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Chapter 15: Dark Days


“They did fall into the Slough of Despond.”

John Bunyan: The Pilgrim’s Progress, Part I

From the mid-1990’s until its recent Renaissance the Club was in difficulties - at times, even in mortal danger. Membership declined; the bookshop faltered; the club-rooms became grubby and unattractive; malodourous cats gained admittance through the roof; rats were attracted by accumulated rubbish; doubts arose about the future of the building; it was very hard to get members to join the Committee. In short, the habitual selfishness of chess-players was in the ascendant. Attempts to make the Club more attractive by providing television, a pool table and card and other games backfired. Somnolent members drifted off on couches watching television, and Chess did not take kindly to its rival but much inferior games. (In 1879 the Club had decided to permit whist, cribbage, euchre and piquet, but by 1902 its Constitution firmly decreed: “No game but chess shall be played in the Club-room.”) In the Dark Days which began in the mid-1990’s some few members slept on the premises and kept there a strange hoard of treasures. In 2001 the Committee announced that all these bits and pieces would be thrown out unless the owners promptly removed them. Some blithe spirits suggested that the Club’s financial problems could be solved by borrowing, but they had no idea where the money to repay the loan would come from. Borrowing like this, warned Edwin Malitis sternly, could ultimately lead to the loss of the building.

But there were ups as well as downs: from time to time the Club’s sickness was treated by determined individuals, and responded to the treatment. Some of these individuals are mentioned in Roll of Honour.