Yorkshire Chess History
Archibald Robert Fleming
“Archie” Fleming was a Rotherham chess-player who in his day won the Rotherham Championship a number of times, besides serving the club as an officer.
Archibald Robert Fleming’s parents were John William Fleming (born 1856, Whickham, Co. Durham) and Christina Johnstone Fleming (born 1856, Argyll, Scotland). The couple had married in 1886/87, and had the following four children:
The 1891 census found the parents, the first three children and a domestic nurse living at 78 Durham Road, Tudhoe, Spennymoor, Co. Durham, where “Archie” continued to live until at least 1911. The father, John William Fleming was an assistant parish overseer, and a coal salesman.
The 1901 census found the parents, all four children and a general servant still at 78 Durham Road, with a servant. The father was still assistant parish overseer. 13-year-old Archie was not specified as a scholar, but one imagines he must have been receiving a decent education in view of his future profession.
The 1911 census found the family still at 78 Durham Road with one servant. Horace had left home but Archie was still living with his parents. Father John was still an assistant parish overseer, Frank was a fitter, and Mabel was a pupil teacher. 23-year-old Archie was now embarked on his career as an analytical chemist, working in the “iron and coal” industry, quite possibly at Spennymoor Colliery. The parent were recorded as having been married for 24 full years, and having had four children all of whom were still alive.
Around 1912 he moved to Leeds, and was still living there in 1914.
By 1920 he had moved to Rotherham where for a number of years he was employed as chief chemist to Dalton Main Collieries Ltd, in Rotherham.
His place of residence prior to 1948 is unclear, but Kelly’s directory dated 1948 listed him living at 108 Broom Road, Rotherham. By 1954 he had moved to 63 Oakwood Grove Rotherham, where he resided up to his death in 1975. This house was built at some time from 1948, when Kelly’s listed only even numbers in Oakwood Grove, and 1954.
Outside chess, he had been secretary of Rotherham Congregationalist Church on Doncaster Gate, and more recently was a member of Herringthorpe United Reformed Church. He was also a skilled pianist.
He never married.
The death of Archie Fleming, aged 87, took place in Sheffield Infirmary in mid-May 1975. His cremation in Rotherham on Monday 19/05/1975 followed a service conducted by the Rev. D. Wilkins. He was survived by his sister Mabel and one of his brothers.
In his youth he joined Spennymoor Chess Club, and played in the “Newcastle Chronicle” Silver Knight Trophy handicap competition for players in the Tyne and Tees area. At the age of 17 he was in the Class 5 handicap group, winning a gold medal for reaching the last four. The following year he was placed in Class 3 and actually won the Silver Knight. In the year after that, by then placed in Class 1, he reached the semi-final.
Around 1912, he moved to Leeds, joining Leeds Chess Club in 1913, and playing in the Leeds Woodhouse Cup team. His debut in the Woodhouse Cup was in March 1914, playing for Leeds against Sheffield.
World War I caused a hiatus in his club chess activities.
The Bingham Cup for the Rotherham Championship was first competed for in 1920-21. Its first five winners were as follows:
1921 AR Fleming
1922 EF Griffith
1923 AR Fleming
1924 EF Griffith
1925 AR Fleming
Archie won the Bingham seven times in all.
When on 28/03/1923 the British Champion, Fred Dewhirst Yates, gave a simultaneous display in Rotherham, over 22 boards, Archie was the only one of his opponenst to score a win.
He served at various times as secretary, treasurer and match captainof Rotherham Chess Club, and on occasion all three at once.
He played for Rotherham in Sheffield & District Chess Association team competitions right up to the season of his death, 1974-75, when he was a member of the Rotherham A team which won the Davy Trophy that season.
In later life, before clocks were mandatory in the Sheffield league, he had a tendency to play very slowly in match games, so that some players, such as members of the present writer’s school chess team and Sheffield YMCA, dreaded the prospect of playing Archie in matches against Rotherham, as a draw on adjudication was an almost inevitably foregone conclusion.
He was a vice-president of the Sheffield and District Chess Association to the time of illness which led to his death. At the time of his death he was president of Rotherham Chess Club.
He donated the Fleming Trophy to Rotherham Chess Club, reportedly to promote better understanding of chess opening theory, so it may originally have been contested in a specified opening-themed tournament, though after his death it came to be contested in a lightning or rapid-play tournament. In time the “Fleming” lapsed.
(1) Quarterly death return index.
Other sources include articles in the Yorkshire Telegraph and Star, by Bill Batley, and a death notice in the South Yorkshire and Rotherham Advertiser of Friday 23/05/1975, page 29 (author unknown).
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information