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In search of the donor of the Williamson Shield

In 1904 H. B. Williamson presented a Shield to Standtown Chess Club to be used in connection with a Championship tournament. However, very little is (or was) known about the donor of the Shield.

Contemporary newspaper reports only refer to Williamson being a member of Strandtown Chess Club while on an extended trip to his native land. Over 60 years after Williamson had donated the Shield, Albert Long, the secretary of the Ulster Chess Union, resolved to find out more. Below is the information he found out and then recorded in his ring binder on the history of the Ulster Chess Union.

"Enquiries were made during 1968 and with the help of the Secretary of the Ulster Unionist CouncilĀ [Mr J. O. Bailie], Miss Dorothy Williamson, 8 Tweskard Park, Belfast (his niece), the Pharmacy Board of New Zealand, the Department of Justice, Wellington, the New Zealand High Commission, London and the "New Zealand Daily Herald" the following facts were obtained.

Hugh Bellis Williamson was born in Coleraine about 1850, the eldest child of Hugh Williamson and Sarah Williamson, nee Caskey. A younger brother was Councillor Dr. Williamson

H. B. Williamson, having studied chemistry, married Jessie Margarette Allen in Dublin in 1876 when aged 26 and emigrated to New Zealand about the same year, where he set up business as a pharmacist at New Plymouth (1876) and then at Wanganui.

He had four daughters.

He died Tuesday, 23rd March, 1926 at his home in Epsom, a suburb of Auckland, where he was living in retirement.

The announcement in "The New Zealand Daily Herald" reads:

Williamson - On March 23 at his residence, 648 Manukau Road, Hugh Bellis, late of Wanganui. No flowers.

There was no obituary or photograph, and although his niece, Miss Dorothy Williamson (mentioned above) tells me she has numerous family portraits, she is unable to identify any as being that of her uncle. She was very young when he was last in Belfast on a visit in 1904."

Unfortunately Miss Williamson appears to have died shortly after these enquiries were made. However in December 1968 Albert Long was again in contact with J. O. Bailie, who was able to tell him a close friend of Miss Williamson, Mr William Kennedy, a Unionist M. P., had acquired some of her personal effects. In Long's ring binder a note dated 22nd April 1969 reads as follows:

"Through the courtesy of Mr. Wm. Kennedy (M. P. Cromac) 8 Cooke Street, Belfast, I was able with the help of Mr. Larmour, to search the photograph albums belonging to the late Miss Williamson, and succeeded in finding one of H. B. Williamson, taken in Wanganui, and dated 1887."

In a letter to Kennedy Long says:

"I need hardly say how grateful I am for you kindness in this matter, which has pleased me beyond all expectation and will be a source of great interest to a large number of people."

So, in the hope that this information is of interest to a new generation, here is the photograph of Hugh Bellis Williamson, generous benefactor to the chess players of Belfast.

Photograph taken in Wanganui, New Zealand, 1887

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