John Drummond (1806-1881)

Born at Laurieston, near Falkirk, on March 26, 1806, in his youth he was said to be quiet and secluded. He acquitted himself in his studies which were befitting to his family’s circumstances. At the proper age, he was apprenticed to a Master at Grangemouth to learn the trade of a Slater, and after passing through his servitude he formed a business of his own.

Though he was widely known as a skillful draughts player, he is still more distinguished as an Author. In 1838 he published his first book, entitled the “Scottish Draught Player,” containing upwards of 700 games. A second edition, was published at Glasgow in 1851&1853 with corrections and contains upwards of 1,700 games; his third edition in 1861 upwards of 700 games, and his fourth and fifth edition was published in two parts but as well combined in one book containing all together upwards of 2,300 games.

Remark: Each of Drummond’s works is to be understood as a standalone as each shows lines not shown in other editions.

He was married twice. His first marriage, in 1826, was short-lived, and after a few brief years passed on. The result was a family of seven, two of whom (a boy and girl) died. The rest happily attained maturity, with them living in New York, Glasgow, and one at Denny with his father. He didn’t father any children from the marriage with his second wife.

In 1832 he moved from Lawrieston to Denny, and shortly after to Glasgow, and thence to Dalry in Ayrshire. About the year 1842, he returned to Denny and finally settled there. After he got married he started to play draughts during long winter nights with his acquaintances. About 1830 he obtained a copy of Sturges and this stimulated his desire for further knowledge and he applied himself to the study of the book. His success was said to be so rapid that he acquired such proficiency in the science to render him a formidable opponent, even to those of more mature years and long experience in the game. After a few preliminary encounters in private, in which he displayed abilities sufficient to justify the step, he appeared in the arena of public contest. His success for the time has been unexampled, having defeated every opponent who encountered him in play for a stake. His most important matches were those with Bullock and Hudson each for £50 aside. The others were for lower stakes, varying in amount.

1834defeatedRobert Johnston of Dennywinning20gamesto9
1835defeatedRobert Taylor of Falkirkwinning6gamesto2
1836defeatedWilliam Lewis of Glasgowwinning4gamesto2
1836 defeatedJohn Price of Lawriestonwinning21gamesto5
1836 defeatedRobert Mitchell of Storburywinning5gamesto2
1837defeatedJames Reid of Bonnybridgewinning17gamesto0
1845defeatedDavid Gray of Ardrossanwinning7gamesto3
1847defeatedJohn Miller of Dalrywinning7gamesto1
1847defeatedJames Sinclair of Glasgowwinning3games to2
1850defeatedSt: Rollex of Tailorwinning9gamesto2
1851defeatedHutcheson of Glasgowwinning5gamesto1
1851defeatedW. Lewis of Hoggenfieldwinning2gamesto1
1856defeatedPeter Marschall of Reddingwinning7gamesto0
1858defeatedJohn McKerrow of Glasgowwinning5gamesto3
1858defeatedGeorge Bullock of Sheffieldwinning17gamesto10
1858defeatedThomas Hudson of Glasgowwinning9gamesto4
1858defeatedPeter Marshall of Reddingwinning2gamesto0

He did contribute his fair share to newspapers and was published in “The New York Turf,” “New York Clipper,” “Leeds Weekly Express,” “Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette” and “Draught Board.” In 1849 he issued a challenge to English Draught Players, and for the purpose of arranging a match, he made a tour through England. In answer to his challenge, an appearance was put in on behalf of Robert Martins for whom the odds of four won games in nine was requested. Drummond declined to concede, and the negotiations were unproductive. During his stay in London, he was the guest of Mr. Barker Woolhouse, one of the most accomplished London draughts players of the time.


He was coaching Andrew Anderson in his matches played against James “Herd Laddie” Wyllie at Edinburgh and Lanark, and it is assumed that the tact and experience of Drummond contributed in no small degree to the success of Anderson.

The “Scottish Draught Player” was back then extensively circulated in England and America, and Drummond is reputed to be the first to attempt to systematize the game. The success of his book had his fair share of critics. It is save to say that this just spurred him to perfect his works.

In-person he was tall and well-made, with a slight inclination to corpulence His countenance, though of a thoughtful cast, does not excite much expectation. His complexion is ruddy, his eyes blue, bright, and penetrating. His hair is abundant and white, and there is no appearance of baldness. Though years are stealing upon him, yet he is in vigorous health, promoted and assured by exercise and temperate habits; and for this, he may justly exclaim.

Character-wise he is said to have been self-reliant and unassuming, but well-read and with very pronounced opinions. He was prepared to assert and vindicate his rights. Stimulated by the opposition, he retorts heavily on an antagonist, and in controversy at times exhibits caustic humor, but he is far from being vindictive and at all times disposed to reconciliation.

John Drummond died after a long and lasting illness at Denny, on the 11 May, 1881.