Geoff Clarke who died on 7th November, 2022 was a distinguished business executive and an accomplished sportsman. He was also a remarkable chairman of East Cheshire chess club, a role which could be described as one as difficult as herding cats.
We had a shared experience of life working in multi-national organisations, me towards the bottom of the Unilever pyramid, and Geoff towards the top of the emerging Proctor & Gamble U.K. operation.
He eventually opted to resist the ‘Pack and go’ philosophy needed to reach the summit, settling for quality of life with his family in a quiet Cheshire suburb.
His particular skills were evident at East Cheshire AGMs, which often teetered on the theatre of the absurd, rescued by his gentle steering (perhaps from his rowing days).
My other abiding image of him is of club nights. Typically there is an unnatural silence. The sound of the door opening and someone arriving would be unnoticed or if noticed, ignored. Except for Geoff, would would quietly greet the new arrival, and quickly arrange a game.
A personal confession. I made Geoff the spy master in my crime novel, Seconds Out, who plied his trade under the guise of an avuncular chairman of the East Cheadle Chess Club, where he is known to members as the Dalai Lama. His cherubic bespectacled features reminded me of Alex Guinness superb in his role as Smiley in Le Carre’s famous spy thrillers.
Club Chairman David Taylor of the real- life East Cheshire Chess tells the story of Geoff’s courting days as a military officer, when he became attracted to a young nurse serving in the medical corp where he was being treated for a minor ailment. Her impact led him to create various inauthentic reasons for future treatments. His chess-like moves were successful, as the couple were to become married and went to live a long and happy lives together.