Howard Staunton

A visit to Scotland, 1852.

The following information is supplied by John Townsend, author of a recent book on Howard Staunton.


Mr. Jon Crumiller, of New Jersey , owns an original letter written by Howard Staunton following his visit to Scotland in 1852. Through Mr Crumiller's kindness, the two-page, double-sided letter can be viewed here:

A transcript by John Townsend follows:

“Preston July 14

My dear Sir,

Some letters which I got early last week compelled me most reluctantly to
return South without accomplishing a trip to the Highlands - This I the
more regretted since it deprived me of the chance of getting a few games
with the best men of the Glasgow Club.

However, I shall look upon the jaunt as deferred only, and use every
exertion to carry it into effect next Spring.  We spent a most agreeable
time at Edinburgh , & I had the satisfaction of seeing the Club
resuscitated with a degree of spirit which bodes fair to bring it up again
to its old pitch.

I do not think, if you now challenged the club to meet the Glasgow heroes,
they would have any hesitation in accepting the defi.  Such a tourney might
be beneficial to both societies, so I hope when the weather becomes cooler,
you will suggest to Mr Bell the propriety of bringing it about.

Mrs Staunton writes with me in kind remembrance to Mrs McCoombe &
yourself.  I desire also that you will present my regards to Dr. Weir & Mr
Sheriff Bell & believe me

Truly yours,
H. Staunton

I gave a promise many weeks ago to accept a public dinner at this place &
hence my stoppage here.”

Staunton was writing on his way back from his visit to Scotland, while staying at Preston. The date is given as “July 14” with no year, but the year can be identified with certainty from an insertion in the Preston Chronicle of Saturday 10 July 1852, which confirms that the Preston Chess Club, having invited Staunton to visit Preston on Thursday 15th of July, had resolved to dine together on the occasion, at the Bull Hotel.

In June 1852 he had stayed with Rev. John Donaldson (Delta), at Kirkconnel Manse, with whom he played a number of friendly games at odds of pawn and two. For Delta 's account of this episode, see “Delta's Reminiscences”, British Chess Magazine , Vol. XI, October 1891.

The Glasgow Herald of Friday, 25 June 1852, reported Staunton ' s speech to Glasgow Chess Club, where he was guest of honour. In it he remarked that it was his first visit to Scotland . The “ Mr Sheriff Bell” mentioned by Staunton in the letter was Henry Glassford Bell, with whom he found much in common. Delta observes: “The person who was upsides with him in intellectual and literary activity was my dear friend Sheriff Glassford Bell …” (“Delta's Reminiscences”, British Chess Magazine , Vol. XI, October 1891, p. 455.)

It is clear from Staunton's letter that he also visited Edinburgh Chess Club, and he encourages a match between the two clubs. The letter does not say to whom it is addressed, but, since “ Mrs McCoombe ” is mentioned in the same breath as the addressee , it seems likely to have been A.G. McCoombe, who was the Honorary Secretary of the Glasgow Chess Club. By 1855 McCoombe had emigrated to Australia , being in that year the beaten finalist in the first championship of Victoria. (See H.B.Bignold (ed.), The Australian Chess Annual , Vol. 1, George Robertson & Co., 1896, pp. 44-45. )

John Townsend,
Author of "Notes on the Life of Howard Staunton"


Alan McGowan