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March 2017
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Dr. David Anthony Toms 1937 – 2017 (04.03.2017.)

David Anthony Toms 1937 – 2017

Dr. David Anthony Toms, a member of Sidmouth and Exmouth Chess Clubs, passed away on 15th February 2017, aged 80. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday 14th March at St. Leonard’s Church, Exeter, starting at 13.30 hrs. Any donations will go towards St. Leonard’s Church and the Kairos Prison Ministry, a world-wide organisation dedicated to supporting prisoners and their families.

David’s father and grandfather before him, both called Arthur, ran a meat pie and live & jellied eel  shop at 84, Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton, Hackney. The road was originally constructed on virgin land in c. 1869, and was built especially straight and wide so as to allow for shops and a weekly market with stalls on either side of the road. Economic activity was stimulated in that area with the opening of Clapton station in 1872 and the arrival of the tram system. It is quite possible that the Toms family had lived in that road from the start, and this photograph of the Toms shop front suggests the Victorian era. 1

The Toms family business: Meat Pies & Live Eels

Below: Typical scene of Chatsworth Road, Clapham, at about the time of David’s birth. 2

Chatsworth Street, Clapham in the 1930s

Today one is more likely to find kebab shops and pizza parlours than jellied eel emporia, but the area is currently undergoing a Notting Hill-like process of gentrification, and a lively cross-cultural ethos is much in evidence around Chatsworth Road.

David attended the local primary school and might have succeeded to the eel empire, but he proved very bright and academic, and won a scholarship to Bancrofts School, a direct grant grammar school in leafy Woodford Green. Bancroft’s was very supportive of chess as a valuable extra-curricular activity. Not only David but several of his contemporaries were also successful as promising juniors, including R. Jessop.

1954 was his annus mirabilis on the chessboard. In January he won the London Boys’ Championship ahead of Michael Macdonald-Ross, thus joining the ranks of former winners like Harry Golombek (1929 – son of Polish-Jewish refugees) and Leonard Barden (1946 – son of a dustman), who both went on to become legends in the chess world.

In August he went on to play in the British Boys’ Championship, beginning a long association with Nottingham. He came 10th= scoring 6/11 points, a creditable total but not quite headline-making. However, on the strength of these two results he was invited to join a team of English U-18 juniors to tour Holland in which they played 4 teams of Dutch juniors, beating them all. David scored 2½/4 points.

In September, he played in the 3rd Paignton Congress, coming 2nd in the Premier Reserves C Section behind Peter C. Gibbs of Bradford. He didn’t play at Paignton again until 2009, when he took part in one of the last of the series before it was forced to move out of the famous Oldway Mansion.

Suddenly school days were over and he went to medical school, specialising in mental health and graduated with an MB. He followed a career in psychiatry, becoming a member of the Royal College of Physicians and later elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He was a Director of a group of psychiatrists based in Regent Street, Nottingham. His impressive title by this time was Dr. Consulting Psychiatrist David A. Toms  MB; MRCP; FRCPsych.

With this demanding career and a growing family of four children (2 sons & 2 daughters), there was no time for chess tournaments or weekend congresses, so he took to correspondence chess, carrying a small cardboard folding chessboard in his jacket pocket, for any opportune moment to analyse his current games.

Eventually he retired to the small village of Tipton St. John and joined the nearby Sidmouth Chess Club. At that time, the majority of members were happy to play only within their club, but several of the more able players joined the nearby Exmouth Chess Club in order to get games at the weekends in Devon’s 1st division, the Bremridge Cup, and David followed this path, contributing to them winning the title 9 times between 2002 – 2016. He was meticulous in recording in his scorebook not just his own game but the names of all players involved in the match and their individual scores and the team totals.

Dr. Toms in action against Dr. Peter Hempson at Paignton 2015.

He was elected President of the Devon County Chess Association in 2012.

When illness started to take its toll, he was not averse to telling friends what was wrong and how he was advising his own GP the best course of treatment.

Whenever his health allowed, he continued to play until very near the end.

Both his career and life generally were underpinned by his strong Christian faith.

R. H. Jones.

Credits:

  1. This silk screen print, adapted from an old photograph, was made by Hackney artist Richard Roberts, and is available from his website Roberts Print.
  2. 2.The street views may be found, along with many others of historical interest, on the Yeah! Hackney website.
  3. Photo by R. H. Jones.

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