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We are well into 2019 and 2 more Ayrshire competitions have been completed recently. Congratulations to the Ayrshire Pairs winners, Maureen Rennie and Matthew Pumphrey. The winners, plus 2nd placed Margaret Brown and Sandy Martin will be invited to represent the District in the Spence Cup in May, which this year will be hosted by Ayrshire. And a splendid win in the Ayrshire Individual for Ian Short - well done indeed.

The Festive Funday was held just after Christmas, raising £263, which is being split between The Samaritans charity and support for the Scottish Ladies China funding appeal. Many thanks to Maureen and Sharon for organising this.

A Council meeting was held at the beginning of the month. Mike Reekie was voted on to Council to fill one of our 3 vacancies and his help will be invaluable in the busy months to come, I'm sure.

There were several interesting items on the agenda. Director fees were discussed. I suggested that a playing director should not get as much as a non playing director and felt that £32 for a 24 board session when one is playing is too much. Indeed, I have been gladly directing the Winter Friday afternoon sessions myself for nothing. However, Council took the opposing view and felt that the inconvenience of directing warranted it. Thus, the Winter Friday and Summer Competition will continue with a volunteer playing director, maybe attracting a nominal fee and other competitions will attract the full rate. Movement and rules directing will be split to reduce the burden on one person where appropriate.

We also discussed the appropriateness of bringing pets into the centre, following an enquiry from a member. Council was nearly unanimous that, other than guide dogs, this was not allowed.

Support (or lack of) for Ayrshire competitions was back on the agenda. The Ayrshire Pairs semi finals were cancelled of course, and several other dropouts meant that there were only 6 tables for the final. The Tourney Cup has only 2 heats and Doon Club, which holds one heat indicated that they would not hold a heat if visitors were allowed. We clearly need to look at the viability of these competitions for next year. Almost certainly, the Ayrshire pairs will be reduced from 3 rounds to just one qualifying round and a final. The Tourney Cup may well end up as a one-off teams of 4 event, open to Ayrshire members only of course. I will be looking to forming a sub-committee to come up with a plan for next season that might encourage members to participate. This will involve finding out what members actually want. I sense that many people are satisfied just playing in their club environment and don't want to play in more competitive events. Whether this is because they feel intimidated playing against better standard players or just don't want to play at weekends, I'm not entirely sure. As always, if you have any constructive comments, please let somebody on the Council know. Anybody for a Mixed Pairs or a Mens / Ladies only event?

A couple of possible amendments to our Constitution were proposed.

Firstly, the need to specify National Tournaments and Local Tournaments conveners when electing a Council. This has been restrictive in who can do what on the Council, particularly the ability to merge one of these tasks with an Office Bearing responsibility. These jobs have been carried out by Office Bearers consistently over the past few years, so it makes sense to drop the restriction.

Secondly, is the slightly controversial entry that says that the SBU get all of the District assets (this would include the building) should the ABU cease to exist. With decreasing numbers across the Districts, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the SBU might decide that Ayrshire should be amalgamated with another District at some time in the future. We are looking at a proposal to change this clause to something that gives District members the opportunity to convene a Special Meeting to decide what happens with our assets. These amendments will have to be proposed at the AGM with a two thirds majority in favour in order for the Constitution to be changed. Again, if anybody wishes to pass an opinion in the meantime, please get in touch.

Finally, it is looking increasingly likely that the SBU will be pulling the plug on its contract with the Peebles Hydro to run its thrice annual Congresses; falling numbers and increased charges being to blame. I would like to see a future Congress being held a bit closer to us West Coast folks. I suspect though that it will be very difficult to find an alternative venue that ticks all the boxes, but the SBU Council is very open to ideas on how to move this issue forward. I will be pleased to pass on any thoughts.