This week, Bill Pettigrew, who has been with Nomads club since the 90s, has moved from his flat in Longley to be closer to his daughters in Bridlington. Though he hasn’t been to the club recently, people will remember his lively spirit very well from Eten Café (including his magic acts there!) and at previous venues before that. When we were still at The Harlequin, he gave a lecture on the history of chess in Sheffield: including amusing stories of how the allure of chess had proved the ruin of some people he’d come across in his working life, as well as the saviour for others.
Bill has had a long life, with memories of chess in Sheffield stretching back to the 1950s. Though he didn’t play at the Sheffield Boys’ Working Home where he was brought up (his only chess memories there are of boys using two torn-in-half chessboards as shields against the pieces thrown at each other!), it obviously stirred his imagination – he learned to play later in the army, buying his first chess set in an antique shop in Worcester (close to the Great Malvern barracks where he was based). He first played ‘properly’ in the 50s when he was a constable in Sheffield City Police, as part of the Works League. He was also for a time a member of Association clubs: The Limes first on Barnsley Rd and then Southey in the 60s. In Bill’s memory, there was a clear contrast between the two Sheffield leagues: while the Works was dominated by workers from steel and engineering, the Association was much more the domain of the professional classes. Bill took part in the famous 100-board matches that were played annually between the two leagues, he was part of the 1975 match between Sheffield and Manchester – and going further back well remembers local characters such as Charlie Gurnhill, the strong Sheffield and Yorkshire player of the mid-20th century.
Good luck Bill from players at the Nomads – all the very best and hope you find that chess club in Bridlington!