This is ostensibly about the life arc of a Fortis who is making his mark on the laws and minds of his native land. For me however, it is about my best friend and someone who has been a feature of my life since I was four years old. There, now you know that I am not unbiased in this, let’s get to know a little about the man.
Ian Godfrey Wilkinson was born in Kingston, Jamaica where he currently resides. He was educated at Calabar All Age School (1969-1976), the mighty “Fortis” Kingston College (1976 - 1983) and the University of the West Indies (1984-1987) where he obtained a Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) degree.
Those of us who attended KC with him will always remember him as “Wilkie” or “Sour”. Those of you who have ever witnessed him in court or seen any of his remarkable “Roy Shirley” performances on television will be surprised to know that during his time at KC, Ian was known mostly for being Prof. Carlos Escoffery’s younger sibling and being reserved but funny with vastly underutilized capabilities in any number of sports.
He was still a standout in a class that included Drs. Kevin Brown, Moses Gallow, Garfield Forbes, Christopher Sinclair, Ashraf Beharrie, Earl Noyan and Michael Washington. Other classmates included, David Johnson, a partner in the global law firm Allen and Overy, Professor Michael Haughton of Wilfred Laurier University in Canada and too many others to mention.
Ian is an attorney-at-law by profession; he graduated from the Norman Manley Law School in 1989 and was the top student at the law school that year, winning a number of prizes including the Norman Manley Prize for Excellence and the Most Outstanding Year Two Student award. He runs his own law firm in Kingston and, since 1990 he has taught law (Succession/Probate Practice and Procedure and advocacy) at the Norman Manley Law School, on the campus of the University of the West Indies, St. Andrew, Jamaica.
Service is a critical element of his value system and Ian has served as Public Relations Officer and Vice-President of the Kingston College Old Boys Association and singlehandedly fought the Association’s legal battles during the much-publicized impasse with KC’s principal in the 1990s.
Ian has also served in various capacities on the Bar Council of the Jamaican Bar Association (JBA -the official body that represents lawyers in Jamaica) for approximately fifteen (15) years. He has been the assistant treasurer, Vice-President unopposed for six straight years and on the 19th March, 2011 was elected President (unopposed) of the JBA. He was re-elected unopposed for a second term on the 17th March, 2012.
Since 2011 he has sat on the Rules Committee of the Supreme Court and theCourt of Appeal, a body that, inter alia, supervises the passage of laws and rules of procedure that are crucial in the efficient functioning of Jamaica’s courts of law.
Mr. Wilkinson has written many articles on the law covering various topics including criminal law, family law, estate planning and probate practice and other aspects of civil law. These have been published in various legal sources. In addition, he has made presentations at legal seminars across the island and abroad.
Outside of the legal field, chess is Ian’s passion. He learnt to play chess in about May/June, 1999 and played his first tournament in October, 2000. He was the non-playing Jamaican captain at the 2002 Bled Olympiad and was elected president of the Jamaica Chess Federation in June, 2003. He was re-elected unopposed in 2005, 2007, 2009 and again in 2011 for his fifth consecutive two-year term.
In December, 2003 he was awarded the Jamaica Chess Federation’s inaugural chess journalist of the year award for 2002 for his reporting on the Bled Olympiad. In 2007 he was awarded the inaugural award for best chess analyst by the Jamaica Chess Federation and to date has been the only person in Jamaica to win this award, again copping this award for his chess analyses (of games covering material locally and internationally) in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The love of the game has been a source of energy and inspiration and Ian has written two chess books, the groundbreaking “Magnificence In Bled: The 35th Chess Olympiad” (launched at King’s House, Jamaica in 2004 under the auspices of the former Governor-General of Jamaica Sir Howard Cooke)and “Excitement Galore: Chess In All Its Glory (launched in December, 2007 at the Jamaica Conference Centre under the patronage of Sir Howard’s successor, Professor Sir Kenneth Hall). The latter is also an historic book, the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, that teaches people how to play chess in a simple, yet entertaining, fashion. He is working on several other books including two law books (on (i) Advocacy and (ii) Probate Practice and Procedure book for the English-speaking Caribbean); a Sports biography; a fiction novel and four other chess books.
The commitment to chess does not stop there; Ian is the chairman of Magnificent Chess Foundation (“MCF”), an entity conceived by him to pioneer the teaching of chess across the length and breadth of Jamaica, particularly in schools. MCF (whose motto is “building a nation of thinkers) was launched simultaneously with his second book in December, 2007 and is already a resounding success with chess being taught in scores of schools to thousands of students (actually being on the curriculum/timetable in many).
The MCF has also introduced a chess-in-communities programme (the Grant’s Pen area being the first to benefit from this initiative) with excellent response and hopes to replicate this throughout Jamaica especially in “troubled” areas. By this vehicle (MCF) he hopes to make Jamaica a veritable “nation of thinkers” and take his beautiful homeland to another levelby revolutionizing how Jamaicans think and empowering citizens, dramatically reducing illiteracy (especially among the student population) and reducing crime and violence significantly while improving the educational and socio-economic life of Jamaicans, in particular the youth. ”
The dedication to chess does not end there. Ian has servedas Captain of Jamaica’s teams to the following World Chess Olympiads: (i) to the 35th Chess Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia in 2002 (ii) to the 36th Chess Olympiad in Calvia, Mallorca (Spain), 2004. He was also Jamaica’s delegate to the FIDE (international/world chess Federation) 2004 Congress in Mallorca (over one hundred countries represented). Successfully argued against the increase in Jamaica’s FIDE membership fees proposed by the richer (eg European) nations; (iii) to the 37th Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy in 2006 and (iv) chef de mission, official journalist and one of Jamaica’s delegates for the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany in 2008;
For the 39th Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia, Russia (Sep. 20 to Oct 3, 2010) Ian was again chef de mission, captain of the men’s team, official press officer and Jamaica’s delegate to the historic Congress (which saw the 12th world champion International Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov unsuccessfully challenging the incumbent, His Excellency Kirsan Ilyumzhinov former president of the country Kalmykia) for the presidency of the World Chess Federation.
Long before chess took hold of his heart there was family, he has two sons, Andrew, 28, and Chevian, 19 and a four year-old daughter Tassja and is married to Shawn, also an Attorney-at-law.
Ian has had a long involvement with the Schools Challenge Quiz. He played on the KC team in 1982 and 1983 and has been involved with KC schools’ challenge quiz teams for approximately thirty (30) years, coaching, or being a part of coaching squads, for seven winning teams (1985, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2007, 2009 and 2011) and six teams to the final (1986, 1993, 1999, 2002, 2006 and 2010.
My absolute all-time favorite of all of Ian’s accomplishments is his selection as a judge on the World Chess Court. He was elected in 2006 in Italy by the world chess governing body to serve as a judge on the World Chess Court (the Ethics Commission) being the first person from the English-speaking Caribbean to have this honour.
He sat on the newly-elected Court’s first sitting in Greece in July, 2007 when the Court presided over a number of matters including the controversial 2006 world chess championship dispute between two world chess champions – the Russian Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik and the Bulgarian Grandmaster Veselin Topalov.
Ian was re-elected unopposed to sit on the court by the Congress (approximately 150 countries) of the World Chess Federation in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia, Russia in September, 2010. He also sat on the panel when it presided over hearings in Berlin, Germany in 2010 and Milan, Italy in 2011.
In Jamaica, Ian is a regular panelist on RJR’s weekly radio programme “That’s A Wrap”; and a regular performer on Mustard Seed’s annual charity fundraiser – “Powerful Men and Women Perform For Charity”. He confessed to me that one of his best KC experiences was during the 2011 Manning Cup season when Coach Trevor “Jumpy” Harris allowed him to teach Chess to the football squad for the entire season.
In all of this, Ian remains my best friend and, a die-hard Fortis!