Harold Franklin

By John Williams
EB February 1999

Harold Franklin, a charismatic bridge personality who achieved outstanding success in a variety of roles - leading British player, world-renowned tournament director, editor and administrator - died just before Christmas after a long illness.

Harold, born in Leeds in 1915, read modem lan­guages at Leeds University and was destined for a legal career when the war intervened. He joined the army and after being commissioned in the artillery in 1941 he joined the Maritime RA and was posted to India.

Harold took up bridge in 1938 and achieved immediate success in Yorkshire. After the war he formed a promising partnership with Bobbie Mercado, which ended abruptly with an explosion at the table during British team trials: in his early years his temperament was so volatile as to make him feared by friend and foe alike!

His next partnership, with Louis Tarlo, achieved wins in the Two Stars and the Lederer Cup, both at the first attempt, and he also won the National Pairs in the period, in 1952 and 1960. He represented Great Britain in the European Championships of 1952 and 1956 and regularly captained English and British teams in the 1960s, notably the British Ladies teams which won the World Teams Olympiad in 1964, and the 1963 and 1966 European Championships.

It was to Harold’s great credit that he conquered his temperament in order to harness his assets as a play­er. Nonetheless, he gave up a play­ing career and made a living in other areas of the game, becoming prominent as a writer, tournament direc­tor, broadcaster and promoter. He was bridge correspondent of the Yorkshire Post for many years, and Editor of the EBU Quarterly maga­zine from its inception in 1966 until it was superseded by English Bridge in 1984. He was Chief Tournament Director of the EBU for over 20 years until 1983, and of the European Bridge League and World Bridge Federation. He was a member of the Laws Commission of both bodies.

For the EBU, in addition to his role as Chief TD, he served on the Tournament Committee and Laws and Ethics Committee, and was highly successful in bringing EBU tournaments to the attention of sponsors. He was an innovator, being responsible for bringing to Europe the Swiss Teams format, invented in the USA to manage large fields, and for designing the concept of Swiss Pairs. He also developed hotel leisure bridge weekends, first with Grand Metropolitan Hotels and later with the Hilton group. He con­tinued to organise these after retiring from his many other bridge activities in the mid 1980s. The EBU rewarded his distinguished service with a pen­sion, and the titles of Vice President and Honorary Life Member.

Harold suffered a serious heart attack in 1991 and by the end of 1993 his health had deteriorated to the extent that he required 24 hour care and nursing - a sad conclusion to the career of one of the most gifted and energetic figures in the history of the game. Harold never married and is survived by three nephews, to whom he has always been a tower of strength.

Major International Appearances

European Championships: 1952 and 1956

Camrose Trophy Selections: 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1956 1957 1959 and 1961

Gold Cup Winner: 1954 and 1960

Crockfords Winners:1954

Autumn Congress Two Stars Pairs Winner: 1950

The Hubert Phillips Bowl Winner: 1952 1962 and 1964

Masters Pairs (1936-1965) winner: 1952

National Pairs winner: 1950

Tollemache Cup winner: 1948 1949 and 1961