoined statement, the New Club gained the victory by no fewer than eight games.'

J.R. Duguid 1 0 J.P. Robertson
Patrick Playfair 1 1 J.D. Campbell
W.R.W. Smith 0 2 D. Dunlop
J. Horne 0 0 A.K. Murray
John Paul 1 1 D.C. Watson
Thomas Murray 1 1 W. Campbell
D. Chapman 1 2 A. M'Arthur
T. Kincaid 0 2 J.D. Phillips
Chas. Thomas 0 3 A. Ross
W.B. Craig 1 2 Alex Murray
Wm Neilson 0 1 G.F. Kerr
John Finlay 0 2 A. Robertson
R.D. Heywood 2 1 T.K. Ross
W.B. Ogilvie 3 0 Robt. Young
J. Sinclair 1 2 W.H. Dalziel
  12 20  

The unpublished history of the Glasgow CC states that the match was supposed to be 22-a-side, with each pair to play three games if time permitted. A second report of the match, in the Glasgow Morning Journal of Tuesday, 28 February 1865, provided further information, saying:-

'Among these were Messrs. J.R. Richardson, president, Geo. Heggie, jun., champion, M. Provan, I.W. Paterson, and B. Eekhout, who, owing to the absence from indisposition of the gentlemen who were to oppose them, played some fine games promiscuously.'

Others who were mentioned as being present were:- Dr. Hilliard, R.F. Easton, W.F. Murray, J.P. Paton, Dr Morton, Dr Connal, Stewart and Dickson.



Henry [Sheriff] Glassford Bell ■ Alexander G. McCombe ■ George Hodge

Reports on club meetings in March 1851 mentioned:-
Dr William Weir ■ Archibald Alison, Sheriff of Lanarkshire ■ Alexander Hastie, M.P.
James Stirling ■ F.W. Vanderkiste, Collector of Customs
James Smith, Jordanhill ■ John Ewing, Kelvingrove ■ Duncan Smith
L. Hamel ■ J.R. Richardson ■ Robert Bryson ■ William Bankier ■ Mr James, Postmaster Alexander Forbes, M.D. ■ Andrew Gairdner ■ D.J. Penny
Charles Campbell, Greenhead ■ Robert Thomson ■ George Shillito, of Customs
Ralph Sillars ■ Willliam Ambrose ■ John Duncan ■ J.B. Knott ■ William W. Mitchell
William Crawford ■ George Macfarlane ■ Mr Mathieson ■ Mr Renison, Writer
Mr Young, Writer ■ Mr Neilson, Writer ■ Mr Craig, Wine Merchant

The club's annual meeting in October 1864 mentioned:-
David Melville ■ Archibald K. Murray ■ Archibald Orr Ewing ■ Duncan Smith
D.E. Outram ■ Thomas Herne ■ J.R. Duguid ■ Angus Macarthur
J.D. Campbell ■ B. Eekhout ■ William Campbell ■ W.F. Murray

In 1879 the club published RULES AND ALPHABETICAL LIST OF THE MEMBERS OF THE GLASGOW CHESS CLUB. The office-bearers and members were:-

Honorary President
George Macfarlane

John R. Duguid

John Jenkin ■ Robert Pirrie

G.A. Thomson

Alexander Berwick

George Macfarlane (left) and Alexander Berwick

Honorary Directors
Archd. Orr Ewing, M.P. James Horne, London
Robert Dalglish Archd. K. Murray, London
Duncan Smith W.W. Mitchell, Millport
W.W. Watson David E. Barclay, Greenock

Sheriff Spens Gavin Chapman, A.M.
George Wauchope John Crum
W.F. Murray Julius SteegmanN

Champion for 1879
Sheriff Spens, Sheriff Chambers


1863 George Heggie
1866 W.W. Mitchell
1867 R.S. Moffat
1870 Robert Mackerrow
1871 B. Eekhout
1872 John Jenkin
1873 John Jenkin
1874 R.M. Grant
1875 Sheriff Spens
1876 Andrew Hunter
1877 W.F. Murray
1878 John Jenkin
1879 Sheriff Spens

Honorary Members
David Melville, Paisley
W.W. Mitchell, Millport
Archd. K. Murray, London

Ordinary Members
Some of them provided business addresses in Glasgow city centre.

Samuel Bash 3 Canning Street
George Beckett 141 West Graham Street
Alexander Berwick 11 Wood Lane
R.L. Brown 68 Bath Street
Gavin Chapman, A.M. North Wallace Street
John Crum 13 Royal Exchange Place
Robert Dalglish 29 St Vincent Place
William Dickson Eaton Villa, Crosshill
John R. Duguid 175 West George Street
B. Eekhout [Eckhout] 88 St Vincent Street
F.W.C. Fozier Madeira Court
James Fulton 103 Sauchiehall Street
John Gilchrist Clincart Cottage, Rutherglen
John Jenkin Rosebank Cottage, Helensburgh
T.R. Johnstone 68 St Vincent Street
Geo. Macfarlane, C.A. 179 West George Street
Dr Macfie 23 Ashton Terrace, Hillhead
R.L. Macwhirter 28 Airlie Terrace, Pollokshields
Peter Marshall Albert Terrace, Airdrie
William Moodie 32 Buccleuch Street
William F. Murray Caledonian Pottery, Rutherglen
Robert Pirrie 207 West George Street
Alexander Ross Crossknowe, Rutherglen
Duncan Smith 23 Blytheswood Square
Sheriff Spens Sheriff Chambers
Julius Steegmann 8 Princes Square
John Stewart 42 Hill Street
William Tait 42 Rosebank Terrace
Thomas Taylor 89 John Street
G.A. Thomson 180 West George Street
George Wauchope Bellfield, Kirkintilloch
Andrew Williamson 54 West Regent Street


Alan McGowan
Historian/Archivist, Chess Scotland

updated 3/12/2021