Hillhouse Collection Hillhouse Collection
Detail from front cover of 'The Draught Player's Pocket Manual' by J.G. Cunningham [n.d.]
Most Scots are completely unaware that there's a game at which for more than a century they were champions of the world – the game of draughts. Usually regarded as a simple children's pastime, draughts is in fact a deep and complex game, every bit as subtle and sophisticated as chess. From the 1820s until the 1930s the domination of the game by Scots was almost total, with Scotland producing no fewer than six World Champions.
Throughout the country there were an astonishing number of draughts clubs; most were located in the Central Lowlands, with Glasgow at the hub. Here, draughts cut across the social divide with strong clubs such as the Govanhill Liberals, St. George's Co-op and the College Conservatives. From about 1905, a slow decline set in, hastened by the social and economic changes brought about by the First World War.
This ‘flowering' of the Scottish game was reflected in the quantity and quality of the literature produced at the time and in 1898 Glasgow Corporation decided to purchase the collection of draughts enthusiast, James W. Hillhouse. Now housed in The Mitchell Library, this important collection includes: books by Joshua Sturges; a copy of Le Jeu des Dames by Pierre Mallet printed in Paris in 1668; a notebook detailing the matches between Andrew Anderson and James Wyllie for the Scottish Championship in 1847; periodicals and an outstanding collection of newspaper cuttings.
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Draughts simplified, international match games between C. F. Barker, champion of America, and Robert Martins (Douglas), the eminent British draught-player, for a stake of £200, match commenced in Glasgow on Monday the 26th December 1887 and was finished on Tuesday 10th January 1888