A WILTSHIRE pensioner who teaches chess, cricket, soccer and table tennis skills to local youngsters has been honoured with a British Citizen Award.

Dennis Jones, 82, of Birchenleaze, North Bradley, was nominated for the medal by his daughter Mrs Wendy Hoole, who says he is “loved by teachers and pupils alike” at North Bradley and Southwick primary schools.

Mr Jones received a specially-struck medal of recognition inscribed with the words ‘for the good of the country’ from BCA co-founder Dame Mary Perkins, of Specsavers, at an formal presentation at the Palace of Westminster in London earlier this month.

The great-grandfather and former technical sales engineer has been recognised for his work over a 24-year period teaching chess to children at North Bradley and Southwick primary schools as well as cricket, football and table tennis.

Mrs Hoole said: “I first started looking at this when I read an article in the Wiltshire Times, where the local scout troop won first second and third place in the chess.

“I thought I know why, they have a secret weapon (my Dad) but no-one else knows why so I set to and nominated him for the school work and table tennis and cricket.”

Mrs Hoole got her father involved in his grand-daughter’s school at Southwick after he retired in 1994 and had time on his hands.

He started to teach the children how to play chess for an hour at lunchtimes as a volunteer once a week. When another grandson started at North Bradley school a few years later, Mr Jones offered to do the same there on a different day.

The clubs became so popular he now has between 15 and 20 pupils learning chess in each school year in both schools.

Mr Jones said: “I am honoured to receive this award. I have been running the chess clubs at North Bradley and Southwick for 24 years.

“I used to run football and cricket clubs at the schools until I was 77 years old and still play table tennis with Hilperton Table Tennis Club, where I have been treasurer since 1990.”

Mr Jones was also treasurer at the North Bradley Cricket Club until he was 70 years old and played football when he lived in Birmingham until his mid-30s.

Of his work with the two schools, he said: “I have enjoyed organising and running the chess clubs. I must have taught hundreds of pupils over the years.”

Mrs Hoole said: “For over 18 years, he has dedicated himself to volunteering at two primary schools.

“He is a great role model, encouraging the children to think logically, forward plan and compete in a fun way.

“Not stopping there, both schools needed help with the football after-school club, so he started volunteering there, helping with both football and cricket.

“The chess club took part in national challenges, resulting in some children attending regional competitions.

“It is rare that a school has the benefit of someone like Dennis, who gives so much of his time freely to enhance the children’s life and educational experiences in an extra-curricular capacity.”

Lesley Shellard, head teacher at Southwick School, said: “We, at Southwick School, would like to thank Mr Jones for his commitment to our school. Come rain or shine, for many years, Mr Jones has visited our school each week to run a chess club for us.“He has inspired many of our children over the years to take up chess as a hobby, many of whom would never have considered doing so."

“The children have been thrilled by the tournaments he has arranged and some have gone on to enter, and been successful, at tournaments outside of school as a result of the time he has spent with them. We would really like to thank him for sharing his enthusiasm with the children.”

Kelandie Ash, head teacher at North Bradley School, said: “ I have come to see Dennis as a true asset to the school. He works incredibly hard to ensure the children develop a love of chess and his chess club is consistently oversubscribed and one of our most popular clubs."

“He has a lovely way with the children; encouraging them and supporting them to achieve their best. He provides rewards and prizes for the children when they do well and this really helps to spur them on.

“He freely gives up his time to work with our children and never lets us down. He often comes to our assemblies to share the successes of the children in his club.

“Dennis is truly part of the fabric of North Bradley School and we hope he will continue to be for many, many years to come.”

The purpose of the British Citizen Awards is to recognise people who make a positive contribution to their local community in the hope that it encourages them to continue and others to emulate them.