Champion John McKerrow
Champion John McKerrow played a fine checkers
game and lived from 1816 to 1910.
One of Scotland's strongest checkers players
during the mid 19th century was purported
to be John McKerrow, who also resided in
the town of Douglas. Like many of his contemporary
checkers game players, McKerrow’s career
was centered around the weaving and cloth
trade in the community of Lanarkshire and
the surrounding area. He was a tweed merchant
and peddler, who carried locally produced
cloth for sale all over the country. John
McKerrow lived most of his life next to Robert
Martins who was also involved in the
John McKerrow’s life was focused around
the area of Scotland where his family roots
appears to have been established generations
before. It is assumed that his parents both
came from the Douglas area. McKerrow was married
twice ~ his first wife was Jean Sloan, and
his second wife was Christine Aitken.
John McKerrow was noted to be a master
checkers game player and twice played against Robert
Martins. In each instance, the checkers match took
place in Glasgow. In 1858, the first match
was played for the championship of Scotland
and England and the purse was £100.
Unfortunately, the outcome was a draw. The
second match was played in 1859 for a purse
of £200, and this time it produced
a winner. Robert Martins won with ten games,
six losses, and thirty-six draws.
As well as a strong and respected checker
opponent, John McKerrow was also highly valued
as a match second; even the great Andrew
Anderson used his services in this capacity.
McKerrow also wrote numerous accounts on
the checker game, especially noted in his
version of the Wyllie – Anderson matches,
in which John McKerrow acted as second to Anderson.
John McKerrow’s primary legacy in
the world of checkers was his writing skills
and subsequently, his wonderful letters to
the Scottish Draughts
Quarterly and Draughts
World at the turn of the century.
His accounts truly bring to life the essence
and atmosphere of a checker match, and this
in itself as well as the quality of the description
is quite amazing considering that John McKerrow
was a working class man with no real formal
education. John McKerrow captured several
moments in history with his wonderful insight
into the checkers game between the masters
of the game.
When John McKerrow wasn't playing checkers or
writing about the game, he joined his close
friend, John Drummond, in hustling the poor
English for money. They would travel south
into England and play against unsuspecting
opponents using aliases, and often would
trounce different players for winnings.
October 12, 1910, saw another great checker
master pass on at the tender age of 84.
He is also buried in the Old St Bride's
Cemetery, Douglas, near the plot of his
old friend and opponent, Robert Martins.
Though John McKerrow may not have left as great
a mark on society of that time, he is still
remembered as one of the 18th century’s
noted checker champions and writer.