He's 88 years-old Wilfrid (Tom) Widdows of Droitwich, who, under the byline Checkmate, has been writing our chess column for no fewer than 55 years!

Wilfrid lays claim to not only being the longest continuous contributor of any Evening News column but also the longest-serving chess columnist in Britain, and almost certainly the world.

There are currently more than 100 chess columnists in England and Scotland, and his claim to have been at it longer than anyone else has been verified in correspondence in a national chess magazine.

Wilfrid was taught to play chess from the age of seven by his railway guard father, Thomas Widdows.

"In fact, my dad was very upset when I beat him for a first time about five years later."

At 22, Wilf joined his father as a member of the Worcester City Chess Club and went on to play for the club and also for the county for many years.

"Worcester enjoyed tremendous success in county competitions and twice reached the last eight in the National Club Competition during the early 1950s," says Wilf.

"When I first joined in 1934, the club captain was Douglas Wormald who taught Latin and Greek at the Worcester Royal Grammar School. He was the most perfect gentleman I ever met.

"In those days, the club seemed very well-endowed with parsons and doctors, and to an ordinary person like me, it was a real honour to play chess with such people. Over the years, members were, of course, to be drawn from a more varied cross-section of the population and from a wider circle of professions and occupations.

"The playing base for the Worcester club was the Committee Room of the Victoria Institute. Shelves around its walls were filled with an abundance of books, and we considered it to be the best venue for chess in the county.

"I met some wonderful people in chess, and among the eminent personalities I saw playing at the Victoria Institute was the ecclesiastical architect, Arthur Troyte Griffith who belonged to the Malvern Chess Club."

He was a great friend of composer Sir Edward Elgar who immortalised him in music as the subject of No.7 of his Enigma Variations, entitling it Troyte.

Wilfrid Widdows contributed his first chess column to the Evening News on October 9, 1945, and has been writing it continuously each week ever since during the chess seasons. He gave up playing chess a few years ago but is still Competitions Secretary for the Worcestershire Chess Association, a post he has filled for a long time.

He handles all the results from the association's two divisions and also keeps in touch with the various clubs, thus placing him in an ideal position to continue producing his column for the Evening News.

Wilf, together with his wife June, has also played bridge for decades, and he has been treasurer of the Droitwich Afternoon Bridge Club for the past 12 years. Canasta is another taxing card game Wilf and his wife have also played for years "with a lot of friends at Droitwich".

This huge aptitude for chess, bridge, canasta and crosswords clearly indicates that Wilfrid has remarkable patience, great concentration and mental skills. He firmly attributes these qualities and also "being very good at figures" to some special training he received in his formative junior school days.

Wilfrid was born in South Wales, in 1912, but his parents moved to Worcester from Monmouthshire, in 1920, when his father transferred to Shrub Hill Station as a railway guard. The family's first home was in Stanley Road but they later moved to a house in Belmont Street.

Wilfrid attended Stanley Road School from 1920 to 1925 and is full of praise for the headmaster of the time, Cuthbert Henry Cook, who gave him special personal coaching in preparation for the entrance exam to Worcester Technical School.

"It was really hard training but it certainly paid off," stresses Wilf.

Among his prized possessions are all his end-of-term reports from Stanley Road School, most showing him first or second in his class. He fared just as well on winning a place at the Technical School in the Victoria Institute.

Vivid among Wilf's boyhood memories is of being taken to Pitchcroft where big crowds had gathered to listen to the Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, the legendary World War One padre, Woodbine Willie.

"I can see him now, preaching to that outdoor gathering. He was a very forceful speaker, of course, and a very wonderful man. He and his family were noted for helping other people, particularly the poor, often at their own expense."

Wilf left the Technical School at 15, on gaining a job in 1927, as an apprentice draughtsman with the giant Worcester engineering firm of Heenan & Froude at Shrub Hill. It was to be the beginning of half-a-century with the company and its successor firm, Redman Heenan.

For most of his service, he was manager of the company's environmental services division which mainly designed and built large-scale refuse incinerators for towns and cities around the UK and overseas.

In fact, in the 1960s Heenans offered to build a prototype refuse incinerator in Worcester, but the city council turned down the chance, so it was constructed instead at Tyseley, Birmingham.

Wilf travelled widely in Britain, winning significant contracts for refuse incinerator plants and also went on several overseas missions, including four visits to Brazil, when the city of Sao Paulo was considering awarding Heenans a contract to build an incinerator.

In the end, the Sao Paulo authorities decided against having such a plant as, alas, did a city in Argentina, when Wilf went "prospecting for a contract" there too. Even so, he feels these trips were "very interesting experiences".

Today, he is convinced that incineration still has an important place in refuse disposal and remains the most hygienic method.

"It's a pity to me that it has gone out of favour," he says.

However, Wilf stresses that he is now out of touch with modern developments, having been away from the business for more than 25 years.

He also appreciates public anxieties over pollution problems from refuse incinerator emissions, but believes there must be methods of "largely mitigating" these. He thinks it wrong that the nation is now relying primarily on landfill tipping of refuse.

Wilf, who served in the Home Guard during the war, took early retirement from Redman Heenan in 1974, but was retained as a consultant for a further three years, thus completing half-a-century with the company and bowing out at 65.

He much mourns the earlier passing into Worcester's industrial history of Heenan & Froude, a once extremely flourishing company which, at its peak, employed more than 1,200 people.

Unlike most people, Wilf did not feel his working life was over at 65, and he applied for a part-time post he had seen advertised by Reddiplex, the Droitwich plastic extrusions company.

"I went along to the interview and got the job. One of the people on the interview panel happened to be the secretary of the Droitwich Chess Club."

Wilf was to remain for 16 years in this part-time post "working with figures" in the Reddiplex production planning department, finally retiring at the age of 81.

"The firm turned out plastic extrusions, literally by the mile, and seemed to value my being very good with figures."

Wilfrid and wife June were married in 1951, and will be celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary next year. They have a daughter, Vanessa, and Wilf also has another daughter, Mrs Stephanie Porter of Worcester, from his previous marriage.

Mrs June Widdows is from Jersey, but came to Worcester with her parents as "refugees" just before the Germans invaded the Channel Islands. The family had relatives living in the city.

She has now been with the WRVS Meals-on-Wheels service at Droitwich for 31 years and was originally one of its organisers. She readily testifies to her husband's "marvellous memory for names and places and his way with figures".

Let's hope it will be years yet before anyone calls "checkmate" to Wilfrid Widdows' long-standing chess column in the Evening News!