Tournament Focus: Winter 2011

EBU Director

by Brian Loasby

The year is 1963. Having just completed a tour of duty on No.50 Squadron flying the Vulcan at the Royal Air Force in Waddington, I was posted to RAF Finningley in Yorkshire as an instructor at the Vulcan Conversion Unit. Finningley is now the civilian airfield “Robin Hood Airport”.

On my first day in the Mess, a navigator instructor called Henry Chapman (a very keen bridge player from Cardiff) approached me and welcomed me to Finningley and asked if I played bridge. “Affirmative” was my reply (aircrew short for yes!). Henry had started a duplicate bridge club in the mess, and it was gathering strength. Visitors from nearby units, together with several staff members, meant that some good bridge was being played. We also played at Doncaster Bridge Club.

Later on, Henry wrote to the Commanding Officer and the Mess President to formally request that we could hold a teams-of-four function in aid of various local charities. Although this meant closing the Mess for the day – let alone the security problems associated with such an event – it was thought to be a great idea, and the CO and President agreed. We invited local clubs and the Yorkshire CBA, and we managed to attract twenty seven teams to play.

I formed a team which included a pilot, two navigators and an air electronics officer (me) – all of us were Vulcan instructors, but not necessary good bridge players. We failed to qualify for the main final, and the other three blamed me! My punishment? Well, it was to organise and direct the nine team main final.

Armed with the EBU rule book and the movements committed to memory (very difficult!), the final was played. Everything went very smoothly with only a few minor problems, including: leads out of turn; bids out of turn; and the odd revoke – nothing serious. The whole atmosphere was very friendly and good natured (though this was possibly due to the Mess bar being open!). I was offered or bought a number of drinks at the end – I didn’t take them all!

After it was all over and the prizes were presented, a very nice lady came over to me and asked whether I had ever considered being an EBU Director? She very kindly suggested that she would have a word with a man called “Harold” and recommend me. I didn’t have the courage to tell her that I didn’t know who “Harold” was! She was called Marjorie Cartwright, a very long standing serving secretary to Yorkshire, who had been at the competition with her husband, Alec.

The rest, as they say, is history and I was signed up as a trainee and eventually became a fully fledged director. Marjorie invited me to direct the Yorkshire Congress for many years. Harold, of course, was the great bridge personality Harold Franklin. Harold and many other friends have now passed away, but I loved working with all of them. I ended up as Chief Tournament Director for Lincolnshire for a while. The good old days? For me, yes. Now in my 80th year, and disabled, I only get to tournament direct once a year at my local club in Lewes, but I still enjoy it thoroughly. However, I appreciate how times have changed – in the “good old days” we had to score by hand and brain – sometimes working till 2am if there was a mistake! How grateful I am for things changing. :)

Brian L Loasby