Thomas Taylor was born in 1860 at St. Cleer near Liskeard, the son of William Taylor, a mining engineer from St. Just. The family moved first to St. Ives and by 1888 to Plymouth where Thomas eventually became a manufacturer of waterproofs.
That year he became a founding member of the newly-formed Plymouth Club. He won the club championship for the first time in 1893 and repeated the feat a further nineteen times, the last time in 1926. He won Devon's individual championship six times in an eleven year period, and the Winter-Wood Trophy nine times between 1911 and 1924. This was then, as it still is today, a knockout between the champions of the various clubs affiliated to D.C.C.A. This chart illustrates his dominance of Devon chess at this time.
Having won the Plymouth Championship trophy for three consecutive seasons in 1901, he was entitled to keep the original trophy which had been donated by Carslake Winter-Wood, whose brother, Edward, donated a replacement cup, which Taylor immediately won
Devon's first Match Captain was C. J. Lambert (q.v.) who resigned in 1903 after two years in office. He was temporarily replaced by Henry Bremridge (q.v.) as an emergency measure, but Taylor soon took over permanently, a post he held for over 30 years until his death. However, he was handicapped by poor eyesight to such an extent that he could not undertake the secretarial duties of the captaincy - a match conductor was always elected to make the arrangements for each match.
He played at the BCF Congresses three times. At Glasgow in 1911 he came 4th in the Major Open with a score of 6. He also played at Cheltenham in 1913 and Hastings in 1919.
What games we have of his come from the scorebooks of Ron Bruce, whom he played many times, and may be found in the database of Bruce's games.
He is pictured above in 1901 when he lived at 8, Connaught Avenue, Plymouth, a bachelor with his retired father and sister Elizabeth Taylor. He died in 1934, by which time a young Ronald Mackay Bruce had assumed Taylor's mantle, and who in turn combined a great ability and consistency in the service of Devon chess. However, even in his final year, he had won his games against Cornwall and Somerset on Board 5, and was yet again in the running for his club championship with a score of 7 / 10. He contracted pneumonia suddenly and unexpectedly, and died in the middle of April 1934.
A player of such skill and commitment to the county, fully deserves his place in this modest Devon Hall of Fame.
As Ron Bruce concluded in his BCM obituary, "He was really a wonderful old man, much esteemed and greatly missed".
R. H. Jones.