By John Williams
EB February 1997
Jack Perry died in December aged 82, after a battle with leukaemia lasting many years.
Jack was a notable friend to bridge. As a businessman who traded principally in China, he did much to forge friendly links with the Chinese government, through a mutual interest in the game.
In 1994 he sponsored a visit by Chinese Open and Ladies teams to the EBU Summer Meeting in Brighton. Following the death of Rixi Markus, Jack became sponsor of the annual Lords and Commons bridge match. He will be greatly missed by all who admired his fortitude, generosity of spirit and quiet humour.
Jack Perry had three passions: China, football and bridge. In an age when the prevailing zeitgeist is fame without achievement, Jack was an unsung hero. He first went to China in the early fifties at a time when the West wanted nothing to do with the People's Republic. Jack saw that to ignore a quarter of the world's population was folly and he and his company, London Export Ltd, built up contacts and trade relations with China's leaders which made him one of the most respected westerners there.
When Britain wanted a thaw, the Foreign Office called in Jack; when the Americans decided the domino theory of communism was as flawed as most of their other global political theories, Jack was asked for his help. While he was in Beijing in 1966, Mao made him an honorary Red Guard to ease his movement round the capital.
He took three football tours to China: West Bromwich Albion in 1978, Watford FC - with Sir Elton and Graham Taylor - in 1983, and Sheffield United in 1984; he was also responsible for getting China re-admitted to FIFA, the world football association.
Walking round a Beijing park in 1955, Jack noticed a group of people playing cards at a makeshift table they had fashioned from a tree. Mystified, since the game was totally unfamiliar to him, he asked what they were playing. 'Chinese Bridge' came the reply and Jack was still none the wiser. Twelve years later, during the Cultural Revolution, he noticed many wall posters displaying prominent Chinese leaders playing bridge: the message was a clear attack on the game itself and the people playing it. Time passed and attitudes changed: Deng Xiao Ping was a devotee of the game and at his death his only official title, of which he was very proud, was Chairman of the Chinese Bridge Federation: many of his contemporaries, colleagues and fellow members of the Politburo were keen players and China's international teams have shown in recent years they can compete with the best.
It was fitting therefore that a bridge match should have been part of a Memorial Gathering for Jack, held in Beijing early in December, a year after his death. Stephen Perry, Jack's son and Chief Executive of London Export, took out a joint British Parliamentary and EBU team to play a Chinese Celebrities (sic). We lost by 206 imps to 220 imps: the MPs played excellently, whilst those of us - whom Stephen Perry wittily described as the professionals - on one occasion both failed to bid the same game and on another both got on the wrong side of a rather large penalty in the same suit. Here is Sir Peter Emery, partnering Lord Stamp, exhibiting his prowess
West set off with the A and K, which Sir Peter trumped. He then played out the A, followed by a small club to the queen. West – understandably but foolishly - ducked and Sir Peter then played a small club ("good play", commented the Living Legend, aka Tony Priday) and West was endplayed at trick 5. In the event he played a spade, giving Sir Peter his tenth trick.
On the following day, none of the British pairs distinguished themselves in the Jack Perry Cup Sino-British Celebrities Pairs Tournament, some of them markedly less than others, but on the final day we saved face by beating a team from the Chinese Bridge Federation.
In between the bridge matches we were taken on a round of ministerial meetings, were wined and dined by the British Embassy and throughout London Export looked after our every need – including trips to the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and the Forbidden City - whilst our Chinese hosts treated us like visiting royalty.
Rt Hon Sir Peter Emery, PC, MP
Michael Mates, MP and former Minister
Robin Squires, former Minister
Godfrey King. Organiser and Captain
Tony Priday, Vice-President, EBU
Mrs Vivian Priday
Peter Stocken, Chairman, EBU
Mr. Wang Hanbin, Vice Chairman, Standing Committee of NPC
Mr. Rong Gaotang. Cltairman, CBA
Mr. Qi Huaiyuan, Chairman, CCCT
Mr. Wang Darning. Chairman, Beijing CCCCP
Mr. Zui Qizhcn, Vice- Chairman NPC Foreign Affairs and ex-ambassador to US
Mr. Yu Xiaosong. Chairman CCPIT
Mr. Wan Siquan, Vice-Chairman, Beijing CCCCP
Mr. Nlc Jibo, Beijing Planning Committee.
By Peter Stocken, English Bridge, February 1998