G. Harley Rodney

G. Harley Rodney

Club President from 1918-1921.

(The information below was provided by Brian Denman)

I do not know what the letter ‘G’ stands for in Rodney’s name – he seems to have generally been called Harley. He was born on 20.11.1858 near Abergavenny. His father was a descendant of Admiral Lord Rodney and his mother a sister of the first Lord Avebury. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1879 he entered the Civil Service by competitive examination and started work at the Public Record Office. In 1907 he became its Assistant Keeper and in 1916 its Secretary (N.B. the word secretary probably had a special meaning in the Civil Service. I doubt that he typed letters and made the tea!). During the war he was also in the Bow Street Special Constabulary.

Before his retirement in 1918 he had been a president of the Metropolitan CC in London. However, after leaving work he came to live at High Wickham, near Hastings and took on the job of president of the local club. He retired from this post in 1921 through ill health. In his later years he suffered from heart trouble and this may have been the reason for his giving up the post. He now became Hon. Vice-President of the club which was a less demanding position. Other vice-presidencies that he held were those of the Metropolitan CC, the Devon Chess Association and the Sussex Chess Association and in addition he became a life member of the British Chess Federation. He learnt the moves at the age of 10, but was not a strong player. He was once known as a problem composer.

He is particularly remembered for his involvement in the Hastings’ Boys’ Congress. For a time the British Chess Federation would not let this become the British Boys’ Championship and Rodney generously provided funds to further the cause of this tournament. The BCF did not want the event to be held at Hastings every year and the local club would not let the event go elsewhere. In the early 1930’s the BCF agreed to the tournament at Hastings taking on national status, but in the mid 1950s the club decided not to stand in the way of the event being held elsewhere. In about 1930 Rodney had decided that, as he was not getting any younger, he wanted to put his contributions to the Boy’s Congress on a more permanent basis. He thus created a fund of £600 as an endowment for future junior congresses. He died in September 1930 and in April 1932 a special memorial board was unveiled which had the winners of the Boys’ Tournament on it backdated to 1923.

In ‘Chess’ of 1.1.1963 Rodney is mentioned as being the last survivor of a generation of patrons who had furthered the careers of chess players. The article adds that one player who had been helped in this way was William Winter who became a British champion. Winter’s description of Rodney is as an aristocrat of the old school, and a true-blue conservative. Winter had socialist views, but this did not worry Rodney who said that he preferred socialists to the ‘fat men who had done well out of the war’, and who now dominated his (N.B. i.e.Rodney’s) party. Winter was Rodney’s guest on several occasions at his home at Hastings, which had once been the property of Henry James. Rodney loved good food and drink and imbibed sherry for breakfast.

In the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 29.7.1944 it is mentioned that in a book about the life of a Father Adderley by a Canon Stevens Rodney gave special help to youngsters as they grew up by encouraging them to participate in sports like swimming.

In 1954 the club decided that the Memorial Board should stay with the club even though the boy’s competition had moved away. I believe that it was kept up to date for a while with the names of winners of the boys championship, but inevitably with the separation of Hastings from the national competition this practice fell into disuse.

I can only remember seeing one of Rodney’s games in print. Unfortunately the game was lost by the former Hastings president .

Est. 1882