John Drummond (1806-1881)
by Norrie Reid


John Drummond was a skilled player, prolific draughts author and a most interesting person. Born in Lawrieston near Falkirk on the 26th of March 1806, he was a master slater who ran his own business in Denny. His famous Scottish Draughts Player contained countless innovations and new ideas in the openings. Drummond was a large and physically strong man. An article in a Glasgow newspaper of the time said of him:

"John Drummond, the celebrated author, in his best days was supposed to be the only man in Britain able to box the black champion Bendigo, but when approached on the subject he declined to become a professional at the noble art. Upon one occasion, Drummond when on a visit to England, was chaffed by a party who took him to be a soft country Scotchman. This individual said to him that it must have taken a large quantity of boiled meal and water to make him up to his present proportions. 'Yes' retorted Drummond, 'but there is one thing I know about you English: you have no brawns on your legs'; and he bared one of his huge limbs, much to the astonishment of the company. The first speaker again thought to have a joke at the expense of the big man, stating that his ankles scarecely appeared thick enough to support so great a calf. Drummond, observing the insinuation implied in this remark, next exposed to view his sinewy arms in somewhat ominous fashion, which had the effect of silencing that punster for the remainder of the evening."

A friend from London, Barker Woolhouse, remembers him fondly in the Draughts World:

"In 1844 John Drummond was by me invited to visit London. He accepted the invitation and stayed with me several weeks, and I had the supreme delight of meeting a man whose enthusiasm, industry and patience were beyond description. His pockets were literally stuffed with manuscript games and improvements. I introduced him to my brother who became very friendly with Drummond, taking great interest in the second edition of the Scottish Draughts Player and wrote an article on the 'move' which appears therein. Later, having lost the second edition of Anderson, I wrote to Drummond to send me a copy. He could not obtain one, but with extreme kindness sent me his own copy, with improvements marked on every page."

As a player he was among Scotland's strongest, indeed after Anderson and Wyllie probably the best in his day. He took part in seventeen matches winning every one (146-47-0 games). Drummond was also a bit of a hustler in his day, for he and his friend John McKerrow of Douglas often travelled incognito to England to relieve the natives of their money. A letter by one W Coltherd of Newcastle to a local paper ran:

"...Now, as regards names I think it only right to state how two persons named Story and Flockhart tried it on with the Newcastle players. In the first place these men had Drummond, the author of the Scottish Draughts Player, under the name of John Malcolm, against Harper Coltherd for 10 a side, but he was suspected to be Drummond and had the piper to pay. They succeeded better in the next match in which McKerrow of Glasgow under the name J Cambell of Hawick played the said Harper Coltherd. McKerrow proved victorious and Story had the impudence to say after the stakes were drawn - 'We have walked over them now!' I write this to put Englishmen on their guard against these aliases of McKerrow and Drummond."

Drummond died at Denny on the 11th of April 1881. He is buried in the town cemetery, with a beautiful granite tombstone which alludes to his draughts connection.