RHS Chess Team

The RHS chess team playing Newcastle Grammar School over the telephone in the Sunday Times National Schools Chess Tournament – 1960-61, would that be right? None of the matches finished – but we lost on adjudication (I think)!
  • Alastair MacLean
  • Dennis Wallace
  • Colin Moffat
  • Gordon Burt
  • Keith Moffat (no relation)
  • Gavin Bolus
Alex ‘Henry’ Hall is the man with the pipe – he was head technology teacher and staff member responsible for the chess club. George Kempsall is the man standing behind Wallace and Moffat. He was himself a chess player and a great advocate and organiser of Edinburgh schools chess – and a reporter for the Edinburgh (was it the Evening Dispatch or the Evening News). Every chess match was reported with individual results – so we regularly got our names in the newspaper! I have forgotten the name of the man on the left – but he was an associate of George Kempsall’s and likewise a great enthusiast for schools chess. Posted by Gordon Burt


  1. The RHS Chess Team did have a couple of good years in the Sunday Times Schools Chess Championships. In 1958/59, we defeated Kirkcaldy High School, but lost in the Scottish final to St Mungo’s Academy in Glasgow. The Team did have a better run in the 1959/60 event. We won the Scottish zone by successively defeating Mary Erskine’s College Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy High School, and our rivals St Mungo’s Academy Glasgow. Next up were Grangefield Grammar School, Stockton-on-Tees, played by telephone 19.2.1960, and we also won this match, narrowly, on adjudication. Nemesis came in the semi-finals 5.4.1960, where we lost narrowly to North Manchester Grammar School.

    My namesake, (John) Keith Moffat, no relation, was a classmate of mine, and he always got top marks. He graduated in 1965 from the University of Edinburgh B.Sc. with first class honours in physics, and in 1970 from Cambridge University with a Ph.D. in biology/biophysics. Moved for a brief postdoc to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1969; became an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology there in 1970, promoted to full Professor; moved to the University of Chicago in 1990 where he’s now the Louis Block Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, still full-time and active in research. Published about 200 papers on X-ray scattering, structural biology and uses of synchrotron radiation.

  2. On holiday in Javea with myself and a few others in the mid 1980s, Dennis Wallace noticed a chess game in progress in a local bar and decided to challenge the winner. The game lasted most of the afternoon over which time more and more locals arrived to help their man. It didn’t work though and Dennis gradually took control of the board and his opponent resigned. That was the one and only time I ever saw him play chess.

    Dennis gave up chess for bridge and he became a very strong player. We played together many times in competitions and hosted a number of bridge holidays and cruises. His other love was speedway and following the Edinburgh Monarchs. Sadly, Dennis suffered a stroke in 2012 and was admitted to a nursing home. He died in 2017. We had some great times together and I miss his company.

  3. Comment from Alistair McLean –
    I think the date was Friday, 19 February 1960 as my recollection is that it was the day Prince Andrew was born. We finished quite early as the dedicated telephone line was booked for only 2.5 hours and I then went on to Scouts!

    As I recall, the excuse for playing the match by phone (which was a novelty in its time) and not travelling to Newcastle was that exams were imminent. Kempsall and friend were there as observers to ensure there was no cheating. Gordon is correct that we lost; had we won we would have been in the finals which took place in London.

    Alan Grosset (a.grosset@btinternet.com) who left school in 1959 sometimes sees Dennis Wallace (they both play golf at Duddingston) but we have lost contact with Keith Moffat.

    Alex Hall went on to succeed Jocky Cunningham as deputy Rector.

    Best wishes,

  4. ok..except that Dennis Wallace and Alistair McLean left school in 1960. And were my contemporaries all the way from Jock’s Lodge..the wee school

    chess was hugely popular for a few years…at the front of the school, the pillars, the front quadrangle, the band room..i think

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