GAZETTE Sport is proud to wish the happiest of birthdays to its oldest correspondent.
Denis Lane, who celebrates his 90th tomorrow, reckons he submitted his first chess column to this publication around 1955.
Denis, of Ingleway, Blackpool, has enjoyed three stints as press secretary for the Blackpool and Fylde Chess League, the latest of which began around 25 years ago and continues to this day.
Until this year, Denis’ eagerly-awaited reports would arrive by post in long-hand. Having decided “to come out of the Ark” (his words not ours), his updates on league matches are now emailed.
What has not changed down the decades is Denis’ love of chess and of Blackpool Chess Club, which he joined as a 12-year-old, having been introduced to the game by his late brother Thomas.
A committee member of the Blackpool club for over half a century, Denis has been its president for the past decade and is regarded with such affection by his colleagues that committee meetings are always held at his house to spare him the need to travel.
Not that Denis has any problems getting out and about – he frequently undertakes ten-mile walks to visit his daughter Janet in Preesall.
Though he no longer plays, Denis loves the much misunderstood social side of chess.
“Public opinion does not regard chess as a very sociable game,” he says, “but I have made hundreds of friends through it. Chess is marvellous in that respect.”
Denis won the prestigious Silver Queen Trophy for the first time at the age of 16, beating brother Thomas in the final, and retained it for the next two years.
Twice crowned Lancashire Schoolboy champion, Denis represented the county in the British championship in Hastings in 1937.
War service with the RAF, based in Caernarvon, was followed by marriage to his late wife Dilys in 1945.
Having started his working life at the family amusement arcade, Denis enjoyed a career in banking and his passion for chess never dimmed.
“When I started writing reports in the mid-50s, Blackpool had a marvellous club,” he recalls. “We won the club championship and you came across so many nice people.”
Denis’ Gazette column was weekly in those days, and although his contributions are less regular now he says the local scene continues to thrive.
“There were more matches in those days,” he explained. “There are not as many teams now and the schools have dropped out, but it is still a strong league and has a marvellous committee.”
Happy birthday, Denis, from all at Gazette Sport.