Last updated: 21 April 2016
Source ? ~1956?>
1928 School Photo
His final letter to Margaret Russell before his death in 1964
Dated 16.1.64 from Slaney Road, Walsall.
Dear Miss Russell
Your letter of Easter Monday. I have re-read with great interest the story of Pinky which is as good as any of the animal stories one reads in books. Your letter also alludes to the fearful freeze-up. I was house-bound for about two months and bedroom-bound with bronchitis for some weeks during which I made excursions down to study and returned with piles of paper for editing. I cursed this latter but perhaps kept me alive since I could not let my readers down.
This year I have got the March number more or less ready before Christmas, copying the problems which is the essential part.
The school part of my life ended in such a sad way with my successor giving up chess teaching and new scoreboard, and the Governors ruining things with 5 day week. Where in my time a school match on a Saturday afternoon had attracted 200 spectators, after 5-day week a match on a Saturday morning had not even a linesman. I have not been near the place for years.
The robin was a delightful littel (sic) visitor. One thinks all the more of strays who adopt you. My very dear cat, Jimmie, who moved here with me, was owned by the Boswells at the Lodge to my house. When his owners died he was left alone in the world. I had talked to him and he knew me but it was some time before he began to visit me and take unto himself several recognised w(?)ives.
Your letter of Jan 11 shames me into a reply.
I am not so energetic a correspondent as formerly. With old age my left hand and fingers are stiff and have lost much of their power. I can no longer do juggling except tennis balls with my right hand, and I used to manipulate three heavy Indian clubs.
Interested to hear you are teaching again but sorry your classroom is so noisy.
My very warm congratulations to your parents for their Ruby Wedding but a long way to go before they equal my own who had their Diamond before they saw the end. My Father was very fortunate. He was only in bed one day before he went.
Private pupils including Bishop’s chaplain – you lead a useful and busy life.
(The next couple of sentences glide gracefully and diagonally across the bottom of the page…
Interested to hear of Mr Harman’s visit. I have not see him for some years. I get about very little now.
(He continues on page 2:)
What a miserable typist, letting myself run off the paper like this. This bell does still work for end of line. In fact my beautiful typewriter – Royal No 10 – although more than 40 years old is much fitter than its owner and deserves a new ribbon if I had energy to put it on. Yet, when once the School got a very new model it was still my Royal to whom my secretary turned to cut stencils since the new creature had no cut-out. Dear creature – I am very fond of him and would not part with him for princely offers. There is just one thing wrong. The automatic ribbon-reverser seems to have got out of order.
My admiration of your achievements never grows dim. Your going to Italy and talking to the natives. With a knowledge of Latin I can read a certain amount of Italian problem stuff but could not speak a word of it.
You write fine descriptions. The novel world is at a loss without you – unless you have been turning out such things under a nom-de-plume.
I have had letters from Mr Turner, Mrs Hatcher and now one from Mr Ede from Canterbury. I also heard from Mr Swale from his Headmastership at Halifax – but he could be before your time.
Well that’s an achievement (this letter). And I shall continue with a nearer-the-fire job after tea.
Still it has been a great joy to hear from you again. From what I remember of our early days just at first you seemed a bit frightened (as well anyone might be in a boys’ school) and I was a bit sorry for you but really pleased when you found your feet, with the superb climax of your escape from classroom which commanded respect of the whole school. Swarming down the drain-pipe and never mentioning the matter to me at any rate. Had I known of it I should have raised my mortar-board.
My warmest good wishes both personal and for your varied activity of life, and my kindest regards to your parents.
Yours sincerely, C S Kipping.
Letter to and supplied by Margaret Russell (one-time CSK’s Secretary?)
During lunch break would play [chess with] at least twelve pupils at the same time and would give an old sixpence if anyone beat him. Very few of us did.
In his study at home and in his office there were dozens of set up chess boards being played with people all over the world (by snail mail in those days).
‘Ezekiah’ Kipping was the headmaster prior to Witcombe; he founded all the Kipping Chess Clubs that ran in the area. He was the editor of the Chess Magazine, and received correspondence from all over the world.When we were unable to play sports because of the weather, he would get the students to proof read the magazine, and give us money for each mistake found. Sport was played mainly on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons after lessons.
He was well qualified to teach Chemistry. His father was Prof F S Kipping, FRS. who discovered the silicones and held the chair of Chemistry at Nottingham University for 37 years. A great uncle, Sir W H Perkin, was originator of the dye mauve.
His sister helped Fleming with the discovery of Penicillin, but was held in more esteem by Mr Kipping as a jigsaw expert. It was, however, in the field of chess, that he gained a worldwide reputation. He was composer of more than 6,000 chess problems, president of the International Chess Problem Board, author of several books and a chess problem editor of more than 30 years’ standing. Two chess clubs in the area asked to bear his name.
In the early days, with a very small staff, masters had to teach several subjects, so Mr Kipping added Latin and Divinity to his Chemistry. He also taught Mathematics and also in the war years, Physics.
(Having been taught Latin by him myself in Fred Coatham’s absence, his favourite question was “What figure of speech is that?”. “Ablative Absolute, sir” was the reply, for which I and several others received a penny hurled across the room to test aspiring goal and wicket keepers! I still have absolutely no idea what the hell it means!!).
After the war, he decided to renounce Chemistry , and start teaching German. Armed with the knowledge of chemical and chess terms, he began to learn some grammar. His first batch of pupils all passed the certificate. One of the parents, however, having lived in Germany, politely queried his accent. “You will excuse my saying so, but people in Germany do not speak German like you do”. “No”, Kipping replied, “And the people in Wednesbury do not speak English like I do, either”!
Ben Beards’ memories of CSK
Being at the school from 1944 to 1949 I have some early memories of the”boss”.
He always rolled his own cigarettes and he always packed the tobacco loosely, so when he lit up he would singe the middle of his moustache which was always a brown colour. He also got through an enormous amount of throat lozenges which he kept on his desk.
If we lost early in one of his multi-board chess games, we used to nip into his study and take a couple (of lozenges).
I also recall his walking stick which he cut from a holly tree and the dirty old torn macintosh which he had stitched himself. His housekeeper threw it in the bin one day, but the binman had his doubts, and asked the boss if it was a mistake. It was! He wore it to school the next day!!!
CSK away from school
John Clifford has kindly forwarded this picture which he received from OW, John Slater (who says he is “now so old that he cannot remember how old he is”! A contemporary of Ken Crowther (who died recently), John Lester, Clem Lewis, Ray Davies and Des Joynes (now in New South Wales).
The picture shows CSK on a visit into the Welsh Border country, around 1950, in what JS describes as “semi-suitable attire”. The whole photograph, from which this is taken, included JS’s father.
Article from the Blackcountryman
C S KIPPING — Renowned Chess Expert and Wednesbury Headmaster
by C P VALE, MA, FRIC.
C S KIPPING, headmaster of Wednesbury Boys’ High School from 1924 to 1956 can be justly claimed to be one of the most remarkable and influential schoolmasters in the Black Country of the present century. His fame resides by no means solely in the influence he brought to bear on the many pupils he taught, and who grew to admire and respect him. His powerful personality, together with his marked idiosyncrasies, were almost as well-known outside the school as to those over whom he held sway for so many years. While in the field of chess he had an international reputation as a prolific composer of chess problems and was probably the most famous chess problem editor of all time. It is amusing to note that solvers and composers of problems in the publication he edited were told to write to ‘C S Kipping, Wednesbury, England — this address is sufficient’.
This short biographical article can be little more than a sketch of the man, and it is hoped that a more comprehensive account of his life, character, and work may some day appear.
C S Kipping was the elder son of Frederick Stanley Kipping of Higher Broughton near Manchester, and Lily Holland, a daughter of W T Holland, JP of Bridgwater, his father and mother being first cousins. His father was an organic chemist of great distinction, whose researches on organo-silicon compounds, over a long period, are widely acknowledged to have laid the foundations of the modern silicone industry. His paternal grandfather, James Stanley Kipping, held a post in the Manchester Branch of the Bank of England and must have been a chess player of considerable ability, for in a blindfold simultaneous display by the world-famous American chess genius Paul Morphy held in Birmingham in 1859 he was the only one of eight players to defeat Morphy. C S Kipping’s own ability and interest in chess appear to have been either inherited from or stimulated by this grandparent.
Soon after his marriage, his father was appointed chief demonstrator in the Chemistry Department at the Central Technical College of the City and Guilds of London Institute, and he and his wife moved to 7 Milborne Grove, South Kensington. It was here on October 10, 1891 that C S Kipping was born. He was baptised Cyril Henry Stanley, but later in life he invariably dropped his second initial.
In 1897, his father was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was appointed Professor of Chemistry at University College Nottingham, a post he held until his retirement in 1936. Two of Mrs. Kipping’s sisters also married distinguished chemists. An older sister, Mina, married William Henry Perkin Jnr., later Waynflete Professor of Chemistry at Oxford, while a younger sister, Kathleen, married Arthur Lapworth, subsequently Professor of Chemistry at Manchester University. Thus C S Kipping not only had a father, but also two uncles, who were all Fellows of the Royal Society. The family’s home in Nottingham was in Clumber Road West, The Park, a pleasant residential district of the town, and there with two sisters and a younger brother. Frederick Barry (who later became a lecturer in chemistry at Cambridge), CS grew to manhood.
In September 1902 he entered Nottingham High School where he won numerous prizes, mostly in mathematics and science. He obtained the Oxford and Cambridge Board’s Lower Certificate in 1906 and 1907, passed the London University Matriculation in January 1908. and the Oxford and Cambridge Higher Certificate in 1909. At the same time his interest in chess was developing and he has himself related how, during his schooldays, he met J N Derbyshire, a Nottingham manufacturer and chess enthusiast, at a simultaneous tournament given by Dr Emmanuel Lasker, then World Chess Champion. Mr. Derbyshire on that occasion invited him to tea and introduced him to the champion.
Kipping left Nottingham High School in July 1910 and proceeded to Trinity Hall Cambridge where he read for the National Sciences Tripos. Here he found time from his studies to devote to his main hobbies. He played tennis for his college and must by now have been well launched into the composition of chess problems. J M Rice in his book ABC of Chess Problems quotes a three-move problem, which appeared above Kipping’s name in the Manchester Evening News in 1911, referring to it as “the most famous problem ever composed”.
Whatever the diversions of college life, his work did not suffer and he obtained a first in Part I of the Tripos in 1912, and a first in Part II in 1913, taking the degree of BA on June 7, 1913. At this point, no doubt under the influence of his father, he started a programme of Research in Organic Chemistry at Cambridge, but became progressively disenchanted with it.
On the outbreak of the First World War, Kipping joined the Cambridge OTC, and having decided to quit research and take up teaching, moved to Weymouth College to take up an appointment in September 1914. There he took charge of the OTC, received his commission in December 1914 and remained in command until December 1918, when as a Lieutenant he was transferred to the 5th London Regiment.
After the war, in January 1919, he took his MA degree at Cambridge, and joined the teaching staff of Bradfield College (Berks). This may possibly have been a temporary post since he was there only one term, and by the summer of the same year had been appointed an assistant master at Pocklington School (E Yorks). Here he spent five happy years.
He took over the School Cadet Corps and has been described as “an untiring and painstaking OC”. He taught chemistry and injected life into the School Science Society of which he became President. It was at this school that we first learn of another of his talents – his great skill in juggling. In 1920 he trained a troupe of jugglers who gave a display at a school concert. This performance was repeated annually during his stay at Pocklington, and appears to have been very popular.
Meanwhile be continued to compose chess problems and in 1923 published a little book for beginners called The Chess Problem Hobby.
In the Black Country the Staffordshire County Council were proceeding with plans to extend Secondary Education in the area and had decided to open a Grammar School for boys in Wednesbury to serve the same area as Bilston Girls’ High School which had opened in 1918. The initial school building was Wood Green House in St. Paul’s Road, the former residence of Sir Albert Pritchard, local manufacturer and four times Mayor of Wednesbury. To be headmaster of this new school the authorities appointed C S Kipping.
The school opened on September 17, 1924, with three graduate assistant masters and 51 boys, selected by examination and interview. The school gradually grew in size and, with the addition of new buildings erected in 1926 and 1932, by the outbreak of the Second World War numbers had reached 235 with an assistant staff of 11. Even so it was not possible to have double form entry throughout the school and it was only after the war, with the provision of two additional prefabricated classrooms that this became possible.
One advantage, however, of the siting of the school was the immediate adjacency of a large tract of bare land of some five acres or so which was acquired, levelled and early converted into a school playing field. At the far end of the field, partly obscured by trees, stood the house where C S Kipping lived for most of his years as headmaster.
Wednesbury Boys’ High School was almost certainly the only school in the country where chess was introduced as part of the curriculum. Kipping started this in 1928, a special demonstration board about four feet square, which could be mounted on an easel, being used to demonstrate to classes the moves, the more important openings, and certain types of end game. One or two periods each week were allocated to ‘ indoor games’ and Kipping would select half a dozen or so boys to play simultaneously, almost invariably winning all the games. In this way Wednesbury High School soon developed a unique reputation for chess and matches were arranged with local schools who were generally overwhelmed. In addition, famous players were frequently invited to the school to give lectures and simultaneous displays. Among these were E Znosko-Borovsky, Sir George Thomas (at one time British Chess Champion) and J Mieses, and in addition many county players of high repute. Perhaps the most memorable occasion was the visit in January 1937 of G Koltanowski, the world famous blindfold chess master who played 12 games simultaneously without sight of the board, winning 11 of them and drawing one.
The school was ultimately, in 1939, presented with the British Chess Federation Shield for distinguished achievements in chess, and no doubt it was a source of personal joy to Kipping that the presentation was made by none other than his old friend J N Derbyshire, by that time Deputy President of the BCF, who had first introduced him to Dr Lasker more than 30 years before.
C S Kipping was a tall man with a domed bald head, deep set eyes , and a heavy moustache. He had a formidable and an almost forbidding presence. Even at the age of 30 old boys of Pocklington remember him as ‘a rather grim figure of authority pacing slowly up the aisle, hands behind his back, to his seat in chapel on Sundays’. He was certainly held in awe, and to some extent fear, by his boys at Wednesbury, and even, one suspects, by some members of his staff. Yet underneath this exterior he was a kindly man with a great sense of humour, and in many ways a very humble one.
He had no sense or care for dress whatsoever. He wore invariably a black shiny suit, a white shirt with winged collar and black tie, and black boots. His outdoor attire normally consisted of an ancient trilby hat, a brown muffler and a fawn raincoat, and he carried a thick gnarled walking stick. In school attired in academic gown and mortar board, in assembly or in the classroom, with upright military stance, he was an awe-inspiring figure. For his classes in the chemistry labora- tory, however, he abandoned academic dress and came stalking solidly along the corridors, keys jangling in his pocket, to unlock the laboratory and let in a form, standing docilely in a quiet queue awaiting his arrival.
Kipping had a certain weakness of the throat, caused, he once explained, by foolishly gargling in his youth with a dilute solution of carbolic acid. This weakness was manifested by a deep clearing of the throat immediately prior to making some ex cathedra utterances. As a palliative for this condition he would, from time to time, pop into his mouth a glycerine and thymol lozenge. The effect of this was probably more than offset by his habit of smoking hand-rolled cigarettes using cigarette papers and ‘ Old Judge’ tobacco.
Some of the happiest memories that the writer has of Kipping are of the time just before the last war, when as the only senior sixth former doing chemistry he spent two or three periods each week by his side in his cosy study redolent with the faintly pleasant aromatic odour of throat lozenges and ‘Old Judee’. The headmaster would be presented with a sheaf of papers for comment and criticism. His attitude was gentle, relaxed, and good humoured. ‘ Your writing is perfectly deplorable’, he once remarked. ‘ It’s far too legible!’. And in another session, after pushing his way through a tedious account of the structure of the atom, ‘ Yes, my boy’ (with a gentle pat on the back) ‘ but it’s like a Macaulay essay!’ and then pausing and stroking his moustache he went on ‘You know the things they do with the atom these days seem to me to be positively indecent!’
Sometimes during these periods he would talk about his research days at Cambridge when every compound he tried to prepare ended up as a black tar. At others he would relate amusing anecdotes about his father. These were always friendly and peaceful occasions, the mask of ferocity discarded, and something of the real man revealed. For he was a rather lonely bachelor, relying on the whims of a succession of housekeepers, and his boys meant more to him than many of them realised.
While his great grandfather had been a distinguished painter, and his father was a great opera lover, CSK. took little or no interest in the arts. He was passionately fond of tennis and continued to play until he was forty. He was also keen on football and cricket and a critical spectator at virtually every school football and cricket match. He always insisted that, win or lose, games should be played in a gentlemanly and sportsmanlike manner. Moreover, he saw to it that boys came back on half holidays to watch and support the school teams in their matches against other schools.
At the end of each term after a brief assembly with prayers, lesson, and a hymn. he would proceed to his study and his boys would queue up outside to go in, shake his hand, and say goodbye. There were very few whose names he did not know, and some were favoured with Christian names. He had a loyal and devoted staff, whom he left largely to their own devices, quite a number of them serving him for more than 30 years.
His endeavours to promote chess in the district led him to join in the revival in 1942 of a Walsall Chess Club of which he was made president, and which adopted the name ‘ Walsall Kipping’ in his honour. Branches of the club were also formed at Wednesbury and at Wolverhampton. The branch at Wednesbury has not survived, but that at Wolverhampton became an independent club, and both Walsall Kipping and Wolverhampton Kipping Clubs continue to flourish.
His greatest interest, however, remained in his Chess Problem hobby. In earlier days he was for many years Problem Editor of a publication called The Chess Amateur which went out of existence in 1930. Thereafter he became General Editor of The Problemist, the organ of the British Chess Problem Society in 1932, continuing with that work until his death. In addition, from 1935 to 1958 he was Problem Editor of the well-known magazine Chess He always took the greatest interest in his problem solvers, and gave particular encouragement and help to budding problem composers. It is estimated that he himself composed over 7,000 problems of all types.
When in December 1956, at the age of 65. he retired as headmaster, half his interest in life was taken from him. He moved to a house a mile or so from the school, in Slaney Road, Walsall, and there tried to adjust himself to the new conditions. He visited friends, old colleagues, and neighbouring headmasters whom he knew, and received their hospitality with gratitude and appreciation. But he always returned to his own lonely wife-less home with a tinge of regret. Sometimes he received visitors, and he kept up his chess problem work and contacts to the end.
He was rewarded in 1957 by being made an International Judge of Chess Compositions by the Federation Internationale des Echoes, the International body governing chess activities throughout the world, and two years later was one of two Englishmen among the first to receive the newly created title of Master of Chess Composition. Had he lived longer he would no doubt have received the recently introduced higher honour of Grand Master. This, however, was not to be and he died suddenly at his home on February 17, 1964.
One of his earliest colleagues at Wednesbury, W R Swale, later Headmaster of Heath Grammar School, Halifax, has written of him:
He was to me never less than kind, helpful and considerate,
and to quote our greatest poet
He was a man, take him for all in all.
I shall not look upon his like again.
His many former colleagues and pupils would echo these sentiments, and will always look back on him with affection, and a smile. And that is perhaps what he would have liked most.
Acknowledgement : The author wishes to thank Mr D S Peters, MA,JP, of Nottingham Hish School; Mr David Strachon of Pocklington School; and Mr W R Swale, MA, formerly Headmaster of Heath Grammar School, Halifax, for providing much helpful information during the preparation of this article.
Reproduced without permission from the Blackcountryman, vol 11 no 4
(although the article is also in the School Archives)