Sunday, November 17, 2013

Canon Henry L. Roy

The following is re-published from BCCF E-MAIL BULLETIN #269 (September 2013 with the permission of Steven Wright, who produces the wonderful  BULLETIN which often contains items of historical note. To subscribe,  sign up via the BCCF webpage (

HENRY LE GALLOIS ROY (7 May 1875 - 20 September 1953)

This month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the passing of “The Old Lion” Canon Henry L. Roy, cleric, chess organizer, and President Emeritus of the C.F.C. He is largely forgotten now, but when Yanofsky wrote his 100 Years of Chess in Canada in 1967 he regarded Roy as one of the four most important organizers of the previous thirty years (the others being Bernard Freedman, Dan MacAdam, and John Prentice).

Roy’s father was the Reverend Josiah Jesse Roy, later minister of St. George’s Church, Winnipeg, a descendent of the Abraham Martin upon whose land the Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place. Henry Roy graduated from the University of Manitoba with a silver medal in 1894, then studied at Wycliffe College in Toronto for five years. He was Assistant Rector at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver (1901-1905) and Rural Dean of Turtle Mountain (Manitoba, 1908-1913) before serving as Assistant General Missioner for the Diocese of Rupert’s Land. In 1928 Roy was named an Honorary Canon at the Pro-Cathedral of St. Matthew in Brandon, Manitoba. According to Yanofsky, Roy did not get involved in chess organization until 1936, when he was already sixty-one years old. Describing himself as a “run of the mine” player, Roy noted: “By learning chess, you have a spare-time filler until you're ready for the grave. You might be an athlete, but you're a has-been at thirty – in chess there is no limit.” Early in 1947 Roy moved to Vancouver where he became involved with the B.C.C.F.; he passed away after returning from his last Annual Meeting in Winnipeg, having just completed his final term as C.F.C. president.

At the end of his life, “at our request and under pressure,” Roy wrote a summation of his accomplishments in chess, duly published in the January 1952 issue of Canadian Chess Chat. Here it is:
“Born May 7, 1875, about thirty miles south of Montreal, of French parents, was unable to speak a word of English until eleven years old. Learned the moves of chess from my stepmother, who had bought a set to keep me out of mischief. Never had any particular hobby, but played almost every outdoor game in vogue at the end of the last century. Received a university degree at nineteen years of age, with medal and scholarship. Never aspired to become a chess expert (a-la-B.F. classification) but did try my hand, with indifferent success, at organizing chess in local, provincial and national fields. Acted as president, for eight years, of the Winnipeg Chess Club [1936-1944], six years of the Manitoba Chess Association [1938-1945], two years secretary of the Winnipeg Jewish C.C. and two years the British Columbia Chess Federation [1948-1950]. President Chess Federation of Canada five years [1941-1945, 1952-1953]. And am now acting as membership secretary of the B.C.C.F. in looking after and boosting the “capitation system,” the best method that I know of for obtaining sufficient funds to run any kind of chess organization. We have in B.C.C.F. a revenue each year, from this source alone, of approximately $100.00, which meets all our current needs with some to spare!
Collaborated in framing the constitution of the C.F.C. and am the father (a doubtful honour) of the slogan: “No participation or representation without taxation in the affairs of the C.F.C.” Framed the general policy of the C.F.C. as set forth and endorsed in the one and only Year Book issued to date by the C.F.C. Framed the pattern and staging of yearly Annual Meetings in 1941, since followed and subsequently improved by my successors. Organized a dominion chess championship in Winnipeg [1941] and raised funds to promote dominion championships in Montreal, Dalhousie, Saskatoon and Vancouver; in the latter, 10% of the total. Raised sufficient funds to send Yanofsky to Montreal, Saskatoon, Buenos Aires and Europe (approximately $2,000).

Made my aim during the years of my C.F.C. presidency to attend all Annual Meetings and to personally know every member of the Board of Governors. Promoted telegraphic matches: Winnipeg vs. Vancouver twice, while in Winnipeg. Although we lost both to Vancouver, we did manage to “short-circuit” Toronto. Also telegraph matches between Canadian universities, when Winnipeg, among others, lost to the University of Saskatchewan. Organized matches: Nova Scotia vs. New Brunswick, New Brunswick vs. Ontario and Saskatchewan vs. Ontario, for a shield which I presented. Also a correspondence match, of sixty a side, between Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Arranged for chess lectures in Canada via the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and later on in each province, except P.E.I., over provincial stations. Issued bulletins from time to time, and minutes of meetings, sent out promptly.”

University of Manitoba vs. University of Saskatchewan by telegraph, 30 December 1942. The seated players are Nathan Divinsky and Leo Moser; Canon Roy is on the right, next to him is Winnipeg Free Press chess columnist Herb Gregory.

 “Made arrangements and financed two simultaneous tours by Yanofsky, and one each by Koltanowski and Max Euwe. As a member of the Board of Governors made it my special responsibility that C.F.C. assessments for the provinces in which I resided at the time were paid in full, and sometimes overpaid. Assisted, through personal donations, provinces in which I did not reside (Alberta and Saskatchewan), to meet their C.F.C. assessments. As I plugged along in my endeavours, became the target for brick-bats, but have survived, and am still working and boosting for provincial and, more especially, national chess organization.”

Roy`s signature, from the B.C.C.F. Minute Book

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