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Tim Hay (1946 – 2011)

Timothy James Hay. 

(31.03.1946. –   24.01.2011.)

Tim Hay was a life-long chessplayer who was brought into the mainstream of Devon chess from about 1985 onwards as he encouraged his son Stephen in the game, and came to achieve great things for the county in his capacity as Match Captain of both the Junior and Senior teams. 

He was born in Retford, Nottinghamshire, the elder of two boys born to Robert and Katri Hay. Tim’s maternal grandmother was called Goode, a family of minority Protestants from County Wexford in the Irish Republic, while his father was of Scottish descent; Tim was very proud of the Clan Hay and wore the tartan from time to time. In WWII Robert Hay had been a Major in the Royal Artillery (71st West Riding Regiment). Originally part of the 1st Army in North Africa, where he was awarded the MC and was mentioned in dispatches, he was involved in the landings onto the Italian mainland at Salerno, and was later one of the 105,000 Allied casualties in the four battles for the Monte Cassino monastry, where he lost a leg.

The Hay Tartan

After the war, being a talented engineer, he went to work for the Marshall Richards Machine Co. of Crook, Co. Durham, starting as PA to Mr. Richards and eventually rising to become Managing Director.

 When he was 2, with a baby brother, Patrick, to be compared with, Tim was clearly not developing physically or mentally as he should have, but it was years before it was discovered he had a malfunctioning thyroid. By the time this was diagnosed he was several years behind average both in height and attainment at school, but a course of medication put him on the road to recovery. This was not helped by having some allergies and contracting every common infectious disease possible, including pneumonia.

Bow School, Durham.

At the age of 8 he was sent to Bow School, (right) the preparatory department of Durham School, where sport is highly rated. Tim and his brother both played for the school cricket team, reportedly once bowling out an entire visiting team for 0 runs.

 At about this time, a visiting relative gave the boys a chess set. Tim was immediately hooked, as it appealed to his competitive instincts without requiring any verbal or academic skills. He played the game from then till the day he died.

Both boys had their names put down for Repton, the noted private school on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border, whose alumni included such sporting legends as C. B. Fry, Harold Abrahams and Bunny Austin, and in more recent times, Jeremy Clarkson and Dr. Graeme Garden of the Goodies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with his track-record, Tim failed the entrance exam and was sent instead to Brickwall School, now called Frewen College, a school specialising in dyslexic and dyspraxic pupils, situated in a magnificent Jacobean manor house in the East Sussex village of Northiam, East Sussex. This recent aerial photograph shows a chessboard fashioned in topiary, created in 1980.

Aerial view of the present day school.

Brickwall School, now Frewen College.


Patrick later got into Repton, and it would be understandable if Tim had felt something of a failure, or jealous of his brother’s success, but this was not to understand him. He loved his school, the Headmaster, the educational projects and the sport, where he excelled at hockey, tennis and cricket, while his brother hated every minute of his time at Repton. Tim finished with 5 GCE ‘O’ levels, an excellent achievement after his unfortunate start in life. Perhaps it was a reflection of the residential nature of his schooling, but he also had an ambition to become either a chef or go into the hotel business.

The 1937 Bentley

Meanwhile, during the school holidays, in his early teens Tim purchased an old banger, (a Standard Flying 12) for £10, that the brothers used to drive around the family’s 5½ acre estate, devising hair-raising stunts that terrified their mother, who hadn’t forgotten how Tim had broken his arm performing some madcap stunt on his bike when aged 10. One prank involved Patrick hanging from the lower branch of a tree and dropping onto the car roof as Tim drove beneath it – or vice versa. Such fun! After all that practice, Tim passed his driving test first time and invested in a 1937 Bentley 4.25 for driving on the open road. After rumours reach his mother that he once did 100 mph in it, she took fright, and when they returned from school for their next holiday at home, they found the car missing. On asking its whereabouts, their mother said “I sold it for £25 and here’s £12-10 shillings for each of you”. They never forgave her for that.

 After school, Tim was determined to follow his career inclination and started work at Ye Olde Bell Hotel in Barnby Moor, near Retford where he was born, and he quickly rose through the ranks. 

The brothers outside Ye Olde Bell

Ye Olde Bell today.


Tim relaxed

He then moved to the 5 star Westbury Hotel, one of the finest venues in London’s Mayfair. This was at the height of the Swinging Sixties when London was the centre of the universe and Tim made sure he didn’t miss out – he was at the epicentre. Without in any way neglecting his hotel duties, he was a founding member of the Playboy Club and Crockfords, the famed exclusive gaming club, where he was to be seen in hand-made tuxedo and silk-lined cloak. After 2 years in London he got a post at a 5-star hotel in Cologne, before moving to one of Europe’s most luxurious venues, L’Hotel de Crillon in Paris (below).

L'Hotel de Crillon

He then returned to England, to work at the Salcombe Hotel in Devon, before moving to the Tara Hotel at Upton St. Leonards, near Gloucester (since re-named the Hatton Court Hotel). Here he met Rosamund (née Crozier) who worked at the same hotel and in 1973 they married. Ros already had two children and a son, Stephen, was born in 1975.

 In 1977, they decided to go in with another couple in buying the Moors Park Hotel in Bishopsteignton, near Teignmouth, Devon, but in 1981 the partners decided to return to Gloucester, and they were forced to sell up. With Stephen having started at the local primary school and Tim having joined the Teignmouth Chess Club, they had put down roots, and as they wanted to stay in the village, they purchased the Manor Inn. To help with the income, Tim decided to fall back on his other love of cookery, and started by making a few pasties on the kitchen table and selling six a day to the village butchers nearby. 

From that small beginning they built up a home-based business called the Pasty Mine that employed 14 people. To expand further would have meant acquiring an industrial premises, and this they were not prepared to do, so the Hays kept the business at a level they were happy with, and so it continued this way until 1998.

During this 17 year spell, Tim got involved in village affairs, playing in the village cricket team and serving on the Carnival Committee, and was elected as Liberal Democrat member for Kingsteignton on the Teignbridge District Council. At the chess club he helped found the annual Teignmouth RapidPlay Tournament, which still runs today. As his son reached the top end of his junior school, he went in to take a weekly chess club. From this he was appointed Team Manager of the South Devon Primary Schools Chess Association, taking teams to national tournaments all over the country. The young players all responded to his leadership, which culminated in 1992 when he led the team to the National Under-11 Championship, an unprecedented feat for a provincial team against the might of those from the big conurbations.

The details below demonstrate the magnitude of the achievement:-

 List of Previous Winners (by way of comparison). 

1967 Liverpool   1977 London   1987 Wey Valley  
1968 Nottingham   1978 London   1988 Kent  
1969 Liverpool   1979 London   1989 Gt. Manchester  
1970 London   1980 Liverpool   1990 Kent  
1971 Birmingham   1981 London   1991 Gt. Manchester  
1972 Nottingham   1982 London   1992 Devon   
1973 London   1983 London        
1974 London   1984 Manchester        
1975 London   1985 N. W. London        
1976 Manchester   1986 S. E. London        

 How the Devon team performed individually.

B1 Devon Player Rd.1 Rd.2 Rd.2 Total
1 David Rudall ½ ½ ½
2 Andrew Stone ½ 0 1
3 Stefan Butterfield 0 0 1 1
4 Tom Fayle 0 ½ 1
5 Matthew Dawson 0 0 1 1
6 Nicholas Child ½ 1 ½ 2
7 Edward Radway 1 1 1 3
8 Rowland Turton 1 ½ 0
9 David Hodge 1 ½ 1
10 Ben Grainger 1 1 0 2
11 Chris Leedham 1 1 1 3
12 Adam Clarke ½ 1 ½ 2
13 Joseph Collman 1 1 ½
14 Wojciech Szymanski 1 1 1 3
15 Oliver Wensley 0 1 0 1
16 Daniel Horseman 0 1 1 2
17 Simon Keir 0 1 1 2
18 Chris White 1 1 1 3
19 Toby Dummett 0 1 1 2
20 Tim Praill 1 1 1 3
  Totals 12 14½ 15 41½

 The final team table.

On the strength of this Tim was appointed Match Captain of Devon’s senior team. Success again followed when in June 1996 he took two teams to the National Final of the Inter-Counties Championships – in the Under-150 and Under-100 sections.

 After victories for the stronger team over Leicestershire (10-6) in the Quarter-Final and Cambridgeshire (11½-4½) in the Semis, they faced Nottinghamshire in the Final in Birmingham.  With three games to finish, the match could have gone either way, as Matthew Leigh, Paul Carpenter and Mark Abbott all had very close endgames. They asked Tim if they could agree a draw, but he refused and made them play on, wisely as it turned out, as all three went on to win, making the final score look more comfortable that it actually was.

  Devon        Notts  
1 D. Hill 142 0 1 A. Blake 148
2 J. G. Gorodi 140 ½ ½ N. Graham 148
3 S. Webb 146 1 0 A. Dyce 148
4 I. Taggart 145 ½ ½ J. Tassi 147
5 C. Brookwell 149 ½ ½ B. Hayward 145
6 P. E. Halmkin 143 ½ ½ W. Selby 143
7 M. Leigh 149 1 0 A. Wright 143
8 M. Hamon 148 0 1 J. Cast 143
9 P. Carpenter 145 1 0 N. Bowler 142
10 P. Scott 140 1 0 Z. Yahya 141
11 R. Towers 143 ½ ½ M. Shaw 140
12 S. Pope 142 0 1 R. Taylor 139
13 D. Ruddall 141 1 0 I. Nicholson 137
14 M. V. Abbott 139 1 0 G. Beales 136
15 I. S. Annetts 131 1 0 M. Taylor 131
16 K. J. Bloodworth 135 0 1 P. Kirby 127


Tim receives the U-150 trophy from BCF President, Alan Martin.

Devon's victorious U-150 team parading their trophy.

l-r: Peter Halmkin; Steve Webb; Danny Hill; Matthew Leigh; John Gorodi; Ian Taggart; Tim Hay (holding cup); Ken Bloodworth; Sean Pope; Paul Carpenter; David Rudall; Patrick Scott; Chris Brookwell & Ivor Annetts.

 However, in 1998, all this joy came to a sudden end in a most unexpected way. While he was making a routine delivery of pasties to a shop in Exeter, he was stung by a bee in the cab of his van. As Tim knew he was allergic to bee stings, he prepared to drive back home immediately, taking the precaution of asking the shop manager to follow his van to make sure he got home safely. This was duly achieved and from home he was taken by ambulance to hospital, where they discovered that not only had he been stung, but he must, at some point, have fallen against his van in Exeter and hit the back of his head. The next day he had a cerebral haemorrhage and spent a month in hospital.

 After this he attempted to carry on as before, but had two fits whilst driving his van. After a third fit resulted in his crashing into a ditch, it was discovered these were as a result of epilepsy, and he was banned from driving for a minimum of three years until the condition could be stabilised.

 The business could not function successfully under this handicap, so Tim and Ros sold the Pasty Mine to a former employee and moved into a flat nearby.

After this, Tim gave up chess for almost a decade, but in 2008 they moved into Teignmouth and he started to get involved again in the local scene, re-joining the Teignmouth Club and playing in local congresses. He got involved in the chess element of the Twinning between Torbay and Hellevoetsluis in Holland, joining groups of players to visit the Dutch town and hosting them in return. In the summer of 2010 he arranged for a match between the two sides to be played at Forde House in Newton Abbot, the very house in which William III stayed on his first night in England, having landed his troops at nearby Brixham, on his way from Hellevoetsluis to London to assume the British Crown. The Dutch appreciated the significance.

In December 2010, during a bitterly cold spell, he was returning to his house when he slipped and fell on some steep steps leading to his front door, fracturing his skull. He was taken to hospital but never recovered consciousness. 

His memorial service was held at Torquay Crematorium on 4th February 2011, when chess colleagues joined with family members in celebrating Tim’s rich and varied life.

With thanks for information and family pictures to:

Ros Hay; Tim’s mother, and brother Patrick; Tim Onions;

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