Women's Chess in Scotland

By D.M. MacIsaac

Reprinted from Chess, December 1943, page 36.

Scotland has two ladies' chess clubs which have been in existence for nearly forty years, taking part during these years in national cup and local league competitions; there are two trophy competitions confined to Scottish ladies' clubs; there has been an annual Scottish ladies' championship since 1909 [sic: 1905. AMcG], and an annual girls' tournament since 1927; and from 1905 to 1920 there was a Scottish Ladies' Chess Association with an annual congress of its own: has any other country a record to equal that?

The unique story of women's chess in Scotland may be said to open on June 24th, 1904, at 4 Hope Street, Edinburgh, by the formation of the Ladies' Victorian Chess Club among a group of players who were members of the Victorian Club for Ladies' at that address. The leaders were Miss Stella Malcolm, secretary and treasurer, and Miss S.E.S. Mair, president. Two years later the club became independent, moved to 21 Stafford Street, and became the Edinburgh Ladies' Chess Club.

In 1905 the mettle of Miss Malcolm and her friends was further shown by the formation of the Scottish Ladies' Chess Association, on the suggestion of Dr. Knight, Portobello, the then president of the Edinburgh Chess League. Miss Malcolm was secretary and treasurer, and continued as such until 1920. In that year the Ladies' Association was amalgamated with the Scottish Chess Association, with one of the conditions that there should never be fewer than two ladies on the council of the S.C.A. Four ladies have since been Presidents of the Association - Mrs Ritchie (Edinburgh), Mrs Brockett (Glasgow), Miss Malcolm (Edinburgh), and Miss M.D. Gilchrist (Edinburgh).

The Ladies' Association during its existence ran twelve yearly congresses for women only, and founded and managed three notable trophy competitions: The Scottish Ladies' Championship; the Robertson Cup for ladies' clubs; and the Cranston Trophy, run in club sections with the section winners meeting in the final. The following list of women champions contains many names familiar to the records of the British Ladies' Championship, including Miss M.D. Gilchrist, British Ladies' Champion in 1929 and 1934, and prominent in contests for the Women's Championship of the World at Folkestone and Stockholm. [1933 and 1937. AMcG]

Miss F. Hutchison Stirling, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1913
Miss Smith Cunningham[e], 1908, 1915
Miss A. Taylor, 1909, 1911, 1914
Miss M.M. Mercer, 1910
Miss M.C. Forbes, 1920, 1936
Miss M.D. Gilchrist, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1938
Miss A. Heard, 1924
Mrs M.M. Ritchie, 1925 [Photo on left taken 1925]
Mrs [J] Brockett, 1926, 1927, 1939
Miss S. Malcolm, 1928
Mrs F.F. Thomson, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1937.
Mrs J.F. Thomson, 1931
Miss A.M. Crum, 1935



The Girls' tournament, for the Stella Malcolm Cup, has been won as follows:
1927, Mollie Weatherill
1928 Doris Cowie
1929 and 1930, Jean Ritchie
1931, 1932 and 1933, Veronica Blackstock
1934, Betty Mason
1935, Mary Knox
1936, Janette Wilson
1937 and 1938, Elizabeth Henderson

Girls' Tournament at Edinburgh, January 4th to 7th, 1928
Standing, left to right: Molly Weatherill, Miss Malcolm.
Sitting, left to right: Doris Cowie, Kate Young, Doris Simpson,
Jean Ritchie, Betty Mason.
Photo: BCM 1928, February.

The pioneer club was joined in the Association by Glasgow Ladies' CC, founded in 1905 and still very much alive, and by Stirling Ladies', extinct since the last war. For some years Stirling played for the Robertson Cup, and in 1911, 1912 and 1913, Miss J.H. Moorhouse, of Stirling Ladies' CC won the Cranston Trophy. The first match for the Robertson Cup was played on March 13th, 1909, when Edinburgh defeated Glasgow convincingly by 4 to 1.

Edinburgh then defeated Stirling 4½-½, to win the trophy for that year. The next contest was in 1912, when Edinburgh again won, and the third in 1916, when Glasgow won. From 1920 to 1938 there was an annual match between teams of seven from Edinburgh and Glasgow, with varying results favouring Edinburgh to the extent of a total of 14 wins
to 8. The Cranston Trophy also was more often in Edinburgh, as is shown by the list of winners which follows:

Edinburgh Ladies' CC
Miss F. Hutchison Stirling, 1905;
Miss I.S.R Robertson, 1906:
Miss S.E.S. Mair, 1907;
Mrs M.M. Ritchie, 1908, 1937;
Miss A.D.S. Cunningham[e], 1909;
Miss M.R. Forman, 1910;
Miss G.E. Sanders, 1914;
Miss M.C.A. Fitzroy, 1915;
Miss M.C. Robson, 1916, 1917;
Miss M.D. Gilchrist, 1920;
Miss M.C. Forbes, 1921, 1936, 1939, 1942, 1943;
Miss A.M. Crum, 1928, 1932;
Mrs L. Prenter, 1933;
Miss E.H. Henderson, 1935.

Glasgow Ladies' CC
Mrs J. Brockett, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1941;
Mrs F.F. Thomson, 1925;
Mrs J.F. Thomson, 1926, 1927;
Miss M.E. Edington, 1929, 1930, 1934;
Mrs A.M. Sunter, 1931;
Miss L.M. Hogarth, 1938, 1940.

Stirling Ladies' CC
Miss J.H. Moorhouse, 1911, 1912, 1913.

Miss Malcolm continued as secretary, treasurer, and inspiration of the Edinburgh Ladies' Club until her death in 1937. Outstanding events in the story of the Club during that time were their affiliation to the Edinburgh League in 1906, in which they latterly had teams in all three Divisions; their first match for the Scottish Spens Cup in 1907; the winning of the Spens in 1927 which gave them a place in the select eight which play for the senior Richardson Cup; and the purchase of their own private rooms at 1 Torphichen Place in 1931, where the Ladies' were hosts to the Scottish Congresses of 1933 and 1937. Miss A. Macdonald Clark has been secretary since 1937, with Mrs Ritchie, Miss Henderson, Miss Forbes, and others, in active management.

The Glasgow Ladies' Chess Club, never so strong numerically as their Edinburgh friends, have also had a long record under inspired leadership. The Club was founded in 1905 by Mrs Margaret Gibb, president and presiding genius until her death in 1918. Mrs Gibb was donor of the Gibb Cup for handicap competition, and her memory is perpetuated by the Margaret Gibb Cup for the club championship, presented by her daughter. Miss E. Gibb was secretary until 1912, and Miss Wardhaugh from 1912 until 1916. The double duties of secretary and treasurer were then taken over by Mrs Brockett, who is still in office after 27 years' service. The success of the leadership of Mrs Brockett is seen in the records of her club in the Robertson, Cranston, Spens, and Glasgow League competitions; and her work for the game otherwise shown by her service as president of the Scottish Association and of the Glasgow League.

In the wider spheres of play the women of Scotland have also been prominent. For example, Scotland is now part of the British Chess Federation, but one in four of the ladies who are life-members of the B.C.F. are from Scotland, which is more than twice the census quota. In supporting local leagues and national associations, contributing to the costs of visiting masters and giving them private engagements, and so on, the women players of Scotland have a noble record. If the men players did as well chess would be flourishing indeed.

Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland