January 1929 edition of the British Chess Magazine carries the full
result of that season's Devon v Cornwall match. The score was 15½ - ½
to Devon, which, assuming a 16 - 0 result is almost impossible, must
surely be the biggest winning margin in the long history of this annual
encounter, if not the whole of westcountry inter-county chess. The
details as published were:-
magazine editor was sympathetic, adding "The luck was all against
Cornwall. This cannot show Cornwall's real form and we shall expect to
see something quite different next time".
more interesting than this, however, is the identity of Devon's bottom
board, there listed as "the Earl of Perth". He was, in fact,
William Huntly Drummond, the 15th Earl of Perth. He had been
born in Simla, India, to the Hon. Captain James David Drummond and his
wife Ellen, née Thornhill. Although serving in the 90th Foot
Regiment of the Indian army, James was the 10th Viscount
Strathearn but at that time was not in line for the Earldom of Perth.
wife, Ellen died, and he re-married, this time to Margaret Smythe of
Methven Castle, Perthshire. Interestingly, the coat of arms of the
Smythes of Methven consisted of two chess rooks. She bore James a
further 3 sons and 2 daughters, the eldest son of whom was James Eric,
who was eventually to succeed his half-brother, William, as the 16th
Earl of Perth in 1937.
1902, George Drummond, who had been the 14th Earl for almost
half a century, died aged
almost 100, and as his sons had predeceased him without male issue, the
title went to William as the nearest relative, having already become the
11th Viscount Strathallan on the death of his father in 1893.
title of Earl of Perth did not come alone - with it he also became Thane
of Lennox, Chief of the Clan Drummond, Baron Drummond of Cargill, Baron
Maderty and the Steward of Menteith & Strathearn.
1911, William married Anna, the daughter of Jacob Strauss of Prague, and
at the outbreak of the Great War had been resident in Munich for several
years, whereupon he was immediately seized by the German authorities as
a suspicious alien. He was imprisoned in a fortress in southern Germany
before being moved to Ruhleben
Camp, a converted racecourse near Berlin, where he spent the duration of
the war with 5,500 others. Although conditions there were tough, the
Geneva Convention was observed, and as the probable alternative for him,
as a former Captain in the Black Watch, was the trenches of the Western
Front, it is a matter of some conjecture which was the better option.
One fellow prisoner, Francis Gribble,
recalled in his memoirs of the camp…"our most brilliant
chess-player, if a player of my own poor capacity may presume to judge,
was the Earl of Perth, who had long settled at Munch".
1922 he made a large donation to the Edinburgh Chess Club to enable them
to purchase their own premises in Alva Street, which they still have to
1925, he was listed as a paid-up member of the Dawlish Chess Club, which
at that time met at Brunt's Café, where its owner, A. E. Brunt was a
member. This provides a clue as to the Earl's possible Devon connection,
for at this time the President of the Devon County Chess Association was
Robert Newman, Lord Mamhead, (q.v.) whose local club would have been
Dawlish. It is possible that these two members of the House of Lords
knew of each other's interest in the noble game, and that Drummond was a
regular visitor to Mamhead House at this time, although this bit is
conjecture. If anyone can throw further light on William's Devon
connection, please get in touch.
the 1925 - 26 season he joined the Exeter Club, after his application
for membership was approved at the October 1925 Committee Meeting. He
attended their 1927 and 1928 A.G.M.s and competed in their Championship
"B" section, which he won. His address was given as 13, The
Strand, Dawlish. In 1927 he took temporary residence at the Marlborough
House Hotel, Teignmouth, before moving to 13, Barton Villas, Dawlish.
Although it is clear he was more than just passing through, he was not
listed as a member for the 1929 - 30 season, and was not heard of again
in Devon. His match against Cornwall in December 1928 must have been the
climax of his stay in the county.
fact, William Huntly Drummond must be the only peer of the realm
to have played chess for Devon, which qualifies him for this gallery of
was succeeded as Earl in 1937 by his half-brother (James) Eric Drummond
who had for many years been a major player on the world political stage.
From 1912 - 15 he was PPS to Prime Minister Asquith, and until 1919
served Foreign Secretary Balfour. The US President Wilson secured his
appointment as Secretary General of the League of Nations from its
inception in 1919 until his elevation to the peerage.