James Chrismas Waterman

Winner of the club championship in 1906, 1907 and 1950.

By Brian Denman

He was born James Chrismas Waterman in the June quarter of 1877 in the Tenterden Registration District. The Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 16.4.1955 specifies that he was born at Ashford.

Educated at Ashford Grammar School, he was the son of an estate agent. Later he went into business with his father at Tenterden and eventually opened his own business in Bexhill.

He was a member of the Biddenden/Tenterden chess club in the early years of the twentieth century and in those days, when there was a railway connecting Tenterden with Hastings, it probably would not have been too difficult a journey to come to the seaside town (N.B. I am not sure how frequent the trains were on the branch line from Robertsbridge, which opened in 1903!). After joining the Hastings CC, he won the championship in 1906 and 1907. On the second of these occasions he tied first with E E Middleton jnr. and it appears that they would have taken part in a play-off.

By 1908 Waterman was living at Bury St Edmunds, where it would seem that he was resident for about four years. Towards the end of 1912, however, he turned out for the Redhill CC for a match against the Christ Church CC, Brighton and in 1913 he played for Sussex against Middlesex. It seems that he started playing for Kent in the 1913-14 season and he won the championship of that county in 1914. In the first half of 1915 he played for a Kent touring team against the Hastings CC. However, he saw service in the Coldstream Guards in World War 1.

Soon after hostilities ceased he moved to Sherbourne, Dorset, and dealt in sheep farming until his retirement. It seems that he was inactive as a chess player in this period.

In 1945 he won the annual tournament at Templecombe, but it was his other main hobby, bowling, that brought him back to Hastings. In 1948 he was competing in a bowling tournament in Hastings, when he thought how nice it would be to live there. He joined the Hastings CC in that year and became an active club player. He still played a strong game and in 1950 won the club championship for the third time. At the time this achievement created a club record, as the span of 44 years since his first success in the tournament had not been achieved by any other player. Later Arthur Winser opened up a span of 45 years, when he became joint champion with M C Gallagher in 1978. I do not know if there was a play-off in the 1978 competition, but when Waterman tied first in the 1952 club championship with the promising young player Michael Davis, he lost the play-off. I am not sure whether the record should go to James Waterman or Arthur Winser.

In 1954 Waterman was admitted to the Royal East Sussex Hospital for an appendix operation. It is possible that his death on 12.4.1955 was in some way attributable to this. He was aged 77 according to official records and at that time was living in Bexhill. In the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 23.4.1955 the columnist, Frank Rhoden recalled in memory of Waterman his ‘healthy out-door look, that penetrating eye – and penetrating brain, too; that magistral voice …’. Later in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 6.7.1968 Rhoden stated that he rather liked Waterman and added: ‘He was a crusty character whose reminiscences of the game fascinated me. He’d known everybody in the game and had a positively fiendish memory for endings.’ When in 1953 Waterman defeated an extremely promising Brighton junior who was nearly 60 years younger than him, he told Rhoden that the trouble with these young players was that they thought that they always had to be doing something in the game. He himself would just wait for them to do too much and he admitted that he was once the same. I think that it was Reg Cload who once told me that Waterman in his later years would sometimes nod off during a game and then, when coming to, would produce a series of dynamic moves!

Est. 1882