THE FIRST TEN YEARS – A HISTORY OF THE CLUB
By STANLEY NICHOLLS (2002)
The Sobell Bridge Club was founded in 1992. I had been working at Michael Sobell House as a volunteer driver shortly after my wife Valerie died from cancer in 1984. Although not a patient at M.S.H. she had been looked after so well in the latter stages of her life by a Macmillan nurse (Sister Ann Lane) who at that time was based in MSH that I felt I wanted to do something to express my gratitude for the care and treatment she had received. My connection with the hospice actually went back further. My sister Eileen Nicholls was one of the first patients to be admitted to the unit shortly after it first opened. She died there in 1978.
There were a number of volunteer drivers when I started in 1984. We collected day-care patients from their homes in the morning and took them back in the afternoons. Around 1986, some of us volunteers also undertook to look after the gardens around the unit, and a couple of years later we also offered to do some decorating and minor maintenance work in the unit. This work still continues, and about half a dozen men and a similar number of ladies come in to the unit every Tuesday morning to carry out these tasks.
One Tuesday morning one of the volunteers, Bernard Watts, mentioned to me that he was going to have a word with Beryl Howard, the Nursing Manager of the Unit to see it if would be possible for his Marquetry Club to use the Premises on a weekly basis. They were currently meeting in the Northwood Hills Library Premises but had been given notice that this would no longer be available to them. They would be prepared to make a small payment if they could use the Day-care premises on Wednesday evenings on a regular basis
This gave me the idea of making similar use of the premises on, say, Tuesday evenings to play Contract Bridge. I had already been discussing with Beryl, and also with Diana Walker of the League of Friends of Michael Sobell House, the possibility of setting up some kind of scheme that would enable bereaved relatives of patients of Michael Sobell House to express their appreciation of the work of the Hospice. We had in mind the establishment of a small social gathering that would provide an opportunity for bereaved relatives and their friends, and possibly others, especially those living on their own, to meet occasionally in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.In order to provide an impetus they should have a common interest. I suggested that the common in interest should be the playing of contract bridge.
I had learnt to play bridge during the war when undergoing flying training in America, and had played it intermittently ever since. My wife and I played it socially with friends from time to time.After my wife died I took it up somewhat more seriously and was playing fairly regularly with a number of friends.
Both Beryl and Diana were enthusiastic. The Medical Director Dr Dixon was also consulted. All concerned were quite supportive. They thought that it would an excellent idea to play bridge in a friendly environment in a venue in the vicinity of the Hospice but not operated as a formal part of it. A small fee could be paid by those attending to meet the initial setting up costs and the subsequent running costs and any surplus could be donated to the Hospice. Those who knew nothing about the game could be encouraged to join and could be given instruction. Bridge was accepted as the common interest because it was considered to be socially rewarding, and mentally stimulating with an element of both luck and friendly competition. Moreover it was a partnership game that could be played by anyone regardless of age, disability, sex, race or religion. It would give the participants an opportunity to meet with their friends and make new ones and enjoy a fascinating pastime with the added satisfaction of knowing that they were involved in a worthwhile philanthropic enterprise. It was hoped that some of the patients attending the day-care centre might also be able to participate.
Beryl confirmed that a room could be made available in the Day-Care Centre on Tuesday evenings after the Day-care patients had gone home and the premises would not normally be required for medical purposes. There would be a small nominal charge. She thought that the idea of such a gathering could have a significant therapeutic value by enabling recently bereaved relatives to fill a gap in their lives, make new friends and take up a new interest. She also considered that such a venture could contribute towards raising the profile and general awareness of the work of Michael Sobell House. Another useful spin-off might be that more people might eventually become involved in the many voluntary activities associated with the Hospice. Unfortunately, because the premises could be made available only in the evening after the day-care patients had gone home it was unlikely that they would be able to participate. It was accepted that the Hospice’s own requirements would always have priority, but we were free to play whenever the accommodation was available. It was also visualised that such a project might make a small but useful financial contribution to the hospice.
I mentioned the idea to some of my bridge-playing friends who expressed equal enthusiasm. Charles Buszard and Ken Short suggested that if there was sufficient interest we should form a Club. Other friends were
approached and the first exploratory meeting took place in the Day-care Centre in March 1992. A total of 12 people attended and an interesting evening was spent playing Rubber Bridge. My son, a schoolteacher, had managed to borrow some school desks that would serve as bridge tables and people brought their own playing cards. After one or two more informal evening sessions it was soon apparent that there was sufficient interest to go ahead and try to form a small bridge club.
It was now suggested that a properly constituted Club should be established, to be called the Sobell Bridge Club. Charles Buszard and I were tasked with the job of drafting a Constitution, and when this was ready a meeting would be called. The meeting duly took place in the Day-Care Centre of MSH on 26th May 1992, attended by the 12 original players plus half a dozen others – a total of 18.
The proposed Constitution was agreed; three officers of the Club were proposed and appointed (Stan Nicholls, Chairman; Charles Buszard, Secretary, and Ken Short, Treasurer). A committee of five was appointed: the three officers plus two other members, Kathleen South and Jean Williams. Neil Outred volunteered to become the Honorary Auditor. It was agreed that there would be an Annual Fee of £5 and a playing charge of £1. Visitors would be charged £1.50. It was also agreed to have a Joining fee of £5, but to encourage early membership this would not apply until the membership had reached 36.
It was agreed that the aim of the Club was twofold: -
To provide a venue where people, especially those recently bereaved and others who might otherwise feel lonely and sidelined, could meet to play bridge in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
To support the Hospice by encouraging members to become more involved in the work of the Hospice by working as volunteers, raising funds or publicising the Hospice, and to donate any surplus funds to the Hospice.
The Club would be run entirely by unpaid volunteers. It would be open to all, regardless of age religion, colour and race, and special efforts would be made to cater for bereaved friends and relatives of patients of Michael Sobell House, as well as others living in the neighbourhood. As soon as the numbers made it practicable Duplicate Bridge would be played as well as Rubber bridge, both in accordance of the Rules of the English Bridge Union, but with great emphasis placed on maintaining a friendly, relaxed and informal atmosphere.
The Chairman and Secretary were asked to draft a set of Rules and Regulations to supplement the Constitution, and the Committee would meet approximately Quarterly to manage the Club and appoint additional committee members and other officials as and when necessary.
The Club was an immediate success. Within a year membership had risen to 52 with another 30 waiting to join when they could be accommodated, and £1925 was donated to the League of Friends of Michael Sobell House. A Logo was designed to illustrate the aims of the Club, consisting of a Club entwined with a Heart. The motto of the Club would be “ The Club with a Heart, Playing for Fun(d)s”.
It was also decided at the 1st A.G.M. to increase the Joining fee to £8. It was increased again at the next A.G.M. to £10. At the 3rd A.G. M. held in April1995 the decision was taken to increase the Playing fee to £1.50.
Shortly after the Club was formed I wrote to the Charity Commission and completed an application form for the Club to be registered as a charity. In November 1993, however, I was informed that because the primary aim of the Club was the playing of bridge this would not be possible.The fact that the Club was also engaged in fund-raising did not make it charitable. My attention was drawn to booklet C.C.21 issued by the Charity Commission, which clearly stated that “ fund-raising is not charitable purpose in itself.”
In1993, to cope with the growing numbers, permission was obtained to use the larger premises of the Hospice Training Annex and Library. Rubber Bridge continued to be played in the Day-care Centre with Duplicate Bridge being played in the Annex & Library. The Club continued to thrive and became affiliated to the E.B.U. in 1994, by which time membership had risen to 152, with donations totalling £7600. The number of weekly sessions was increased to two (Tuesdays & Thursdays) and the Club widened the scope of its fund-raising activities by arranging a Saturday Bridge Drive combined with a buffet supper when Chicago Bridge was played. Joan Prior and Rose Taylor arranged the catering, I looked after the bar, and Charles Buszard acted as Tournament Director.
The Bridge Drive was a great success, so it was decided to organise these on a quarterly basis. Originally these were held at Michael Sobell House, but they became so popular that arrangements had to be made to hire the Olwen Bettesworth Hall in the Hospital grounds to cope with the increasing numbers. These continued to be held on Saturdays and involved supplying refreshments as well as organising the playing of bridge. Rita Reddie became Social Secretary and took on the job of organising the catering, assisted by a small team of Club members who provided and served the supper. I continued to organise and run the bar. We had a sherry reception and served wine with the meal. Ken Short, our Treasurer looked after the finances, and Charles Buszard was the tournament Director. There was also a Raffle, organised originally by Kath South, a founder member, and a Bottle Tombola run by Len Turner. Others subsequently took on some of these tasks, notably Brian Simmonds who took over the Tournament Directors job, and David & Angela Tagg who took over the Tombola from Len Turner, leaving him free to arrange the hire of the hall and look after publicity. Other Club members helped in setting up the hall, and with the catering, or donated prizes for the raffle and bottles for the Tombola. Each of these was attended by around 100 players, and each raised about £1000 after all expenses had been paid. In 1999, however although the numbers attending were hold up quite well, it was proving extremely difficult to find enough club members who were prepared to organise and run the Bridge Drives.It was feared that the scheme, which had up to that time proved to be so successful, might have to be abandoned. An appeal for assistance was made at the A.G.M. in May 2000 and Brenda Weston and Bill Hassey volunteered to organise and run three sessions a year. These have proved highly popular, and have been enjoyed by all who attended.
Almost as soon as the Club was formed we began receiving requests to hold sessions in the afternoons. Many people who would like to have joined the Club did not want to play in the evenings and return home late at night. Unfortunately it was not possible to use the Michael Sobell House premises during the day. Eventually one of the club members, Daphne Santon, suggested that she would be prepared to run a branch of the Club in Rickmansworth on Friday afternoons, using a local church hall. Those playing could be asked to pay the same fees as existing members and become full members of the Club. All Club members would be welcome to play at either venue. The committee thought this an excellent idea and the first afternoon session began on a trial basis in the autumn of 1994. It soon proved popular and as the numbers attending increased it to be transferred to the Methodist Church Hall in Berry Lane Rickmansworth where there was a suitable room and better car-parking facilities. This outpost of the Club has continued under Daphne Santon’s excellent management ever since with an average attendance of around 30 players every week.
In the early days of the Club it was operated and managed almost entirely by the three officers of the Club. It was soon apparent, as the Club continued to expand, that others were needed. It was therefore decided at the A.G.M. in 1996 to institute a more formal system of management. Two standing Sub-committees were formed, a Playing Sub-Committee under the Chairmanship of Roy Verden to look after all aspects of play, and a Social Sub-Committee, chaired by Rita Reddie to manage the quarterly
bridge drives. A year later an ad hoc sub-committee to consider appeals and disciplinary matters was also set up. It was also decided to send some of the more experienced Club members to participate in a Tournament Director’s Course operated by the English Bridge Union at their headquarters in Aylesbury.
At the same time the decision was taken that each weekly duplicate bridge session would be run by a small team of volunteers: -
- A Session Manager who would have overall responsibility for his session.
- A Tournament Director to supervise play.
- A Cashier to collect playing fees.
- A Steward who would be responsible for the refreshments
- A Scorer to record results, calculate scores and publish them
- A Masterpoints Secretary to issue E.B.U. Master points
The Rubber Bridge sessions were to be run by a smaller team: Session Manager, Cashier, and Steward.
A set of Administrative Guidelines was also produced and issued to all committee members. These defined the roles and duties of the various officials of the Club, and laid down procedures relating to membership, expenditure, playing etc. A Club Almoner was also appointed to keep in touch with members who became ill or unable for any other reason to participate in the Club’s activities. Joan Prior initially took on this task, and was later succeeded by Isobel Williams.
It had always been the intention to encourage those with little or no experience of bridge to join the Club. Initially, inexperienced players were initiated into the game on the spot by more experienced players. Eventually, however, so many people with little or no knowledge of the game showed interest in joining that it was decided to devise a special introductory course for beginners. I prepared the syllabus and drafted the text of the various lessons, which Charles Buszard then produced on his computer. Charles and I did the lecturing, assisted by Ken Short. The first course started on 7th January 1993 with 24 students and ran for 10 weeks. Moira Wishart later produced an excellent pocket sized summary of all the course handouts, which has proved very popular with virtually all beginners. After the sad death of Charles Buszard in May 1998 Geoff Gray, who later became Club Secretary, assisted with the beginners’ classes. Later, refresher courses, classes for Improvers, and for Duplicate Bridge were introduced. In July 2000 a Club member, Barry Davey, undertook to run a series of Seminars for members wishing to improve the standard of play. To date (Jan 2002) a total of 16 Beginners courses have been held, each with an average of more than 20 students. The course now has been extended to 13 weeks. In additions several Improvers, Refresher and Duplicate Bridge courses have been held, and Barry Davey has recently completed the second of his series of Bridge Seminars. A Training Courses Secretary had to be appointed to deal with administration of these various courses and seminars. Joan Prior undertook this task for the early years and Jacquie North has recently taken over.
At the suggestion of Charles Buszard, it was also decided to organise a Bridge weekend away. The Swan Hotel at Alton, Hampshire, was selected as the venue, and the first weekend took place in November 1993 with 28 members attending. It proved to be very popular, so it was decided to hold another one at the Centurion Hotel at Midsomer Norton, near Bridgewater in Somerset in the spring of 1994. This too was considered to be highly successful both socially and financially so it was decided in future to hold these on a regular basis. We are now holding four a year – two in the spring and two in the autumn. Joan Prior, (who undertook to look after some of the secretarial work and was duly appointed the Weekends Secretary), and I visit various hotels to select the venues, negotiate terms and arrange suitable dates. Over 30 weekends have now (Jan 2002) been organised in various parts of the country usually within about 2 hours drive of Rickmansworth. The numbers attending average around 36, though we have had over 60. I invariably act as Tournament Director for the duplicate pairs sessions and when necessary the Chicago bridge sessions, and usually also settle the account, George Howlett normally organises a Teams event whenever the numbers make this practicable, and Gerald Williams looks after the various supplies and equipment that we need. I take a laptop computer and a printer and Gerald, assisted by one or two others usually undertakes the scoring.
In 1993 the Club decided to issue its own Newsletter. Charles Buszard undertook to edit this, if enough material could be supplied by Club members to make it interesting and worthwhile. The first issue in June 1993 was pronounced a success and for some years was produced on a roughly quarterly basis. Moira Wishart took over the editorship very successfully in 1996, but unfortunately for the Club, pressure of other voluntary work forced Moira to relinquish the post at the end of 1999. Since that time we have been seeking a new editor, so far without success. Geoff Gray our Secretary who is still in full-time employment and who therefore has far less time to spare than many of our members, has valiantly produced one issue, in December 2000, but is unable to find the time to take on this additional task on a regular basis.
At the Annual General Meeting in 1995 Charles Buszard having reached the age of 85, decided to retire from active participation in running the Club. He continued as an enthusiastic playing member. In recognition of his outstanding service to the Club it was decided to invite him to be the Club’s first honorary President, an honour he was delighted to accept. Sadly he died on 23 May 1998. He was succeeded as Club Secretary by Sue Walker. She held the post until 1997 when Geoff Gray took over.
On his retirement Charles Buszard generously presented the Club with a trophy, to be awarded annually to the pair scoring the highest percentage score on the Tuesday evening sessions. Subsequently Brian Simmonds provided a trophy, to be known as the L & R trophy to be awarded on a similar basis for the Thursday evening sessions, and Daphne Santon donated a trophy for the pair scoring the most Master Points annually for the Friday afternoon sessions. These prizes are now presented at each Annual General Meeting.
By 1995 membership of the Club had risen to 232 and donations to the hospice that year amounted to £11300.The Club continued to expand and within the next 12 months membership had grown to nearly300 and donations amounted to approximately £18,200.
It was now apparent that something would need to be done to provide the Club with a more permanent base for its activities. The Club was meeting regularly on Monday evenings as well as Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at Michael Sobell House but it had no security of tenure. If, for any reason the Hospice had a need to use for the premises on these evenings the Bridge Club had to cancel its bridge sessions or find somewhere else in which to play. In practice this did not arise very often, but when it did it was a serious inconvenience. The officers of the Club felt that they had a duty to the members to take steps to secure the future of the Club by finding a more secure base. Various church and school halls in the surrounding area were surveyed but none was found suitable. Moreover it was felt that to move off the Hospital site would seriously weaken the links with the Hospice. In November 1995 Len Turner, the Club Liaison Officer, and I had a meeting with the Chairman and Treasurer of the League of Friends to discuss our accommodation problems. At the same time it was decided to establish a third standing Sub-committee, a Building Sub-Committee, to look after the Clubs accommodation requirements. It was initially chaired by Len Douglas and subsequently by Bill Graham. It was eventually agreed to explore the possibility of adding a second storey to the Education Block for the exclusive use of the Club. Meetings were held with Messrs Yorkon Ltd, the original builders, but they stated that it was not practicable to build on a second storey. They submitted a proposal to add a small extension to the building but this was too small for our needs and not financially worthwhile. Further meetings were held with the League of Friends and the Hospital Trust and various other building on the hospital site were inspected but none were deemed suitable.
At the Annual General Meeting held in April 1997 it was agreed that the playing fee should be increased from £1.50 to £2 and a Building Reserve Fund should be established into which the resulting additional revenue should be deposited. Shortly after this meeting discussions were held with the Hospital authorities and the Hospital Trust gave permission for the Bridge Club to construct its own Clubhouse on the hospital grounds provided the necessary planning permission could be obtained and the finance raised.
All concerned, namely the Bridge Club, the League of Friends, the Michael Sobell House authorities and the Hospital Trust agreed that the Bridge Club should make an approach to the National Lottery for funding. In conjunction with the Hospital estates department building plans and specifications were drawn up and competitive tenders obtained for the construction of a building on a plot adjacent to Michael Sobell House. Outline planning permission was sought from Hillingdon Council and a formal application to the National Lottery was made in September 1997. Th estimated cost of the building was approximately £290,000 and the total cost of the project, including the planning fees; supply of mains services, and V.A.T. was £350,000.
In March 1998 we were informed that our application had been unsuccessful. The Charities Board did not give reasons for refusing applications but we were given to understand that a second application would stand considerably more chance of success if it were to be made by the League of Friends and supported by other potential users of the proposed building who were located on the hospital site, such as the Linda Jackson Centre, R.A.F.T., the Marie Curie Research Unit etc. Unfortunately the League of Friends were not prepared to make such an application. We have since learned – and this has been confirmed by the E.B.U. – that Bridge does not qualify as an activity regarded as suitable to receive lottery funding.
In the meantime, the Olwen Bettesworth Hall, which we were using for our quarterly Bridge Drives had become unusable, and the Club had to use the Hospital Restaurant for these meetings. The roof of the Hall was leaking and the electrical wiring was faulty. We had used the Restaurant once or twice in the past when the Hospice premises were not available to us. This was very inconvenient because play could not start until after the restaurant closed. The dining tables then had to be removed so that bridge tables could be set up, and subsequently replaced after play had finished. When the Hospital Trust learned that the Lottery application had been unsuccessful it was suggested that the Bridge Club might like to consider meeting the costs of refurbishing the Hall in exchange for permission to use it on a regular basis. Discussions on this plan continued in early 1998.
The Bridge Club offered to meet the estimated costs of £40,000 if a suitable Contract covering the use of the Hall could be negotiated. In June 1998, however, the Hospital Trust suddenly informed the Bridge Club that they were now able to meet the refurbishment costs from their own resources. They would be prepared to continue with the previous arrangement of hiring the Hall to the Bridge Club on payment of an hourly charge. It was agreed that the Bridge Club could have its own office at the back of the Hall and could construct a small room near the entrance to store tables. The Club would use the Hall on Monday and Thursday evenings on a regular basis together with the occasional Saturday.
In view of the approach to the Lottery and subsequent negotiations with the Hospital Trust over the Olwen Bettesworth Hall, the Club with the agreement of the League of Friends, had by 1998 put aside the sum of £40,000 to meet the anticipated costs of refurbishing the Olwen Bettesworth Hall. At the A.G. M. in the preceding year it had been agreed that the Club should increase the playing fees so that some of its income could be put aside into a Building Reserve Fund. It was thought that the Club would stand a better chance of receiving outside financial assistance if it could be seen to be doing something to help itself. When the Hospital Trust decided to meet the costs of refurbishing the O.B. Hall it was agreed that the £40,000 earmarked for the O.B. Hall should be added to the building reserve. Initially this Reserve was held in a separate Account in the name of the Bridge Club. In June 1998, however, at the suggestion of the Treasurer of the League of Friends the funds in this Account were transferred to a special Charity account opened and held by the League of Friends with the proviso that payments from the account would be made to the Bridge Club only and that the interest would form part of the Club’s donations to the League of Friends. Since that time, with the concurrence of the League of Friends who have expressed strong support to the Club’s desire to have its own premises, part of the subsequent donations have been added to this Reserve.
Total Membership of the Club reached over 360 by 1997, the fifth anniversary of the Club’s existence, and donations during that period amounted in total to around £60,000. The Club had also achieved some success in stimulating interest in the Hospice itself. More people in the surrounding area were generally aware of the work of the Hospice and around 25 Club members were undertaking regular voluntary duties in the Hospice, assisting in the wards, working in the Day-care Centre, driving, gardening, decorating etc, with others giving occasional help,
During 1997 the Club had been invited to organise regular Duplicate Bridge sessions at the Bushey House Beaumont in High Street, Bushey, a residential home for the elderly owned and operated on a commercial basis by P.P.P. Ltd. The Club was offered free accommodation in exchange for organising and running duplicate bridge sessions at the home. Both the Residents of the Home and members of the bridge Club living in the Bushey area would be invited to participate. The scheme ran for about six months but was eventually abandoned by mutual consent, partly because the premises available were not really suitable, and probably because of this, lack of sufficient support to make the project viable.
The Club continued to search for a permanent home. In 1999 it was learned that the Northwood Cricket Club, which played on the ground adjoining the Hospital, was negotiating to purchase the Freehold from the Trust and then rebuild their pavilion, which was badly in need of renovation. Approaches were made to the Cricket Club who agreed that Bridge and Cricket seemed mutually compatible. They played cricket in the daytime in the summer. We played bridge in the evenings throughout the year After some months of negotiations it was agreed to design a building that would meet our joint requirements, namely a lounge, bar and changing rooms for the Cricket Club, and a large room capable of accommodating a minimum of 25 tables plus an office and store room for the Bridge Club. Both parties would share a kitchen and toilets, including facilities for the disabled. Negotiations continued throughout 1999 and 2000.delayed largely by the time taken to purchase the Freehold, which in turn was complicated by the transfer of the ownership of the whole hospital site from the Watford & Mount Vernon Hospital Trust to the Hillingdon Trust. Having purchased the site, an approach to the National Lottery will be made by the Cricket Club. As mentioned earlier, it now transpires that though bridge is regarded as a sport of the mind and may soon be included in the Olympic Games, Sport England, the body that assesses lottery claims by sporting bodies, does not consider that Bridge qualifies for lottery funding. We have been informed that the E.B.U. has been campaigning for some time for bridge players to be given some consideration, but so far without any success.
At the time of writing, April 2002, negotiations with the Cricket Club are continuing.
By 1999 the membership of the Club had reached approximately 450. This has turned out to be near the Club ceiling. Without better accommodation it is not possible to handle much larger numbers. A pattern has now developed whereby numbers gradually increase to nearly 500 between May, when the annual membership fee becomes payable and the following April. There is then a drop of around 50, followed by another gradual build up.
In April 2000 the League of Friends of Michael Sobell House which up to that time had operated as a charitable trust, decided to become a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee, to be known as the Friends of Michael Sobell House. This has had little effect on the Bridge Club. Our donations are now made to the new company, and the company still holds the Charity Account that constitutes the Club’s Building Reserve on the same basis as before.
Two other important events in the Bridge Club’s development occurred in the year 2000. One was the setting up of the Club’s own website on the Internet. The club member responsible was Asaf Ersoy. He is now the Club Webmaster. He publishes all the various weekly duplicate bridge scores and has a home page and notice board giving details of all the Club’s activities. The other was the attempted establishment of another branch of the Club, this time in the Vagabonds Hall in Pinner. Rita Mason, a club member, had offered to organise and run Duplicate Bridge sessions there on Monday afternoons. This ran quite successfully for some months usually with 4 or 5 tables. Unfortunately the cost of using the hall was quite high and the numbers attending did not, as had been hoped, build up sufficiently to make the scheme a financially viable proposition, so with some reluctance it had to be abandoned.
Update 2002–2003 by Geoff Gray
The 10th AGM was held in May 2002, with over 60 people attending, and the club’s tenth anniversary was subsequently celebrated by an evening of Teams Bridge accompanied by a buffet supper provided by Joan Prior and Isobel Williams.
The club continued with its slow and steady growth. Although the membership remained stable, it was noticeable that the attendance at the Olwen Bettesworth hall was growing, to the point where it became necessary to split the evenings into two separate sessions.
Following the 10th AGM, it was agreed that all our main evening sessions should have annual trophies, so that we now have the Broughton trophy for Monday evenings, donated by Ethel Broughton, membership number 1, and the Graham trophy for Friday evenings, in recognition of the support given to the Club by Helen and Douglas Graham.
We continued with our programme of training. I held a course on declarers’ play in the autumn of 2002, and another beginners’ course was run in early 2003. This time, however, Kevin Colling took over the duties of principal lecturer from Stan.
The regular weekends away continued. However, during the weekend at Swindon, on March 1st, Stan was taken ill and had to go in to Swindon Hospital with heart problems. Although he was released, he subsequently had to have a pacemaker fitted. He continued to be fully involved with the Club, and chaired the 11th AGM in May 2003. However, it was apparent to everyone that he was ill, and it was not unexpected when he had to go in to Harefield Hospital in June for another Heart operation. The operation took place in early July, but Stan did not recover, and, sadly, he died on the evening of Sunday 13th July.
At the time of writing the Club has no chairman. The committee are actively seeking a replacement; however, it is a tribute to Stan’s abilities in organisation, delegation, and simply in getting people to volunteer, that the club continues to run smoothly.
At some time we will have a new chairman, but no one will be able to replace Stan. The Club owes him everything.