Today a Memorial Service was held for Tom Clarke in St Patrick's Parish Church, Upper Malone, Belfast. Tom had moved to Wales, where his wife Chrissie hails from, not long before his untimely death, so this was an opportunity for Ulster chess players to pay tribute to him. It was wonderful (but hardly surprising considering the respect in which Tom was held) to see so many people there.
Also present were many of Tom's work colleagues, including Val Srewart, who gave a fine eulogy. Damien Cunningham, Tom's friend and Clifton House teammate, also delivered a heartfelt tribute in his own inimitable style. Damien had us all laughing about a journey to the famous Kilkenny Congress, when anything that could go wrong did.
As well as the local chess players, too many to mention individually, who attended the Service, two of Tom's international colleagues and long-time rivals, Mark Orr and Keith Allen, had travelled respectively from Scotland and the Isle of Man especially for the occasion. Making the journey from Dublin was Gearoidin Ui Laighleis, a member of the ICU Executive Committee and one of Ireland's top women players.
Chrissie, with the help of David Blair has located all the score-sheets Tom had kept and given them to the UCU. Currently there are about 500 of Tom's games in the public domain and I expect this will bring the total up to something like 1350. I am in the process of transferring the games into a database and hopefully in the not too distant future Ulster chess players will be able to see many fine previously unpublished examples of Tom's play, particularly from his early career.
The photograph shows me presenting the Dr McSparran Cup to Tom (on the right), after his win in the 2003 Ulster Championship.