Hugh Price RIP – An appreciation by Stuart Hutchings

Cardiff Club secretary Bill Hunt and I had both been regular weekly/fortnightly visitors to Hugh in his Care Home the last 18 months or so, where we always found him alert, speaking knowledgeably about world events and taking a keen interest in chess at the Cardiff club and wider afield.

Bill and I had to cease visiting because of the Covid-19 restrictions and thus we did not see him for many weeks. It was therefore a great surprise when he phoned both of us on 27th April to say his ‘goodbyes’ as he had been told he only had days to live. This gesture showed the character and the dignity of the man, and although days turned into weeks and we knew the inevitable was imminent, it was still very sad to hear today of his passing.

Although this is an unhappy time, I still thought it appropriate to let the chess community in Wales know more about Hugh, and what follows is based on a speech I gave to celebrate the occasion of his 80th birthday.

On Feb 5th 1926, Martin and Doris Price became the proud parents of a son, and they named him Winford Hugh Protheroe Price. Hugh was educated at Cardiff High School, then in 1942, during the time of the 2nd World War and at the age of 16, he joined the Cardiff City Treasurer’s and Controller’s Department. 

In 1944 (aged 18), he signed up for the war effort by joining the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve (RAFVR) where he stayed until 1948. Back with Cardiff City Council after his service with RAFVR, he worked towards Accountancy qualifications, and in 1952 qualified as a member of the IPFA (Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy), and in 1954 qualified as an FCA (Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants).

He continued his progress through the ranks of Cardiff City Council, and in 1973 became Deputy City Treasurer, a post he held until 1975, when he became the top man, the City Treasurer of Cardiff City Council.

He was in this post from 1975 – 83, during which time he also carried out other important duties, including Treasurer of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Trust and Treasurer of the Royal National Eisteddfod when it was held in Cardiff in 1978. 

He could have continued as City Treasurer for some while thereafter, but in 1983 after 8 years in the job he took early retirement at the age of 57, and for his services he was awarded the OBE in 1983. Hugh’s decision to retire was taken purely with others in mind, in this case to look after his ailing mother, but alas she died within a year of his retirement. 

In the “Who’s Who” entry for Hugh there is also mention of him being an occasional speaker on local Government topics, a contributor to various publications, and the last category is that of recreation. Hugh enjoyed walking, had been a keen cyclist, and took an enthusiastic interest in sports such as cricket and rugby, but there is only one word under recreation, and that word is chess.

Hugh really loved the game, he very much enjoyed playing it and could play a good hard game, but it is also what he did away from the board that set him apart from everyone else. He unselfishly put considerable effort into the running and organising of everything and everyone to do with the Cardiff Chess Club (including the close association with the YMCA), and he was tireless in his efforts for junior chess, both at the club and with the tournaments he instigated at County Hall which attracted hundreds of competitors. He was associated with the Cardiff club for over 70 years and it really is indebted to him. 

And it was not just what Hugh did, it was the way he did it as well. There are lots of words and phrases that describe his many admirable qualities and attributes:

Energetic, enthusiastic, hardworking, lead by example, meticulous, modest, well organised, excellent temperament (I never saw Hugh even irritated), I could go on, but for me the phrase that epitomises him more than any other is “nothing was ever too much trouble”.

I will just briefly give three examples from my personal association with him to show some of these qualities and attributes.

Firstly, my initial meeting with Hugh was nearly 50 years ago, I still remember it well. I turned up unannounced at the YMCA, as it was then in Station Terrace, on Sep 1st 1970, there he was immaculately dressed in a 3 piece suit and tie, someone asking him a question, some junior asking for his help, someone else helping themselves to the squash and biscuits he had provided, but he recognised a new face and immediately came over and made me very welcome. Despite all that was going on around him, Hugh did not just organise a game for me, he actually organised a match! I still have the scoresheet, the opposing team were the Cardiff Under23s (now called the Cavaliers) and my opponent on board 1 was G. A. Jones, with me representing what Hugh called an ‘Invitation team’! 

Secondly, he and I were involved in the sale of the late Carl Day’s books. Hugh put 668 books into various categories, then grouped them together by various openings/players etc, and on top of that, actually hand wrote all the details for every book – title, author, publisher, notation, and a purchase price (which he often had to look up). I then keyed these into a spreadsheet, sorted within their groups by author, and allocated a number to each book. Hugh then physically re-sorted and numbered all the books, it was an unbelievable effort. Late one Friday evening, just before we were due to publish the initial catalogue, he said to me that he would like to have the catalogue available for the club on Tuesday evening. “Well”, I replied, “I’m visiting my parents over the weekend, and I’ve got a busy day in the office on Monday ….. “ but after Hugh had left, I thought to myself that he had been so enthusiastic and hard-working, and had earlier said he had been up to 3 a.m., I could not possibly let him down, and sure enough I followed his example and passed him the catalogue Monday lunchtime.

Thirdly, there were the trips to Europe by Cardiff in the European Club Cup, he really loved the experiences and of seeing the top players in action. On one occasion he and I went into the analysis room where on a big screen moves of the playoff for the World Championship between Kramnik and Topalov were being shown. Hugh would insist in setting up a board and pieces, try and keep up with the game but fail miserably, and whenever from behind he heard grandmasters say something like “that game’s all over then” Hugh would turn round and have no qualms about asking them why that was the case. And they likewise were very considerate in their answers and Hugh would thank them, it was all done in a good spirit. But he would then say to me, “I think I understood Stuart, but could you just show me that on a board please”!

I am sure others similarly have lots of interesting stories to tell about Hugh.

I ended my speech for his 80th with ”it has been a pleasure and privilege knowing you for all these years”, which obviously continued to apply right up to this year. Over more recent years, before Covid-19, we very much kept in touch and met regularly for lunch on one or other’s birthday and on many other occasions, he was very good company. I would have known Hugh for 50 years this September, a very dear friend during all that time, and a big loss to me personally,

R.I.P. Hugh.   

Stuart Hutchings