Some History, some memories and some personalities from Newcastle Bridge Club - Bill Brumby
Bill Shankly the one time manager of Liverpool F.C. alleged that football was greater than life itself. It may not be quite like that for contract bridge and Newcastle Bridge Club in particular but it was, is, and always will be quite something.
It was in the early fifties that Les Walker and Bill Brumby ventured or should it be said plucked up courage to go to the Chronicle Hall to be known as "the boys". The elders were daunting, Mamie and Harry Esther, Jimmy Tweddle the Newcastle Education Chief and his partner the teacher Mr. Morgan, plus the odd turf accountant. Tough going but with some success and nice to hear Harry say " Mamie you've been done."
These are reminiscences of the fifties and Ray Richardson can recall the late forties and his partner another of the turf accountants who would certainly know the odds of how suits would break.
Returning to the fifties Capt. Ewart Kempton, who founded the club in 1935, played in the business houses league for the Chronicle giving some of us an opportunity to meet him. Bridge apparel was somewhat different in those days with the North of England versus the South being played in the Station Hotel Newcastle with evening dress for the players being essential. Since then of course there have been many technical Improverss to assist the spectators but nevertheless it was rewarding to watch with the play being good even without the many conventions, which have come about since then, and there was plenty of humour.
The names of the Kempson Cup and the Kempson Vases owe their names to Capt. Kempton of course. One memory of a Newcastle team in the Kempson Cup was of having the feeling of the best ever session only to discover that the team had played North/South in both rooms. A more pleasant memory was of Gladys Humphreys dancing round the room after defeating the team, which had won the Kempson for the three previous years. After the opponents had left of course. Now that was a formidable partnership, that of the ladies, Gladys with Lily Pape.
Prior to the formation of the Brunton club Newcastle had a strong Inter Area team including Arnold Deane with Roger Crankshaw and other stalwarts..Les and Bill were pleased to join them in winning the First Division once. Since the formation of Brunton Newcastle have only won the First Division once again. Some of the current members play for other clubs so that a fully representative team would be stronger. Some of the Inter Area matches provided excitement and drama with one of the most dramatic being a visit to Middlesborough.
It had not been possible to play on the usual Sunday because of the weather conditions so the match had been re-arranged for a weekday evening. The Newcastle weather on that day was wet snow all day but melting. Progress reports with Middlesborough were favourable. What a nonsense! Dennis Clarke and Arthur Herron were picked up in Newcastle at what was a reasonable time. We reached there at some ludicrous time and took until Midnight to play 24 boards out of the usual 32. Middlesborough wanted a reasonable result to avoid relegation but as we were so far ahead they conceded after the 24. Now the big problem had really arrived, that of getting home. What a nightmare ! The car had to be pushed back on the road at least three times. We feared for the slight Arthur who was becoming very pale. Silly us as he was probably the strongest with his high-level footballing background. We must have been the very last car to clear the A19 with those behind having to spend the rest of the night in cars or village or church halls.
At the Chronicle Hall there were as you might say disagreements or even rows between partners resulting from the tenseness of the game (remember Bill Shankly), but normality was soon resumed.. The move from the Chronicle Hall was to Bentinck Road in Newcastle. There we even experienced a short bout of fisticuffs on the Wednesday club night. This again was quickly resolved with laughter all-round when it was discovered that the fight was concerned with play on the Monday evening, a competition which they had won. Bridge is a very serious game.
After enjoyable evenings at Bentinck the time arrived for the next move that to Gateshead under the Railway arches. As the premises were not in ideal condition for a bridge venue this meant that the committee and volunteers had to arm themselves with paint pots and brushes to do the necessary. Well done with such devotion confirming the merits of the game. Owen Griffiths and Duggy Bolton were some of the players at the time and also Len Wood. Owen left a good selection of bridge books to the club, and Doug was of course an unfortunate POW in the Far East. Len will be remembered as a very deep thinker in respect of the various problems posed by the hands. John Bailey also became prominent at that time playing with a colleague from British Paints.
Before mentioning the next move it might be good to mention something about the various congresses which played a big part in the activities of the Newcastle members. The annual exodus to the NEBA congress at the Zetland Hotel Saltburn was a significant part of the member's curriculum. Before Bridge moved into the electronic age we were indebted to directors and others who scored manually. This meant that players would sit up until 2 am waiting for the results. There was of course Bridge and other card delicacies to play in the meantime. After all this the really keen element would have an early round at the local Golf Course. If anyone forgot to pay their green fees it was probably because of the excitement caused by the imminent return to the Zetland Mecca. A true highlight of the weekend was the Sunday morning gathering at the pub at the side of the beach It was a pleasure to hear the experts expound. The weather at that time of the year was variable and once the Corbridge contingent suffered when their roof blew off. Remember Nancy Brown and Mary Ward, and also inimitable Arthur Beatty who would recall hands, on returning from the Congress, with such intensity that the driver would sometimes get lost. The trouble was that they were not hands from the Congress but some from years ago.
The popularity of the NEBA Congress waned somewhat when the Saltburn venue had to be changed. For several years play was at various Durham University colleges. However Susan Green, indefatigable in working for her Newcastle Club and NEBA was particularly involved in getting the congress back on track at Otterburn and other venues. At Otterburn Bob Cuerden was brilliant in ensuring that he was the first to order the wine for the table. Good old Bob!
Another congress very popular with Newcastle members for a long time has been that at Peebles by the Scottish Bridge Union for bridge players and gourmets. The following is an extract from the bridge-scoring programme used at Peebles. The date 15th October 1991.
Posn. Pair B/Fwd Session Cum %
4 B.Boast/ E.Cameron B 7E 72.0 95.0 167.0 59.64
6 D.Rule/ G. Stafford B 7N 76.0 88.0 164.0 58.57
Pretty good out of 22 pairs and Edith and Belle were shown as the top session improvers. Belle and Edith, Dorothy and Gwen. The first time I played with Belle I was in game before I had properly sorted my hand, and made it. What can be better than walking down the aisle at Peebles for a major prize? Walking down the aisle with Edith shouting in the background " Howay the Lads". As for Gwen, could there be a better storyteller at Peebles? Remember Edith's husband George ? He was on the team that beat the Kempson Cupholders and also on the team the last time Newcastle won the Inter Area 1st Division.
Newcastle as a club does very well in holding two congresses each year. At first it was a single congress with pairs in the afternoon and teams at night. Originally
it was before computer scoring and the scorers between sessions did a very good job. One of the evening teams saw Brenda Osborne and Sam Khadaroo win their first prize at this level, Brenda to form a long partnership with Alec Simpson (the advent of the weak two in three suits to the Newcastle Club) and Sam to form a long lasting partnership with Issy Mitrani. Others on a winning evening teams congress were Ray Richardson and Manny Silver who was unofficially confirmed each AGM. as the club doctor on the basis of the endless advice he gave to members. The change to two separate congresses meant a great deal of work and administration for committee members and helpers. The early workload included getting tables to the Pairs venue and at the YWCA for the teams we had to wait for the residents to finish lunch before proceedings could commence. One exciting Pairs congress featured the computer breaking down so there was hand scoring at the interval and at the end to determine the results for the three sections. The congress was complicated further by losing the director for the final session. All ended well but very late. Congratulations to Desmond Dunleavy and Tony Bell for winning the last two congresses.
Returning to club nights following the congress memories the move from "underneath the arches" saw the achievement of University status but only because play was to be at university premises on Jesmond Road Newcastle. Some of the players featuring there were the aforementioned Arthur and Dennis who at the time were very keen to win their first Newcastle club trophy having gone close many times. They hadn't long to wait. Also there was the pairing of Frank Springett (later to feature in many other strong partnerships) and John Naylor, Les and Pat Wilson who undertook sterling work for the club before moving to Sterling, Les to become the I.T. professor at Sterling University and Pat to later have a spell as President of the Scottish Bridge Union. Pat also formed a partnership with Ian Spoors at Jesmond Road.
The next move was to St. James Church Northumberland Road. Enjoyable years were experienced there, but parking problems exacerbated on evenings featuring play at St.. James's Park and or performances at the City Hall plus the fact that the venue was becoming costly forced the consideration of a further move. Up to 26 tables were achieved there, just enough to cope with the current movement and the available space. The team's championship included up to 19 teams. With the time approaching the current era most of the personalities involved are well known, and unfortunately although happy memories exist of all it would be a lengthy task to mention them all. . We cannot, however, pass on without a word for Jack Sugden, for his character and for his work as a director and club chairman, and also for his partner Renee Golding. One more mention is for Bill Scott to whom everyone was grateful for allowing them to improve their defence against his perpetual Three No Trumps.
Following the difficulties experienced at Northumberland Road there was the move to the current premises at West Denton. The club is now well established there with the premises being used for club nights, and for the club's Teams Congress as well as for some NEBA events. The various moves necessitated and accomplished, the introduction of club congresses and the current successful running of the club are all down to people. Firstly the directors. Newcastle is fortunate to have the services of two very personable and able directors. John Bailey partnered by Jean and now for some time by Terry King , alternating with the gentlemen Tom Smith and his popular partner Stuart Russell. Recently remembered chairpersons and secretaries, although they cover quite a span of years, are Jean Marshall very able and hardworking both for the club and NEBA with Fergus's refreshments at committee meetings being much appreciated. Susan Green, whose workload has already been discussed, partnered over the years by Brenda Charlton. Kathlene Armstrong also a good club worker with a penchant for club parties, her alternating partners being Mike Stanbury and Keith Forster. Talking of parties it will be fitting to mention a previous chairman Tom Glenn. Tom very much pro British and an Arnhem veteran always wore his Union Jack garb at Christmas parties and regaled us with typical Tom stories. The current secretary Anne Hauxley undertakes a huge workload including that for NEBA, scoring for club nights, and maintaining a significant web site. She only allows herself time for a cup of cocoa before scoring up after the club night finishes and posting the results on the web. The current chairman Desmond Dunleavy is carrying on the good work. Other big contributors to the successful running of the club are of course the treasurers. With two congresses each year the turnover to be managed by the treasurers is much greater than the normal expectancy for a club treasurer. Those handling this situation were John Routledge, ever smiling and with a multitude of jokes, the very popular Mary Laws, and currently as part of her workload Susan Green. The club is in very good order at the moment with good turnouts and several members who have joined comparatively recently. Those with the club longer and have not been mentioned in the memories be assured that all are all well remembered for their personalities and the parts played over the years to ensure the continuing well being of the club. There should, however, be a mention of the West Denton ladies, Doris Henshaw, Marian Chipperfield and the unforgettable Renee Benneworth. Apart from their contribution to the club and the enjoyment they have given to many, memories of them go back many years to when they started playing for their local club in the Business Houses League. This League is mentioned because over the years many Newcastle members have enjoyed many teams of four battles in it.
Seventy years on from Captain Kempson? What will happen in the next seventy years? We can be sure that with the continued good works of the members, that barring unforeseen circumstances the Newcastle Bridge Club will still provide many enjoyable hours, and leave some of the then members with a host of memories that they can pleasantly run through their minds from time to time...
More memories from Godric (Ric) Dearing