Jimmie Arthur, one of Britain's best known and most popular bridge players, has died after a long illness. As well as being a fine player, Jimmie was a first class bridge administrator, becoming President of the Scottish Bridge Union in 1988-89. In addition he was probably the most successful ever British team captain, captaining the British and English Ladies teams to three consecutive European gold medals.
Jimmie played for Scotland in seven international matches, although it is perhaps as a captain that he was best known and enjoyed most success. He captained the Scottish Open team in nineteen matches in the home international series for the Camrose trophy. He also captained the Scottish Ladies team in the Lady Milne, the ladies home international series, from 1989 to 1996, winning the trophy in 1992 and 1994. It was in this role that I first met Jimmie. I was part of the "opposition", playing for the English Ladies team. I didn't know then that some years later we would be part of the same team when he was appointed captain of the British Ladies team.
When we played under his captaincy in the European Championship in Montecatini in 1997, it was sixteen years since the British Ladies had last won a European championship. Three members of the winning 1981 team, Nicola Smith, Sandra Landy and I, were members of the 1997 team. I think we all secretly felt that our most successful days might be behind us. It was in no small measure due to Jimmie's fine captaincy, always supportive and considerate but never dodging the hard decisions, that we won our first European gold in sixteen years.
He also brought with him our greatest supporter and helper, his wife Jill, herself a Scottish international player who worked tirelessly on our behalf, supplying everything we could possibly need, including a continuous stream of refreshments.
We went on to win the European gold medal with Jimmie again in Malta two years later. The following year the British team separated into home union teams. I retired from international bridge and Liz McGowan, who had been a member of the winning 1997 and 1999 teams, separated from the rest of the team as she from then on played for Scotland. It is a tribute to Jimmie that he, a Scot, was chosen to captain the English Ladies team in the next European championship in Tenerife. Some doubted whether the English Ladies team could match the success of the British Ladies team, but they reckoned without Jimmie and Jill (and the ability of the team). That team went on to win a third consecutive European gold, an unparalleled captaincy feat in British bridge.
During this time, Nicola and I and Jimmie and Jill formed a firm friendship. After I retired from international bridge and had more time, Jimmie and I decided to play in one or two events together. One of these was the SBU Autumn Congress in Peebles. I arrived for dinner at the Peebles Hydro on the first evening, clutching two cocktail party invitations which had been slipped under my door and looked at the inviting menu and even more tempting sweet trolley. "Jimmie", I said, "we're going to have to decide whether we are here to win or to enjoy ourselves". "We are going to enjoy ourselves", he replied. And we always did. It had been a feature of Jimmie's captaincy that he was always supportive and never commented on how his players might have done better, so it wasn't until I played with him that I realised what a fine player he was. Calm, uncritical and reliable, he was an absolute pleasure to play with. Playing in the Autumn Congress at Peebles with Jimmie became my favourite week-end of the year.
Jimmie was successful in many other fields. He was a club table tennis champion, a good snooker player and a low handicap golfer. But what I and all his many bridge playing friends will remember is a great captain and a fine player, but above all a gentleman and a dear friend.
Editor's note: in my days as BBL Secretary I had the great pleasure and privilege of working closely with Jimmie, dealing with flights and accommodation for the teams and helping him with some of the logistical problems that inevitably arose. He was firm and staunch in his requirements, but always understanding and kind and I am sadly aware of having lost a dear friend.
Our sympathy extends to Jill, his wife, and of course to all his family and to his many friends who will miss him deeply. Anna Gudge