Not the real Spens Cup

Maxwell Thornton, a former secretary of the Scottish Chess Association (SCA), mentions that the current Spens trophy is not the original Cup, “Someone on the present Council should know about these things, not just survivors from the past.”

Chess in Scotland was suspended during the war years 1939-1945. In 1946 the SCA was informed by the Jewish Institute, the 1939 Spens winners, that the Cup was missing, “no information beyond the finding of the empty box had been received.” The minutes of the SCA record an immediate rule amendment, “no trophy should be allowed to be taken out of the United Kingdom,” – what were they suggesting? At a subsequent meeting Mr A K Miller of the Jewish Institute explained that the club premises had been mostly destroyed in a fire and they would endeavour to replace the Cup.

The present Cup was gifted by the Jewish Institute and the SCA received £50 on their own insurance policy. The insurance company did not contest the SCA's claim that the combined value of the cash compensation and the new trophy fell some way short of the magnificent original.

The Spens Cup had been purchased in 1901 on public subscription after the death of Sheriff Spens, who had founded the SCA in 1884. The sum raised was £117, which adjusted for inflation would now come to over £6700. The Cup itself, a Menteith Bowl, 15 inches across, 10.5 in height, 115 ounces was purchased from W&W Logan, Diamond Merchants for £ 35. The balance of the fund purchased an annual gold medal for the winner of the Scottish championship.

D. Bryson Scotland on Sunday 2002


Further information supplied by Maxwell Thornton in 2002: "Sometime in the 1960s it was said that the original cup had turned up. I would have pursued the matter but Fairhurst said leave it to him. Nothing more was ever heard of it. If it had been found it would have been the property of the insurance companies from whom we could only have recovered it by refunding the sums paid as claim, for which, of course, the SCA had not anything like enough funds. What I think would have happened then would be that Fairhurst would buy the cup back from the two insurance companies for whatever sum they asked and take it as his own property, which, of course, it would legally be.

I kept hoping that this was the case, and that the cup would someday find its was back to the SCA. We got back, as a gift, about 1955 (Edit:it was 1954), the Scottish Championship Cup won outright by William Gibson in 1923. I remember writing a very grateful letter to his niece, and getting it signed by MacIsaac as past-president and by myself as secretary. "

Updated 24/1/2021