The Ayrshire Bridge League was founded in 1935, but Ayrshire was considered part of the West and had no separate representation on the SBU Council.
The local committee was responsible for running the league,but two representatives from the West District were appointed in a supervisory capacity which the Ayrshire representatives found irksome. These representatives had the power to veto the acceptance of a Cup offeredby the Daily Record as a Trophy for the Ayrshire League – perhaps because the ‘Daily Record’ Cup was the Scottish Cup.
Understandably this went down badly, and produced an atmosphere of suspicion which lingered for many years. This did not deter Ayrshire players from participating in national events: in 1936-37 it was noted that Ayrshire had 6 entries in the Scottish Cup, and 6 in the Scottish Women’s Cup. In 1936 an inter-league match was played between Ayrshire and South, each side fielding 32 players. Ayrshire won the 32-board match by the handsome margin of 6890.
In 1947 the Chairman, Frank Inglis, of the Kilmarnock Bridge Club, negotiated an agreement with theScottish Bridge Union that Ayrshire should be incorporated as a separate District, with two representatives on the Council. The first vice-president was Mrs H Stuart Park of Kilmarnock Portland Club, and the secretary Mr W McMillan.
In 1949 came the first dispute with the Scottish Bridge Union. Ayrshire wished to continue to call itself the Ayrshire Bridge League, with its own constitution and its own President, but the SBU wanted a District like the other five, and was reluctant to sanction a second Constitution and a second President.
There was talk of secession, but good sense prevailed in the end. It is not clear precisely when the Ayrshire Bridge League began to call itself the Ayrshire Bridge Union, but this provoked another clash with the SBU in 1989, when they were instructed to call themselves a District, with a Chairman.
They still refer to themselves as the ABU, but have become reconciled to the term ‘Chairman’.
The Ayrshire Constitution prevents anyone from serving on Council for more than four years, two as a delegate, and two as Vice-President, which makes it difficult to achieve the seniority required to become President.
There have been three SBU Presidents from Ayrshire: the first was Russell McClymont (1994-1995) who made his mark in Tournament Direction; the second Jim Wilcox (2000-2001) who served variously as Treasurer, Secretary, or both, to the SBU Council for 10 years; and the third Fiona Abbott (2008-2010), who served as Master Point Secretary for 8 years, and as a delegate and Vice-President for four.
Ayrshire is unique among the Districts in having its own Bridge Centre in Prestwick. The property was bought and developed in 1977, after mammoth efforts in fund-raising and much physical effort in renovating a much neglected building. As part of the fund raising effort Ayrshire levied an annual per capita payment of £1 per head on all its members, and they continue to do so to help with the upkeep of the building – it is still £1 per head!
The Ayrshire Bridge Centre is the only premises devoted to bridge within Ayrshire – many clubs meet there, and it is home to District and National competitions. Equally uniquely, Ayrshire has no club with its own premises.This means that a lot of the effort of the Committee is dedicated to the maintenance and use of the Centre, which has brought great benefit to the Ayrshire players.
The above history extracted from Liz McGowan's An Official History of the Scottish Bridge Union
(written to celebrate 76 years of the SBU). See SBU site http://www.sbu.org.uk/ to get a copy).