Back in the 1970s and 80s it seemed as if almost everybody smoked. There were no bidding boxes, or bridgemates to clutter up the table – just a large ashtray emptied regularly by the staff. Non smokers were surprisingly tolerant as the atmosphere gradually thickened, till your eyes smarted and you could hardly see across the room. Clothes worn on a bridge night went home reeking of cigarette and cigar. Hugh Kelsey was a particularly heavy smoker. When presented with a dummy he would immediately light a cigarette to give himself time to consider the play. When the play was particularly difficult he might have one cigarette burning in the ashtray and another in his hand.
The Melville was my first bridge club. I joined in 1971, seeking a safe pastime while my husband-to-be was working in London. My mother was still living in Bathgate, but she had old friends in the MacKerrows; ‘Uncle Mac ‘had been my father’s best man. They proposed me for membership. A few days later I received a formal letter of acceptance from the Secretary, Sidney Milner, together with a Calendar of events.