Brief History of the Rathmines Chess Club – by Liam King.

On the evening of 17th November 1888, twelve gentlemen met in Rathmines Town Hall for the purpose of forming a chess club.  They adopted twelve resolutions for the establishment of that club.  Among the more important were the following:
1. That it being desirable to form a chess club in Rathmines, one be now established and named Rathmines Chess Club.
2. That the Club shall consist of resident and non-resident lady and gentlemen members.
3. That the annual subscription be £1: 0: 0 for resident gentlemen members, £0:10: 0 for ladies and non-resident members, resident signifying one who lives in the district of Rathmines and Rathgar.
10. Candidates for election as members shall be proposed and seconded at any meeting of the Club (one black ball in four excluding) of which due notice has been given.
11. ( part ) The laws of chess contained in Staunton’s Handbook shall be adopted by the Club.

In the course of the meeting Mr James Dobson, J. P. was elected Club President. Thus was the Club founded 116 years ago and it survives to this day.  In the meantime there has been a significant increase in membership, but in relative monetary values, no increase in fees!

[Except to the extent that, in compliance with modern Anti-discrimination Legislation, “lady” and “non-resident” members now pay the same as the “resident gentlemen”, oh!  – and the “black ball” rule has been dropped.]

In those early days members played their games by candlelight.  There were no chess clocks, and the concept of a “ratings” had not yet emerged.  Instead the Club operated a system of “odds” of pawns or even pieces, which stronger players were obliged to concede to those less talented – something like the handicap system in present day golf.

The Club first participated in the Armstrong Cup competition as long ago as 1889. There was no Irish Chess Union or L.C.U. in those days, so at the start of the season the Secretaries of the Clubs interested in participating would arrange to meet at some suitable location [usually the fashionable Café Cairo] and draw up the Fixture List for the season.  Nowadays, as well as the Armstrong Cup, Rathmines Chess Club teams play in practically all of the Leinster Chess Union’s Leagues.  It was not always thus; as its fortunes waxed and waned throughout the years there were times when the Club had not the strength to field even a single team in the Leinster Leagues.

Over the decades, the Club has embraced into its membership and often promoted to its leadership persons of all creeds and classes.  Many members have made outstanding contributions of service to the Club and it is evident from the records that most of these never aspired to nor accepted high office.  Of those who were willing to step to the forefront, names such as Howell, Freestone and Glorney probably feature most strongly in the Club’s “collective subconscious”.

It is fair to say that in the whole history of the Club there was only one woman who ever played a significant part in its management and that was Mai Branagan, whose contribution was tremendous.  It came at a critical time in the Club’s history and without her the Club might not have survived to the present day.

The highest honour the Rathmines Chess Club can bestow is Honorary Membership.  Among those on whom this honour was bestowed in the past are Alfie Byrne [who was Lord Mayor of Dublin at the time and though not a member, a good friend to the Club] and Cecil Parker Glorney who was for many years President of the Club and a benefactor not only to the Club but to entire Irish chess establishment.

At the present time [17th November 2004] there are three Honorary Members of Rathmines Chess Club: Mai Branagan, Kieran Cranny, and Jim Shaw

(Download here a list of Presidents and Secretaries of Rathmines Chess Club from 1888 to the present, kindly prepared by Liam!

Alas, since the above history was written we have lost the three Honorary Members mentioned above as well as the author, Liam King.

Since then the honour has been bestowed on two stalwarts of chess in Rathmines, Jack Killane and Maura Osborne. Both honorary members have  done trojan work in promoting and developing chess in both the senior and junior clubs and in addition have made tremendous contributions to chess at Leinster and National levels.

2 Responses to History

  1. Dr Kevin Bright says:

    James S. Dobson, JP, died 24 June 1894 per entry No. 4913 Mount Jerome cemetery. Does this help to tidy your listof presidents?

  2. That is a powerful contribution to retain a memory of the people that were the founders and strength of Rathmines Chess Club.

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