The following obituary appeared in "Our Folder", The Magazine of The Good Companion Chess Problem Club, Vol IX, No. 8, April 1922:
'The Rev. Benjamin Milnes Neill, President of the Good Companion Chess Club since its formation in 1913, died at the Howard Hospital, Philadelphia, on February 16, 1922, from an acute attack of pneumonia. Mr. Neill had been in delicate health for over a year.
He was in his sixty-ninth year, having been born at Pottsville, Penna., on April 13, 1853. Mr. Neill had been a prominent clergyman in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania, being one time pastor of the Asbury M. E. Church, and having held charges at the First Church, Easton; Mauch Chunk; and the Linden Street Church, Allentown. During the past sixteen years, however, he had not been connected with any pastorate, but had acted as corresponding secretary of the Pennsylvania Seamen's Friend Society, at 422 South Front Street, Philadelphia. During this period he accomplished a splendid work in building up the usefulness of this admirable organization. He was untiring in his efforts for the cause, unfailingly optimistic in the face of all difficulties, and it was indirectly his constant devotion of his entire strength to the work of the Society that resulted in his breakdown at the height of his executive powers. He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.
Mr. Neill was perhaps the strongest combination of a player and problemist that Philadelphia has produced, his career in Philadelphia chess covering almost exactly half a century. He began problem composition in 1873, and the next year attracted general attention by defeating P. Ware, Jr., then the recognized champion of New England, in a match by the overwhelming score of 15 wins, one loss and two draws. He visited New York in the same year and in an informal match with Eugene Delmar, one of the strongest players in the city, he captured a majority of the games. In 1875 he returned to Philadelphia and took part in the Philadelphia tournament of that year, winning the first prize, as might indeed have been expected, even considering the many strong players then resident in the city. His chess career was never allowed by him to interfere with his ministerial duties, so that we do not find him playing in many tournaments other than short ones, in which he won frequent good successes, too numerous to detail here. He played in some of the Philadeiphia New York intercity matches, and was twice on the teams that represented the United States in the cable matches with England. A sidelight on the detachment which he thought it necessary to make between his chess work and his pastoral duties is furnished by the fact that he published all his problems, so long as he remained actively engaged in church work, under the name of B. Milnes, omitting his last name. So little did his friends in other walks of life than chess know of his interest in the game, that no mention of his chess hobby was made in a single one of the very full obituaries which were published in the Philadelphia press after his death.
And yet it is through his chess that he will be first remembered by the members of the Good Companion Club. And there is no reason why such a memory is not eminently worthy of so good a man ; for it was his character as a leader that kept the members of the Club together during the novitiate of the Club and brought it through to the useful career it has enjoyed since its firm establishment. All who have been privileged to attend the meetings of the Club when he was present have testified to the unique distinction he achieved as the presiding officer. He was never in any aense obtrusive, and yet he completely dominated the meetirgs. He combined rare gifts for such service to his fellow members. He was absolutely unselfish : his first and only interest was that every one at the meetings should get a maximum of relaxation and pleasure; in securing this for oihers, he secured it for himself, for he was always a noticeably happy figure at the meetings. He had an unusual gift for story telling: he bubbled over with kindly fun, and he was always the center of a little circle from which good cheer radiated to the entire assembly. He was a tactful director of a meeting, always seeing that even the most retiring of those present had the opportunity and the incentive to take an active part of the deliberations. And finally he knew problems through and through: he was a ready solver, and a keen composer and kept in the forefront of ideas as they have developed through the last 50 years. He hated stagnation of any sort, in chess as in his profession. One of his stories that I recall with especial vividness was about two divinity students who roomed together and were studying for an examination.
One of them was cramming up on Millman's History, but he had so little spare time that he could only read a few pages each evening before retiring. After reading, he would put a bookmark at the place where he had left off. His roommate, to play a joke on him, would move the bookmark back every morning to the page where he had begun the night before. The first student was too sleepy in the evenings to notice the trick. When the time for the oral examination came, the practical joker managed to be in the class room when the examining clergyman asked his victim to give a general criticism on Millman: "Well, said the poor student, I have found it extremely interesting, but I should criticise the book as being always just about the same sort of thing."
It was "the same sort of thing" that Mr. Neill argued against in all his talks about problems. He was undoubtedly justified in finding even the Good Companion master-pieces built on monotonous lines. He once told me he never found an individual problem monotonous, but that a great number taken together produced a monotonous impression on him. He always argued for simplicity of construction, for clearness of idea, and especially as just stated for originality of effect: not for technical originality in the achievement, but for the delighting of the solver by an unexpected impression. He was not satisfied with asking for such elements in others, but always marked his own work by distinct individualism. Stories are told of his problems having "stumped" the great Reichhelm and others, and when the problems in question are examined it will be found that their success was not due to a great depth of strategy or special complexity of construction, but to some little surprise feature that no one would have expected. He was in every sense a disciple of the American school, as led by the great Sam Loyd, a very humble disciple he would have insisted on being called.'
B. M. Neill, Philadelphia Times, December 1881, Mate in 2