Wales' Oldest Bridge Club

In May 2005, the Swansea Bridge Club enters its 70th year of well-documented history. The Bar accounts for May 1936 show an income of £16-3-2d and a profit of £4-6-3d. That the club existed before this can be inferred from the fact that 65 members attended an AGM on September 11th 1936. Minute books, a Visitors' Book and numerous other records exist continuously from that time.

It is, therefore, timely that certain facts about this venerable institution are put on record before they are lost in the mists of time.

We have no living member from the original 60 odd, and only about half a dozen current members who have any recollection of the most popular of them; people like the first chairman Emlyn Lewis, outstanding benefactor Captain E.H. Addenbrooke, Mrs Macdonald, Phyllis and Laidlaw Murray, A. Sabberton, Bobby Roberts, Dr. P.O. Davies etc., many commemorated on our fine collection of silverware.

The Swansea Bridge Club can lay a legitimate claim to be the oldest, extant, Bridge Club in Wales, in terms of continuity of existence, title and home and constitution. It is the oldest 'members' club in Wales, and since 1936 has always run its activities in that manner. As far as we can tell, it has never been a 'private' club, such as 45 The Walk, Cardiff. It is the oldest 'members owned' Bridge Club in Wales, having only played in two premises: 69 Eaton Crescent and 22 (née 12) St. James Gardens.

The members can also celebrate the diamond anniversary of residence this year, having moved 60 years ago and we have owned the premises since they were acquired from E.H. Addenbrooke in July 1954, mainly through the determination and foresight of R.V. Bevan (Vince) who must be listed alongside those outstanding officers who, in my opinion, are wholly responsible for the Club's distinguished history and its standing today. They are Roy Griffin, Diana Panniers and Laidlaw Murray, each of whom have officially served the club for more than 25 years; and Emlyn Lewis, Ken Aplin, Ossie Evans and Lloyd Lewis, all having served for more than ten years. No members club can survive and thrive without such unselfish service by such a core of devoted members.

In addition to its service to members, the club has made its mark on the game itself. From the earliest days of the Camrose it has supplied a steady flow of internationals and we currently have the longest serving Welsh international (L.R.G., capped in 1955) as our President. The club also provided the first 'mixed pair' to play Camrose for Wales (Jack Morris and Blod Williams) the first ladies pair were the two Peggys from Cardiff- Spickett and Fletcher, and the first student pair to play full Camrose (Bryn Gravenor and Brian Ager 1962). Another first for the club was the Bridgerama display in the Dragon Hotel in December 1961 against England. This was organised by Roy Griffin and run literally from room to room by a team of students. These were the early days for Bridgerama broadcasts, from the closed room to an audience in a full theatre with a commentary. The first UK trial being introduced in preparation for the European event in 1960 and tested in the Polish Hearth Club in South Kensington.

Over the years the club has played host to many visitors and teams and most of these are recorded in our Visitors' Book, which is a wonderful historic record. From the first visitor, D.M. Horspool in 1936 through to a team including Tony Forrester, Tom Townsend and the Hacketts in 1997, many visits are recorded. My favourite is an entry from the England team with such Bridge immortals as Louis Tarlo, Nico Gardener, Albert Rose, Rixi and Fritzi and that enfant terrible the late John Collings who incidentally played in the World Veterans in 2004. Of particular interest are the entries of the first visits of prospective members, for example Des Jarvis (1955), Max Powell and Colin Heard (1957), Ray and Gwyneth Mahoney (1966), John Jameson (1970), John Cox (1971) and last but not least Margorie Greenwood (1989) who as Margorie Kirk was the second Master Points Secretary, after Honor Morrish, of the WBU in the early 50s. This is all part of the club' splendid history. May it long continue!

R.Bryn Gravenor

May 2005

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