John Philpott RIP

Some Personal Notes and Reflections by David Sedgwick

John Philpott was one of the finest chess administrators that I have ever known. More importantly, for over twenty years he was one of the most loyal and supportive friends that it has ever been my privilege to have.

In Spring 1992 I was invited to fill the then vacant position of SCCU Deputy President and I met first John at the SCCU Executive Committee meeting at which I was elected. (Coincidentally, that evening was also when I first met Richard Haddrell.)

At the time John was the Essex representative on the SCCU Executive Committee, a post which he continued to hold for much of the next two decades. He served the SCCU as Minutes Secretary from 1992 to 1996, as Deputy President from 1995 to 1997 and as President from 1997 to 1999.

I shall have to leave others to detail his service to Essex Chess Association and to Wanstead and Woodford Chess Club. However, particularly noteworthy was his role as captain of the Essex U175 team (as it then was) from 1996 to 2008. During those twelve years his team won the SCCU U175 Championship an incredible eleven times and the ECF U175 Championship on four occasions.

Shortly after I first met John, he told me that he hoped in the future to become a Director of the BCF (as it then was). He did indeed become BCF Finance Director and then Chairman of the Finance Committee. For these services he was elected as an Honorary Life Vice President of the BCF. In about 2006, shortly after that election, he agreed to join the Committee of the Insurance Chess Club. I recall that when I introduced him to the Committee I said that all I needed to say to show how distinguished a chess administrator we had gained was to mention that he had recently received the highest honour that the BCF could bestow. Little did either John or I know that his most important service to the ECF (as it became) still lay ahead of him.

I shall always remember him for his extremely skilled handling of two major roles in particular. The first was his tenure Chairman of the ECF Governance Committee, a post which he agreed to assume in the spring of 2008 after his predecessor, John Dunleavy, was forced to vacate the position for health reasons. Almost immediately afterwards, John had to handle the aftermath of the sudden resignation over a policy issue of Martin Regan, then Chief Executive, and three other Directors.

The second role – really two roles – began with John becoming ECF Financial Controller early in 2013. Then, later that year, the position of ECF Office Manager became vacant and John agreed also to assume those duties temporarily on a voluntary basis. The combination of the two posts was demanding, involving a heavy workload and many trips to and from the ECF Office. Many people would have sought to take a break after a short period. Not John. He carried on for eighteen months, transforming the ECF’s finances in the process.

In September 2014 John moved to West Mersea and he indicated then that this would lead to his gradually winding down his involvement with the ECF. He subsequently gave a year’s notice that he intended to relinquish all his ECF positions at or prior to the April 2017 ECF Council Meeting. The last significant email exchange I had with him, a month before his death, indicated how much he was enjoying his developing new life. He sent me this link and set me this challenge:
“See whether you can recognise somebody that you know in the photograph accompanying the article.”

John was clearly looking forward to many similar occasions in the future. Sadly that was not to be.

Rest in peace, John.

David Sedgwick, 6th November 2016

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