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E. Douglas Fawcett (1866 – 1960)

Edward Douglas Fawcett. 

April 1866 – 14th April 1960  

Fawcett at the SCCU Congress, Plymouth 1903.

Quite apart from being one of the founding fathers of the Devon County Chess Association in 1901, Douglas Fawcett was a pioneer in many different areas, from colour photography, through motoring, mountaineering, aeronautics, science fiction and philosophy.

Douglas was born in Torquay, in April 1866, the son of Edward Boyd Fawcett and his wife Myra Elizabeth (nee Macdougall). Edward Boyd had been born on 10th October 1839, the son of Henry Fawcett, of Broadfields, York, when he was staying at Poona, the Victorian resort in the Himalayan foothills to which the upper echelons of the Raj regularly retired to escape the heat of an Indian summer. E. Boyd Fawcett had gone to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won a Blue for cricket, going on to play for Sussex and the Gentlemen in 21 matches between 1859 and 1863.  On leaving Cambridge, Boyd joined the Royal Cumberland Regiment and went east to help run the Empire. While out there, he met and married Myra Macdougall, the daughter of Col. Macdougall of the Bengal Army. 

When their first-born was expected, they moved back to Blighty and Edward Douglas was born in Hove, Brighton in 1866. For whatever reason, their time in the orient was cut short, as by the time a second son was born the following year, they had moved to a house in Ashbury Dale, in the parish of St. Marychurch, Torquay. Quite why this radical change in residence and career is not clear, but in the1871 census Boyd is described as a “Share Holder”, which suggests he may have come into some money which he invested on the stock market. 

The following year, a brother was born, Percy Harrison Fawcett, who later became famous as Colonel Fawcett, who, in 1925, led an expedition into the Amazonian rainforest in search of a fabled city, but was never seen again. In the absence of facts about his demise, legends quickly grew up about the man and his fate, and he was reputed to have become the model for the fictional character, Indiana Jones. However, truth often proves to be stranger than any fiction, and only recently has it been fully appreciated that Fawcett believed the earth was largely hollow and he was, in fact, looking for the lost city of Atlantis, still inhabited by Atlanteans, in caves deep beneath the surface of Brazil. 

Be all that as it may, although history has concentrated its gaze on the conundrum of Percy Fawcett, his brother Douglas is an equally flamboyant subject for study. 

In 1869 a sister Myra Evelyn was born, and Blanche Helen followed the year after. However, by 1881 the family had been living at No. 3, Barnpark Terrace, Teignmouth for several years for a third sister, Beatrice, had been born there and was already 4 years old. 

Douglas was educated locally at Newton Abbot Proprietary College before winning a Queen’s Scholarship to Westminster School, and his brother Percy followed him through both schools. 

Tragedy struck shortly after when their father died on 26th September 1884 at the age of 44, leaving a widow and five children. The 1891 census records that Myra was living at 24, Lansdowne Place, Hove, Sussex, with her three daughters, all unmarried and none with any stated occupation, Evelyn (21), Blanche (20) and Beatrice (14). The mother was listed as “living on own means”, so life could not have been terribly hard for them. However, the Kelly’s Directory for 1897 has Mrs. Fawcett as still owning the Teignmouth house in Barnpark Road, so it is not clear exactly which was her main abode.

At the same time, Douglas was living at Rutland Lodge in the Ilsham area of Torquay. He was listed as an author. In 1896, he married Miss M. B. V. Jackson. 

At this time, he was working from home on his early science fiction novels. He published a book entitled Hartmann the Anarchist and subtitled The Doom of the Great City. (Edward Arnold 1893). Although today not deemed great literature by the standards of H. G. Wells or Jules Verne, it tells the story of an anarchist who bombs London in a series of great air raids – foretelling the Blitz of the 2nd World War, and as such, predates Wells’s The Shape Of Things to Come by some forty years. He had foreseen and demonstrated the military importance of airpower a decade before the Wright brothers’ first faltering experiments. The illustrator, Fred Jane, found lasting fame as the founder of Jane’s Fighting Ships

1st edition cover.


Shortly after, he published The Secret of the Desert, or How We Crossed Arabia in the “Antelope“, probably the first fictional account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense, 20 years before the first tanks appeared in the Great War. 

His third adventure story, published by Arnold in 1894,  was called Swallowed By An Earthquake, with notable illustrations by H. C. Seppings Wright. As the title suggests the characters find themselves in an underground world, an idea genuinely held by his brother, Percy. 

After the turn of the century, his writing concentrated more on his philosophical ideas. He was an  Idealist, “whose distinctive mark is the discussion of Imagination as the fundamental reality of the  Universe” (entry in Who’s Who). He was also a Theosophist, or believer in karma and reincarnation. These books are listed in Appendix A, where it can be seen that several were weighty tomes of around 600 pages each. Their significance may be gauged from the fact that several are still in print, and 1st editions of his science fiction books are priced in the hundreds of pounds each. 

The year 1900 saw a great increase in chess activity and organisation in south Devon. A number of new clubs were formed and a parent body, the Devon County Chess Association, was set up in October 1901 to encourage and oversee inter-club competition. Compared to what had gone before, there was a sudden rush of matches and tournaments, and Fawcett was greatly involved, this being probably the busiest period of his chess career.

A new club was formed at Totnes on 2nd October 1901, with Edward Winter-Wood as President, Fawcett as Vice President and the hard-working Charles Blanshard as Secretary. The club had had its origins in the relationship between Fawcett and Blanshard who had been playing friendly games in Totnes for some time before. In addition to their love of chess, both had a love of mountaineering and life in the great outdoors, and would certainly have been on the same wavelength, swapping tales of their adventures.

The first congress to be organised was the Devon and Cornwall Tournament which was held in January 6th – 11th 1902, in Plymouth. This was not organised by the DCCA as such, but was a special one-man effort, C. T. Blanshard having done all the work. There were 14 entries, divided into 2 equal sections. Class I consisted of Rev. Henry Bremridge (Winkleigh), Charles Lambert (Exeter), Thomas Taylor (Plymouth), Rev. Arthur Baker (Teignmouth), Douglas Fawcett (Totnes), Clifford Kitchen and P. Motley.  The games went mostly to form, with Fawcett out of the prizelist (1st Lambert; 2nd Taylor; 3rd Baker).

 This was quickly followed by the D.C.C.A.’s own inaugural congress, held at the Barnfield Hall, Exeter, from 21st – 26th April 1902. The event was notable, not only for being a first, but for the presence throughout of the great American master, Harry Pillsbury, whose simultaneous, blindfold exhibitions were woven into the full week-long programme of county championships, Knockout and Lightning tournaments. Fawcett was one of ten players in the Championship Section, which finished:- 1st C. J. Lambert (Exeter) 8/9 pts. 2nd C. Tracey (Exmouth) 7½ pts. 3rd T. Taylor (Plymouth) 6 pts. 4th Rev. H. Bremridge (Winkleigh) 5½ pts. 5th= E. D. Fawcett (Totnes) & Mrs. Knapp (Exeter) 4 pts. 7th Palmer 3½ pts. 8th= C. F. Corke (Sevenoaks) & E. V. Hawkins (Exeter) 3 pts.

 On the afternoon of Thursday 4th April, Fawcett sat down with 11 others to play Pillsbury, who was on a platform, the better for all to see, sat in an armchair with his back to the play. His regular habit was to call out something like “On Boards 5 and 11 P-Q4; on all the others P-K4″. He would then call out each board number and his move, and await the reply. He won ten games and conceded a draw to A. W. Peet of Newton Abbot. By way of an encore, in the evening Pillsbury took on 17 opponents simultaneously, allowing the first five to finish to start a second game, yet still winning all 22 games. Such was his memory that he could recall every game the next day and was happy to discuss individual mistakes and combinations from memory.

 The following afternoon, Pillsbury took on 23 opponents simultaneously, including Fawcett, of which he won all but one, conceding just a draw. In the evening, Pillsbury took on 14 at chess and 5 at draughts, simultaneously and sans voir, winning them all except for one drawn game of draughts.

 Pillsbury then went on to the 10th Hastings Chess Festival which finished on 3rd May.  Fawcett met up with him again during Whit week when they both attended the 4th Kent Congress at Tunbridge Wells. Fawcett again tackled Pillsbury in a simultaneous blindfold display, and, perhaps benefiting from his experiences in Exeter, was the only one to secure a draw.

 Fawcett played in the top section, but was somewhat out of his depth as it included a number of British Championship contenders. 

4th Kent County Chess Association

Tunbridge Wells 19th – 24th May 1902 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10    
1 Loman, R. J. X 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 7 £10
2 Mueller, O 0 X ½ ½ 0 1 1 1 1 1 6   £5
3 Michell, R. P. ½ ½ X 1 0 1 0 ½ 1 1 5½   
4 Thomas G. A. ½ ½ 0 X ½ 1 1 0 1 1 5½   
5 Wainwright, G. 0 1 1 ½ X 0 1 0 1 1 5½   
6 Schories, G. 0 0 0 0 1 X 1 1 1 1 5  
7 Mortimer, J. ½ 0 1 0 0 0 X 1 ½ 1 4  
8 Serraillier, L 0 0 ½ 1 1 0 0 X 0 1 3½   
9 Fawcett, E. D. 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 X 0 1½   
10 Joyce, F. A. ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 X 1½   

 Later that year, the Southern Union, as a vote of encouragement to the new Devon association,  held their congress at Plymouth. Fawcett’s picture at the top of this article is a detail from the group photograph taken at this event, and is the only one of him so far discovered. He played in the top section and his performance was respectable. Taylor, for example, who finished well below him, was Devon Champion on many occasions. (see his biography for details).

Southern Union Congress – Plymouth 1902

1st August – 11th September

Section 2

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  
1 W. H. Gunston X 1 1 1 1 1 1 ½ 1
2 A. Emery 0 X ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1
3 J. F. Allcock 0 ½ X ½ 0 1 ½ 1 1
4 J. Mortimer 0 0 ½ X 1 1 0 1 1
5 E. D. Fawcett 0 0 1 0 X 1 1 ½ ½ 4
6 R. B. Jones 0 ½ 0 0 0 X 1 1 1
7 A. West 0 0 ½ 1 0 0 X ½ ½
8 Dr. D. Dunstan ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ X 0 2
9 T. Taylor 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 X 2

 In October 1902, Devon played  the first of many matches against Cornwall. Rather surprisingly the venue was Truro, almost as far from Devon as one could go. The result was an even bigger surprise to all concerned. 

  Cornwall  Club     Devon  Club
1 Philip Dancer Helston 0 1 Thomas Taylor Plymouth
2 Charles Masson Fox Falmouth 1 0 Henry Bowles Exeter
3 R. Davy Penzance 0 1 G. M. Frean Torquay
4 A. Mayne Falmouth 0 1 C. F. Cooper Plymouth
5 F. Harry Pascho Plymouth 1 0 E. Douglas Fawcett Totnes
6 F. H. Carlyon Truro 1 0 W. W. Rickard Plymouth
7 Stanley Y. Williams Penzance 1 0 W. H. Phillips Plymouth
8 C. E. Trethewey Truro ½ ½ W. W. Hooper Plymouth
9 C. Dowsell Wadebridge 1 0 Rev. Henry Bremridge Winkleigh
10 T. G. Mead Falmouth 1 0 Arthur Stoneman Plymouth
11 W. E. Grenfell Truro 0 1 E. Pearse Devonport
12 Dr. Butlin Camborne 1 0 Col. Bennett Plymouth
13 C. E. Harby Wadebridge ½ ½ Mrs. Rhoda Bowles Exeter
14 F. R. Pasco Truro ½ ½ Charles Blanshard Totnes
15 A. Menhennick Wadebridge 1 0 T. Whitby Devonport
16 H. Tonkin Penryn 1 0 S. Ward Plymouth
17 William Boxhall St. Austell 0 1 F. Langdon Devonport
18 Leslie Hall   1 0 Rev. H. R. Kruger Exeter
19 C. Hoadley Helston 1 0 Rev. H. D. Nicholson Plymouth
20 E. Retchford Penryn 0 1 C. W. Wood Plymouth
21 A. E. Preston St. Mawes 0 1 R. S. Nicole Exeter
22 H. Knowles Helston 1 0 E. A. Pryer Axminster
23 F. Marsh   1 0 W. H. Daw Teignmouth
24 H. T. Robinson Camborne 0 1 Rev. Moyle Devonport
25 C. Jenkin   1 0 Miss. M. Hunt  

 The 1902 – 03 season started busily. Fawcett drew on Board 5 for Devon in their  8 – 8 draw against Gloucestershire on 13th December 1902. At the start of the new year, a chess tour was arranged. Firstly, on January 9th he drew on Board 4 for Devon in a 12 – 10 defeat of Somerset.  The next day 26 Devonians travelled up to London for a match against Kent. Reinforcements pushed Fawcett down to Board 8, where he lost to H. Webb and the team by 17½ – 8½.. On Monday January 12th the team met the strong Metropolitan Club over 20 boards, losing 13 – 7.

 On 23rd January, Devon were set to play a second match over 25 boards against neighbours Cornwall, at Plymouth. Devon would have been entitled to hold the match as far from Cornwall as possible, in somewhere like Tiverton, but common sense prevailed and Plymouth, on the border of the two counties, was chosen. Having lost the first encounter by a considerable margin,  Devon were keen to avenge that defeat, and so they did, though it was a close-run thing. 

  Devon  Club     Cornwall  Club
1 Thomas Taylor Plymouth 0 1 Philip Dancer Helston
2 Henry Bowles Exeter 1 0 Charles Masson-Fox Falmouth
3 C. F. Cooper Plymouth 0 1 R. Davy Penzance
4 E. Douglas Fawcett Totnes 1 0 Dr. F. H. Carlyon Truro
5 W. W. Rickard Plymouth 1 0 Harry Pascoe Plymouth
6 A. W. Peet Newton Abbot ½ ½ Stanley Williams Penzance
7 E. Palmer   ½ ½ N. A. Prettyjohn  
8 H. Dobson   1 0 C. Dowswell Wadebridge
9 Carslake Winter-Wood Torquay 0 1 C. R. Trethewey Truro
10 G. F. Thompson   1 0 T. Mead Falmouth
11 Rev. Henry Bremridge Winkleigh 1 0 Dr. Butlin Camborne
12 Charles T. Blanshard Totnes 1 0 Roger Turner  
13 Ellison Pearse Devonport 1 0 E. Harby Wadebridge
14 Col. R. D. Bennett Plymouth 0 1 Leslie Hall  
15 T. Whitby Devonport ½ ½ A. Menhennick  
16 Mrs. Rhoda A. Bowles Exeter ½ ½ F. R. Pascoe Truro
17 Arthur Stoneman Plymouth 0 1 C. Jenkin  
18 R. S. Nicole Exeter 0 1 William Boxhall St. Austell
19 J. E. D. Moysey Totnes 1 0 W. A. Bunt  
20 Rev. T. H. Moyle Devonport 1 0 H. T. Robinson Camborne
21 H. G. Phillips   ½ ½ C. Hoadley Helston
22 W. F. Holmes   0 1 E. Retchford Penryn
23 H. J. Luxton   1 0 A. E. Preston St. Mawes
24 C. J. Meads   ½ ½ William Tangye  
25 E. Clark   0 1 E. Sedding  
      13 12    

5th  Kent County Chess Association

Canterbury 1st  – 6th  June   1903 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9    
1 Schories, G. X 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 7 £10
2 Thomas G. A. 0 X 1 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 5 £5
3 Cresswell, E. 0 0 X ½ 1 1 0 1 1  
4 Loman, R. J. 1 0 ½ X 0 1 0 1 1 4½   
5 Mortimer, J. 0 1 0 1 X 0 ½ 1 ½ 4  
6 Jones, R. F. B. 0 ½ 0 0 1 X 1 0 1 3½   
7 Finn, Kate B 0 0 1 1 ½ 0 X 0 ½ 3  
8 Taylor, T. 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 X 1 3  
9 Fawcett, E. D. 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 X 1½   

 At this time, he was spending more and more time in Switzerland, until he reached the point where he lived there permanently. He made his mark early on, when, in 1904, he drove an 8 horse power De Dion car from Chamonix, up a mule track to reach the Mer de Glace, at about 1,400 metres on the northern slopes of Mont Blanc. This was a significant milestone in the development of road transport in Switzerland and the opening-up of the high Alps to tourism. 

Fawcett's car.


Left: A 1903 De Dion car, such as Fawcett drove up a mountainside in 1904.

Glacier up which Fawcett drove his car.


Left: The Mer de Glace.

By 1921, he had made sufficient a mark in life to merit an entry in Who’s Who, which continued for 40 years. 

His address, as given in Who’s Who, was different in every edition; Chalet Sommeheim, Wenden, Bernese Oberland (1921); Villa des Alpes, St. Gingolph (1926); Villa Vincent, Montreux (1928) and  Le Verger, Clarens (1932). This gave way to him nominating a London branch of the National Provincial Bank who would forward all communications to him, wherever he happened to be living at the time. 

Conquering the Matterhorn was an annual event for Fawcett. His final ascent as a climber was in 1932 at the age of 66. It was during the middle part of the climb that he suffered a heart attack which forced him and his companion to spend the night on the mountain. Overnight, he recovered enough to complete the ascent the next morning. 

Yet that marked the end of his climbing career. Undeterred, however, he simply learned to fly so he could still be among the peaks. His experiences formed the basis of another book, From Heston to the High Alps, which contains 31 photographs of Alpine peaks taken, probably by him, from the air. (See appendix for details). The Heston referred to was Heston Aerodrome, situated adjacent to the present-day Heathrow, which was operational from 1929 to 1946, and from where Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his famous “Peace in our time” speech. 

Heston, the future Heathrow, where Fawcett learned to fly.


Left:  The control tower at Heston Aerodrome in 1930, where and when Fawcett learned to fly.  

After the war, he settled back in England. In 1947, he married Mrs. Vera Sybil Elise Dick-Cunyngham (née Pryce), the widow of George Dick-Cunyngham whom she had married in 1908. The new Mr. & Mrs. Fawcett lived at 98, Walton Street, London SW3. 

He continued with his Alpine flights until 1950. One can imagine him then, in his 80s, struggling to steady his light aircraft against the swirling updrafts among the mountain peaks, while  photographing the grandeur beneath him. Eventually, the authorities refused to renew his pilot’s licence – probably a wise decision in the circumstances. 

In his final years, he settled into a routine of entering the same congresses each year, mainly Hastings in the New Year and Paignton in September. He tended to enter sections that were too high for his declining powers, often finishing last, though it is unlikely that this worried him overmuch. 

Paignton Congress Record

He missed the first Paignton Congress in September 1951, but played in every one after that until his death.

1952: Major “A” – 2nd with 4/7 pts.

1953: Premier Reserves “C”: 7th with 2/7 pts.

1954: Prize list not published

1955: Not in prize list

1956: Not in prize list.

1957: Premier Reserves “D”: 6th with 3½/7 pts.

1958: Premier Reserves “C”: In his report for BCM, Bruce Hayden made special mention of him, saying “Of the veteran players, ninety-two year old Mr. Douglas Fawcett, of London, played some good games in the earlier rounds, and delighted everyone with his reminiscences of Pillsbury and his first game with Steinitz, which he played in 1879 (!)”.

1959: Premier Reserves “D” 1/7 pts.

Hastings Congress Record

1950: Premier Reserves “C”              10th / 10 with ½ point

1951: Major “A”                                    9th / 9 with 1 point.

1952: Major “A”                                    8th / 10 with 3 points.

1953: Premier Reserves “C”:                         10th / 10 with ½ point.

1954: Major “A”                                    8th / 10 with 2½ points.

1955: Premier Reserves P.M. Section: 5th / 9 with 4 points.

1956: Premier Reserves “E”              10th / 10 with 1 point.

1957: Premier Reserves “E”              10th / 10 with 1 point.

1958: Premier Reserves “E”              7th / 10 with 3 points.

1959: Premier Reserves “F”               9th / 10 with 3 points.

1960: Premier Reserves “F”               10th / 10 with 1½ points. 

This was his last congress – he was 94 years old and died 12 weeks later. 

Douglas Fawcett never quite scaled the heights in chess as he did with his beloved mountains – he had far too many interests and diversions to be able to devote the time necessary for that. Pioneering novelist, philosopher, pilot, sportsman, racing motorcyclist – it’s a long list. However, he certainly qualifies as a Devon chess pioneer as well. His most active period coincided with the creation of the DCCA. He played on a high board for the county and supported all their early events as long as he lived in the country. Given the many other calls on his time, this demonstrated his commitment to the game in his native county and guarantees his place in our hall of fame. 

© R. H. Jones 2010 

Appendix A. 

Bibliography of books by E. Douglas Fawcett: 

Science fiction: 

Hartmann the Anarchist or The Doom of the Great City.
An early work of science fiction/fantasy in the dystopian tradition, pre-dating but having much in keeping with both the political allegories of H. G. Wells and the global adventures of Jules Verne. Edward Arnold 1893. 

Swallowed By An Earthquake: Illustrations by H. C. Seppings Wright. Arnold 1894. 

The Secret of the Desert or How We Crossed Arabia in the “Antelope”:  Arnold 1894 probably the first fictional account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense. 

Early philosophical works

The Riddle Of The UniverseBeing An Attempt To Determine The First Principles Of Metaphysic, Considered As An Inquiry Into The Conditions And Import Of Consciousness. 456pp Edward Arnold 1893. 

The Individual And Reality; an essay touching the first principles of metaphysics & occultism. Longmans, 1909.
The World as Imagination: 664pp Macmillan 1916.

Divine ImaginingAn Essay on the First Principles of Philosophy. 276 pp 1921 Kessinger Publishing.

Later Philosophical works: 

The Zermatt Dialogues – Constituting the outlines of a philosophy of mysticism – Mainly on problems of cosmic import.  Five climbers, representing five world-views, are in the High Alps where they combine a little mountaineering with huge amounts of philosophical disputation. The author’s intention is to further the claims of his theory of Imaginism, in which the idea of ”consciring”, seems to play a crucial part.  Ten plates of Alpine photographs, several of which show mountaineers in action. 541pp Macmillan 1931. 

Oberland Dialogues: This book “offers suggestions touching the solution of a special minor riddle, that of the standing and prospects of the human ’soul’.” 542pp  Macmillan 1939.

Other works: 

From Heston to the High Alps:  This book was written to encourage amateurs to the joys of flying for pleasure. Chapters are titled How I became a pilot – On some truths of first importance to the joy-flyer -  The pilot finds his reward in the High Alps -  A visit to the Matterhorn: October 2, 1934. Looking down on Mont Blanc and the Savoy Alps: September 23, 1934. From Berne to Venice and back: October 22-23, 1934. A flight from Berne over the Matterhorn and back (“Over the Matterhorn”: A Poem): September 26, 1934, second visit. 31 photographs, mostly of mountain peaks from the air, 74pp. Macmillan 1936. 

Light Of The Universe - Being An Account of The Flight Beyond the Grave of Douglas Leslie, aviator. 152pp Sidgwick & Jackson 1957. 

Appendix B

Obituary from The Times.  18.05.1960. 

Douglas Fawcett, who died on 14th May 1960 at the age of 94, led an adventurous life both in thought and action. He was a notable mountaineer, and it was among the mountains of Switzerland, where he lived for many years, that he reflected  and wrote upon a variety of philosophical idealism that became known as “Imaginism”. 

Edward Douglas Fawcett was the elder son of of E. Boyd Fawcett, an equerry to the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) and was the brother of Colonel Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the interior of Brazil. 

He was a Queen’s Scholar at Westminster School and gave early evidence of imaginative power and precocious erudition in his first published poem, The Wrath of Ana, written at the age of 13. For fun and a bet, he surprised his Headmaster a few years later by winning a gold medal for Latin verse. But his passion for adventure dominated his youthful scholarship and from journalism he turned to science fiction. He was well ahead of H. G. Wells: his Hartmann the Anarchist (1891) described the bombing of London from the air, and his Secret of the Desert (1894) was, surely, fiction’s first account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense. 

His first marriage took him to Switzerland where he became a well-known mountaineer and pioneer skier. After showing his prowess in England as a racing motor cyclist, he made the first (and probably only) ascent of the mule track from Chamonix to the Mer de Glace in a De Dion of 8 horsepower. That was in 1904, and it opened up a new era of motor roads and tourism in Switzerland. 

Living on in Switzerland after the death of his first wife, Fawcett devoted himself to his two favourite pursuits in combination and became a mountaineer philosopher. His two major philosophical works, The Zermatt Dialogues (1934) , a cosmology, and The Oberland Dialogues (1939), a study of the soul, are in a mountain setting. The distinctive mark of Fawcett’s philosophy is the discussion of imagination as the fundamental reality of the universe, and this was clearly displayed in his Divine Imagining (1929) and epitomised in his final epic poem, Light of the Universe (1957), which he wrote at the age of 91. 

Fawcett was ever adventuring. When, at the age of 66, he was making his annual ascent of the Matterhorn, he had a heart attack, and with his companion, had to lie up in snow for the night. Next morning the two men went to the summit, but that was Fawcett’s last climb on foot. At 68, pining for the peaks, Fawcett learned to fly, and thereafter, year by year, (excluding the war years), until he was 84, he would battle with the turbulent air among the Alpine heights, flying his light aeroplane and plying his camera. When no longer allowed to renew his flying licence, Fawcett became a player in chess congresses at national level. He played his last match at Hastings a few months before he died. 

Straight-backed, six feet two inches, monocled, Douglas Fawcett combined a universality of mind with a gentle modesty. He married again in later life Mrs Vera Dick-Conyngham, daughter of Mostyn Price, and was accompanied in all he did by his artist wife, who survives him. 

© R. H. Jones  2011 All rights reserved. 


Who Was Who?         Vol. 5 1951 – 60.

Di Felice, G:                Chess Results 1901 – 1920.   McFarland 2006

BCMs                          Various years.

Gaige, J:                      Chess Personalia                   McFarland 1987

Obituaries from The Times 1951 – 1960                    Newspaper Archive Developments 1979

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