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Simon Bolivar, Captain Andrews and a game of chess

Simon Bolivar was a Venezuelan born military and political leader who led what are currently the countries of Columbia,Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Bolivia to independence from the Spanish colonial Empire. He is known colloquially as El Libertador or the Liberator of America. 

Equestrian portrait of Simon Bolivar - a painting by the Venezuelan artist Arturo Michelena

In a fact largely forgotten to history, many thousands of British soldiers and adventurers,veterans of the Napoleonic wars, volunteered to fight alongside Bolivar in his crucial battles against the Spanish. They were called the British/Albion Legion and much decorated. Bolivar died in 1830 aged 47 years. He is regarded as a national and cultural icon throughout Latin America; the nations of Bolivia and Venezuela and their currencies are named after him. His legacy is diverse and far-reaching both within Latin America and beyond and he has been memorialised all over the world in the form of public art or street names and in popular culture.

An English Heritage blue plaque commemorating his time in London can be found at 4 Duke Street, Marylebone and a brief but informative biography of Simon Bolivar can be viewed on YouTube:

Located aside the outer pathway adjoining Ivy road in Ladywell cemetery the faded headstone of Henry John Clinton Andrews ( d.1887) lies inconspicuously apart. The casual observer might struggle to read the lettering on the headstone. But for this author, the grave is resonant in famed historic links and familial connections, not least a parental link to Simon Bolivar , known colloquially as El Libertador (The Liberator), arguably the greatest leader of South American independence from Spanish colonial rule. Henry married into the prodigiously talented Couldery family, his wife Lydia Adelaide ( d.1913) is also buried here.

Henry who was born in Crooms Hill, Greenwich in 1827, was the son of Captain Joseph Andrews (d.1840) whose link to Simon Bolivar is referenced in this article. Henry's early attempts as a competitive chess player were limited and it was noted in his obituary in The Chess-monthly that 'he wisely abandoned the game, and turned his attention entirely to Problems, in which field his efforts were immediately crowned with success, for his first Problem appeared in the Illustrated London News about the year 1847. Soon afterwards he became Problem Editor of the Chess Player's Chronicle, first series, and remained at the helm during its most prosperous days. ' His obituary concludes , 'Mr. Andrews' talents were by no means confined to Chess, as he was a fine musician (singing in the Handel Choir), and had made his mark as a journalist many years ago. He had also a novel nearly completed, which may yet see the light. In conclusion, it may be noted that in spite of the many difficulties in his position as Judge and Problem Editor, Mr. Andrews was never involved in any serious dispute, and his name will go down to posterity as an admirable Crichton of the Chess world, who could go unscathed through the ordeal of public admiration, and of whom it may be said that through the forty years of his Chess career he made hosts of friends, and not one enemy.

Henry died at the young age of 58 from the effects of jaundice.

The faded Andrews headstone lies in Ladywell cemetery*  (photo by Mike Guilfoyle)

Henry's father in law was Lewisham born Robert Hall Couldery (d.1869) who is also buried in Ladywell cemetery as are Horatio Henry Couldery the famous animal painter and illustrator noted especially for his depictions of domestic cats, kittens and dogs and much admired by the art critic John Ruskin. Claudius Herbert Couldery ( d.1930) was a musician and composer- his grave lies adjacent Henry's in Ladywell cemetery.

Henry John Clinton Andrews. Source : Chess in European newspapers before 1862

Above is the first edition of Joseph Andrews’ two-volume account of his harrowing journey across South America, travelling as an envoy for British mining interests from Buenos Aires across the pampas and over the Andean Cordillera, each volume with a splendid fore-edge painting of a beautiful coastal scene.

An envoy of British mining associations sent to investigate South American mining operations,  Captain Joseph Andrews reached South America in March 1825 and would travel across the Argentine pampas and over the Andean Cordillera on “an ancient trail, much of it on Inca and pre-Inca roadways. The path had been worn deep during the period of Spanish colonial rule” (Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 144-5). On publication Andrew’s Journey was praised for giving “a very clear, sensible and modest account of his journey… well worth anyone’s reading”

During his remarkable travels, Captain Andrews notes the following ' It was on October 18, 1826, that I was introduced to Simon Bolivar. I, too, was seized at that moment by that special feeling of awe and awe which the presence of a man who has filled the world with his deeds must always inspire; But it quickly disappeared when he came up to me openly and shook my hand heartily in the English manner.'

* Joseph Henry Blackburne d,1924 Chess player nicknamed "The Black Death" who was one of the world's leading players in the late 19c. is buried a few feet away from Andrews.