Tony Beckett RIP

Many a tear has fallen in Bangor, following the sad news of the death of our much-loved Tony Beckett, aged 83, a larger-than-life character, a former Team Captain and Club President of Bangor Chess Club. He also served as UCU President in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

In September 2021, following a proposal by Mark Seidman at the club’s AGM, Tony was awarded Honorary Membership of Bangor Chess Club. The certificate was posted over to his house in Scotland and he responded with a flood of wonderful memories of his time in Bangor:


“Hi Brendan, many thanks to the Committee and yourself for The Gift of Honorary Membership of Bangor Chess Club. I really appreciate the Certificate, and that I join Ron Henderson, a Real Gentleman whom I never saw ruffled or heard him raise his voice... RIP, and Martin Rogers such a sharp gambiteer in his day. Pass on my regards to him.

I hope you will excuse a few reminisces, as since receiving the beautiful framed Certificate, many memories came flooding back.

I joined The Club soon after it was founded in 1966 by Eddie Webb (who owned Chemists shops in Bangor and loved The Dragon Sicilian) and the gentle Ron Henderson who, if you could get his knights off the board which emasculated him!!.

We met in a few different houses etc til we settled for a few lovely years in a guest house in Princetown Road, then moving for Happy Years to The Carnegie Library in Hamilton Road, and finally when we had to leave, due in no small part to the efforts of Richard Proctor, to The Church Hall in Groomsport where it looks as if you still play.

I remember the inaugural One Day Tournament held in The then Winston Hotel on Queen’s Parade, which went on to be Ulster's Traditional Seasonal Opening Event (the Bangor Congress). The Highs and Lows, being relegated, struggling to field a team, to the Halcyon Days we decided to field FOUR Teams !!. Such great players as Rev Ray Devenney, Who was Irish and Ulster Champion, and The mercurial Eddie Whiteside, and Michael Smyth both Uleter Champions. Michael urged on by his father Dennis, who pushed Bangor Grammar School to the fore and for whom my son played and went on to play in The Glorney Cup. Ulster had such a crop of talented Juniors in those days. Then the one and only legend Sam Lynn, who moved from Gilnahirk Belfast to Towerview, then to a house at the rear of The Hospital, where he grew gigantic sunflowers, and left his front door open for anybody who fancied a game to just walk in and play. Until one day he left a newspaper in front of his fireplace to 'draw the fire' went to a downstairs toilet and returned to find the room in flames. He lost literally over a thousand books but after renovations he returned better than ever. As you know he and his lifelong friend Arthur (Two Bishops) Cootes lived until into their nineties, playing chess to very near their end.

I note Nigel Short came over to play a simul a couple of years or so ago, and won all his matches. One of my very few claims to fame was when he first came to Bangor (don't ask me the year 70's or 80's !!) to play a simul in The Winston and I managed to beat him. I remember swatting up The Winawer French which I knew he played at the time, and we played the first 15 or so moves right out of 'The Book' and eventually he resigned after only 23 moves I think it was. I hope I'm not dreaming this ??!!! Mark Newman may have it in the annals of history. I was subsequently proud to be Ulster President and ran the first ever International Tournament where European Masters came to Belfast. Target Recruitment generously sponsored it and we got great Regional News Coverage, but enough of such immodesty !!

Ah such memories.

Since moving to Scotland, now Edinburgh, I have kept playing. First for Dunbar and then a more local club. But now I content myself with going to a tourney in Princes Street Gardens every summer, and to playing online with a rating of just over 1550 not too bad at 83 years; but nowhere near Athur Cootes's rating.

I still follow Ulster Chess, the Club and your results, and note the likes of James O'Fee, Mark Newman and of course yourself Brendan are still prominent. I send you all my very best for the future and please give my best regards to all those who still remember me.

Once again my thanks for the recognition and my best wishes to all in Bangor which still holds a special place in my heart, Tony Beckett, 22 September 2021”


On Sunday 15 March 2022, Tony’s daughter Anne emailed Bangor Chess Club:


“I'm afraid I am writing with the sad news that my father died last Sunday 6th March here in Edinburgh. He had been ill for some months and became more seriously ill on March 4th and died surrounded by his family. I wanted to let you know, and to say how much the Lifetime Honorary Membership Award meant to him to receive. It has pride of place in his study. Thank you for taking the time to give that to him. He played chess to the very end of his life.”

The funeral service will be available to watch online on the day (April 4th at 2.30pm) and for 28 days afterwards.

Current UCU President Mark Newman describes how “Tony was the heart of the club.” When one of Bangor’s Honorary Members leaves this world, they automatically gain ‘Club Legend’ status. Tony now joins other legendary chess figures - Sam Lynn RIP, Eddie Whiteside RIP, Eddie Webb RIP and Ron Henderson RIP.


Fellow Honorary Member of Bangor Chess Club, Brendan Jamison, writes:

“I thought the absolute world of Tony, we used to play chess in my back garden in Bangor when I was a teenager. He and my dad worked together. After Tony and his wife moved to Lanzarote two decades ago, we continued to play correspondence chess, a move a day by email! Tony had the most wonderful sense of humour and he brought so much happiness into every room he walked into. When I think of our chess years together, I can still hear the sound of his voice and his big beaming smile. I found an archive photo of us all together at Bangor Chess Club from 25 years ago when David Houston was delivering a simul in 1997. It was wonderful to still be in correspondence with Tony by email, as late as September 2021. He will be missed by everyone in the chess community who were lucky enough to share his warm-hearted company. A complete gentleman and an inspirational leader. May he now play chess with the angels.”