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Richard Jordan - Draughts & Chess Player

Richard Jordan (1872-1911)

Taken from comments by Norrie Reid
(see for the full appreciation see

The greatest draughts player of all time was probably
Richard Jordan who was born in Edinburgh on the 4th of November 1872.

Jordan was a slightly built, dark eyed and dark haired man.
He was swift, intuitive and aggressive in his movements.
He was also a fine chess player and often represented Edinburgh.

This chess playing ability is common among draughts players;

Other notable chess/draughts players included AB Scott from
Glasgow and the Americans Harry Pillsbury and Newell Banks.

After retiring from match play Richard Jordan toured the World,
like James Wyllie before him, where in exhibition play he showed
himself to be at the peak of his powers.

It was a tragedy that while still young and a wonderful player
he was accidentally struck by a tram-car near his home in Edinburgh.

Seemingly not seriously injured, he was released from the Infirmary
but suffered a relapse shortly after and died after an operation in September 1911.

After a funeral service at his home at 33 Buccleuch Street,
he was buried at the New Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh.
His family having been left destitute, there is no headstone,
but his grave can be found in the bottom corner, immediately
behind the stone marked Mrs C Finniegan, by the hedge on the wall.

I found other Draughts/Checkers sites giving details about Richard Jordan.
The date of birth and death differ. Indeed even the above tribute has
the wrong month.

I thought I would investigate further to give a more complete
picture about one of Edinburgh's forgotten interesting characters.

Richard Jordan was born on the 4th November 1872.
The address is given as 6 Campbells Close in the Cannongate, Edinburgh.
His father, a plasterer was called Richard. His mother was called Mary.
They were married in 1854.

The building on the right (on the left below) dates from the 1840's.

Richard married an Irene McGuinness who stayed at 24 Guthrie Street
on the 28th January 1898 at St. Columba's, Upper Gray Street.
He was 25 years old, she was 19. Richard's profession is listed
as a 'Hatter.' and his address at that time was given as 2 Montague Street.

The marriage produced 3 children. Richard Trewland 1898, Elizabeth 1900 & Maria 1902.

Here is the Census of 1901. Listing Richard as a professional Draughts Player.
His wife, two Children. Also staying with him were Rose Wilson (sister in law)
and Maria Jordan (sister). Maria Jordan (daughter was born the following year.

They stayed at 2 Montague Street Edinburgh.

I spent a couple of evenings in the Edinburgh Chess Club browsing
through their library. It must be one of the best Chess libraries
in Great Britain. It has every Copy of B.C.M. from day one including
a whole host of other ancient periodicals.

I could find only one mention of a R. Jordan in the B.C.M.
He played for the Edinburgh Working Men's Club on the 9th December 1909
against Mr.C. McDonald of the Glasgow Club in the Spens Cup.
Richard Jordan won.

I found other mentions of the Working Men's Club
but no more R. Jordans.

The Accident:

I traced the Scotsman obituary.

The Scotsman 9th October 1911 page 6.

Death of the World's Champion Draughts Player

The death took place yesterday in the Royal Infirmary. Edinburgh,
of Mr Richard Jordan, the worlds draughts champion.

On the 7th of last month Mr Jordan was knocked down by a cable car
in Edinburgh and sustained injuries of a nature which caused for
his removal to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, the head having been
severely bruised. For a time Mr Jordan's progress towards recovery
was fairly satisfactory: but on Saturday last he underwent an
operation and never rallied.

The rest of the Obituary then continues with his playing career.

I traced the Royal Infirmary records but found no admittance notes
for the 6th - 10th September. It looks like he taken there but not detained.

I found he was admitted to the Royal on the 6th of October for an
operation. 'trepanned' is all they give. He passed away on the
8th October 1911. His nephew claimed his body.
His profession was listed in the Royal Infirmary records
was 'Draughtsman.' Perhaps the idea that someone could be a professional
Draughts Player was beyond the person entering Richard's details.
He was 39 years old when he passed away.

Here is the entry on the death certificate.
Note he is back to being a professional Draughts Player.

You can see where some tributes have got the 37 from.
The 39 certainly does look like a 37.

At the time he passed away he stayed at 33 Buccleuch Street.

Attached to the death certificate was a precognition.
Which means there was an inquiry into his death.

There was a court of enquiry on the 24th of November 1911
but the Procurator's Office could not throw any light on the subject
and I could find no report on what happened. They said records from
that period never survived.(?)

Mortonall Crematorium hold all the records for burials
in Edinburgh. He was buried on the 12th October 1911.

The burial plot at The New Calton Road Cemetery was bought by
Marie Jordan on the 4th of February 1909 from a Mrs Finnigan.

The New Calton Road Cemetery has an impressive view of Holyrood
Palace and Arthur's Seat. It is right next to the Burns memorial and
is just across the road from Campbells Close where Richard was born.

I followed the above instructions and found the burial place
right behind the tombstone for 'Finnigan'.
That stone was very badly deteriorated.

There was a headstone marked:
"In Loving Memory, Richard Jordan and Daughters Maria and Elizabeth."

It looked like a very recent addition due to it's excellent condition.
I assume by this Richard is buried here with his two daughters.

I hope that this brief tribute to an intriguing and interesting life
helps clarify things. For more information on Richard's playing
career simply enter his name + draughts on any search engine.

Next time you see a couple of punters pushing draughts
you can tell them the story of Richard Jordan.
The Edinburgh lad who died whilst he was World Draughts Champion.


Whilst I was ia New Register House I thought I would tidy up
any loose ends. I had paid 10.00 for the whole day and it
only took me an hour to find out everything I wanted to know.

Mrs Jordan passed away on the 4th September 1922. Again Richard is
listed as being a Professional Draughts Player.

His Son, also called Richard, passed away on the 8th January 1948.
This time his father's profession is listed as being "A Hatter."
The same profession as when he was married. Richard Junior stayed single.

But it was not this discrepancy with Richard Jordan's profession that
caught my eye. When son Richard filled out the informant section on
Mrs Jordan's death certificate he gave his address as 17 Meadowbank Terrace.

Here it is below.

I was born in Bethnal Green in London on the 30th June 1951.
In 1959 my parents divorced and my Mum took me to stay with
her Scottish relations who lived in Edinburgh. I've been here ever since.

Here is a picture of me outside the house we
first stayed in when we moved to Edinburgh.

The address - 17 Meadowbank Terrace.

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