Geoffrey Fell

BM May 1971

The death of Geoffrey Fell on March 27th at the age of 67 has left a gap in the world of British Bridge which it will not be possible for any one man to fill. It may be that there are one or two people who can remember a time when competitive bridge was organised and played without him, but for the vast majority of us Geoffrey has always been an intrinsic and indispensable part of the bridge scene. He started playing Contract as soon as the game reached these shores, and made himself proficient the hard way - by losing money at rubber bridge in the Lon­don clubs. He was quick to realise that there was no future in Buller’s ‘British Bridge’, and when in 1934 Richard Lederer wrote ‘Lederer Bids Two Clubs’ Geoffrey was one of the first to adopt the system. Bridge Magazine for November 1935 records that one of the leading teams in the new BBL Harrogate Congress consisted of Ian MacLeod, Richard Lederer, Teddy Bruce Parker and Geoffrey Fell.

A year or two after the war Geoffrey took on the job of Tournament Secretary to the, EBU. At that time the future of the EBU was by no means assured. It had no money and only a small membership, and if it were to prosper it was essential that its national competitions should prosper. He saw to it that they did, and in so doing revealed two some­what contradictory sides of his com­plex character. Most of his bridge partners will tell you that he was by no means a man of great patience, suffering fools gladly; yet throughout his twenty-odd years in the job he endured with great forbearance the stupidity and incompetence of the too-large number of bridge players who seem incapable of managing their bridge affairs competently. He was a believer in laws and rules, and was a stickler for punctuality, yet he leaned over backwards to help players to fulfil their commitments. “Players enter competitions to play bridge”, he used to say, “and I try to protect them from their own idiocies in order to enable them to do so.”

He was a man of enormous energy, and at one time it was not uncommon for him to play bridge in Leeds and afterwards talk ‘hands’ until there was nobody left to talk to, whereupon he would get into his car and drive off to London ready for an EBU meeting the next day, returning to Yorkshire in the evening. He loved watching bridge, and if he wasn’t playing himself he would always turn up at any trial or event within reach. This habit, in conjunction with his official duties, made him the most knowledgeable man in the country about the form and abilities of the rank and file of tournament players. He himself, of course, played for England, and acted as non-playing captain not only of many Camrose teams, but also of the British team in the European Championship.

All this may seem to you to add up to a pretty full life, yet it formed no more than a part of Geoffrey’s activities. As a young man he played to a single figure handicap at golf; he was a good tennis player; he skied, he drove fast motor cycles and cars, he joined the Territorials (receiving after the war the Territorial Decora­tion). He worked in the family business of lead manufacturers and plumbers’ merchants and was active in the association of this trade. After the war he served on the Keighley Town Council and became Deputy Mayor. He was a busy and con­scientious magistrate, and for good measure he served the Yorkshire Lawn Tennis Association as an organiser and referee of the Scarborough Tournament.

Geoffrey had a great zest for living, and if at times he seemed a little contemptuous of some of the fancier modes of behaviour, it was because life for him allowed no time for frills and fal-de-lals. He was truly a man, with a man’s virtues and a man’s defects, and the whole world of British bridge will join me in offering sincere sympathy to his wife Peggy and his sons Bobby and Peter on their great loss.

Camrose Trophy selections: 1938 1939 1951 1954 and 1957

The Hubert Phillips Bowl Winner: 1952

National Pairs winner: 1950

Tollemache Cup winner: 1948 1949 1950 1960 1965 and 1968