Joe Cummins had a successful 40-year career in land management. On the weekends he helped spouse Heather with her Coffee House and Gallery in rustic Millthorpe, in Central Western NSW. A chance meeting led to a new direction in retirement.
Joe and Heather Cummins were at a social gathering in Millthorpe 10 years ago when the School Principal mentioned that one of her teachers had started a fledgling Chess Club. Joe congratulated her because his grandfather had taught him to play chess on the farm when he was eight and he had retained an interest in the ancient game all his life.
Within six weeks Joe had accepted a retirement offer and the chess teacher had been transferred to Molong. A simple telephone call followed and a remarkable partnership began. The Chess Club meets at lunchtime each Friday and has boomed. Millthorpe began to enjoy success in District, Regional and Statewide competitions. Now a quarter of the school’s 260 students play chess. Joe and the school’s simple philosophy has paid off – fun and learning in equal quantities!
It wasn’t long before Joe was invited to other schools. He regularly helps with chess at three other schools and is pleased to support any school with chess students. He especially encourages students with learning and social difficulties. ‘Chess is universal’, he says, ’it improves concentration and self-esteem and can be played by almost anybody, regardless of their socio-economic or physical circumstances. It’s a sport where students have represented their school with a broken arm or leg.’
After 10 years Joe has some observations. ‘Girls and boys are different’ he says. ‘Generally girls are more thoughtful and strategic, while boys are more aggressive. I have to teach the girls to be dominant and the boys to be patient. That is interesting!’
There is a Junior Chess Tournament at St Barnabas Anglican Church Hall in Orange every school holidays. Players aged from 7 to 17 come from all over Western NSW and the Blue Mountains to compete. It is a sanctioned NSW Junior Chess League event and all players gain an official NSW rating. Give Joe a ring on 0263626882 if you would like to know more.
Joe reckons that all ‘oldies’ can get involved in satisfying and rewarding volunteer work. You don’t have to be a ‘grandmaster’ at anything, all you need is an interest and an opportunity to get involved.
Joe Cummins enjoys chess with grandkids Lucie, Harry and Ned Cummins. (PS they are using his grandfather’s original chess pieces). Photograph curtesy of Joe Cummins.