Memories of dad

1947 October - 2022 August

Created by Babs 5 months ago

My dad Nigel was born in Lusaka, Zambia in 1940 to Charles and Barbara Guthrie. He was the first of four children. Over the next few years he'd be joined by Penny, Tom and finally Joy.

Dad was first sent to boarding school when he was five, starting his international commuting early. There's a photo of him being seen off in a plane on one of his trips attached to this story. His first boarding school was St Columba's in Largs. When he was 7 he started at Carlekemp Priory School in North Berwick, a boarding school run by Benedictine monks. Legend has it it was here he played his first hands of bridge, the card game he'd later be famous for.

When I was wee and clamouring to be sent to boarding school too, he was not supportive of my story-fuelled fantasies, but gave few reasons why. However he did share this insight into contemporary child feeding practices and his relationship with food. "They'd put one bean in a trough and all the boys had to fight over it" he'd chortle. Anyone who's eaten with dad knows no bean gets left behind. 

After boarding school, he attended George Watson's College School for Boys in Edinburgh. He then went to study medicine and took the opportunity to join every gaming group on offer, mastering Mah Jongg, backgammon, various pokers and of course bridge. Mean people (Mark) might say the gaming was a large part why he didn't complete his medical degree. Dad always said it was because he didn't like the human disections. There's probably some truth in both versions. 

After some years spent deciding medicine wasn't for him, dad took his degree in mathematics at Edinburgh University. He followed that up with a masters in Computer Science at Heriot Watt University.

Heriot Watt's Computer Science masters degree was one of the first established in the country. Dad studied in the computer science building in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, using machines most of us wouldn't recognise as computers today. Big towering beasts that filled whole rooms. Programmes were typed on special consoles and fed in on cards. Results would spew out in long sheets of computer paper perforated on either side to sit on sprockets. In those days disks were definitely not compact. 

His computer room in Edinburgh was a cave full of stacks of paper spilling everywhere in the wine cellars under the stairs. He was always fascinated by computers and what they could do. One of my earliest memories is him teaching his fancy Apple Mac (rainbow apple logo) how to speak. Later he'd write programmes to teach French or to play games in his spare time, staying up all night to perfect them.

Nigel married his first wife Val in 1962 when they were tiny children of 19 and 22. They were together until 1977, and his first daughter, my sister Thérèse Sophie (Resi) was born in 1971.

He met my mum Sandra in passing at aunt Joy's wedding in 1976. Then properly in 1979 when they went to a wedding together. They got married later that year (Watch the video on YouTube A year later I was born (Barbara (Babs)), followed two years after by our brother David. 

We lived in Edinburgh near Calton Hill up until 1987, with dad working as a software engineer at Highland Digital. He later got a job with DEC UK in Reading working on digital systems and embarking on his long association with Reading Bridge Club. I remember him on planes a lot, bringing back excellent presents of plastic ponies. We saw not much of him for a while until we all moved to England to join him.

Living in Reading we got fewer presents but we did get to see more of dad. I remember particularly bedtime stories morphing into bedtime contract whist. And the time he taught us how to play Mah Jongg on the kitchen table. I loved the beautiful tiles and lyrical names of the winning hands. I did not love having to build the walls each time we played. Dad was an excellent Mah Jongg player, usually winning while we were still trying to sort out our suits, so we'd have to rebuild the whole thing every five minutes. David and I were probably 10 and 12 at the time.

In 1989 Resi's daughter, Eve, was born in Edinburgh. Dad's first (and so far only) beloved grandchild. 

After he left DEC, having survived the infamous DEC fire, dad had various contracts. I remember one year in the 1990s going with him to a summer school where he taught English to German students. The set text was Bram Stoker's Dracula and they clearly all loved his lessons which were full of laughter. When he walked down the corridor students would shout out his name and rush to hand out the books in class. 

One of his last jobs before he retired in 2005 was in banking, testing java programmes running perl scripts on mobile apps. A far cry from the giant machines and programme cards he started out on.

After he retired, he and mum moved back to Scotland to live in Glasgow. I read on one of the Bridge memory threads that the move date was highly compromised by bridge match activities. This seems very likely.

Dad stayed active in his retirement, writing bridge articles and winning tournaments. He also went on several international holidays with family. My cousin Mark's shared his memories of some of those holidays. And how dad spoke the language of bridge both on and off the table (scroll down for the link).

He was of course, a legend at bridge, winning the Scotsman trophy for EBU national pairs competition online with partner Charles Outred while in hospital over Christmas 2021- 2022. Other bridge achievements included

- winning every stanza and every match in 2018 in the Home Internationals with Jim Forsythe leaving him with a 100% international record
- winning the national Swiss pairs with Ying Piper in 2011
- winning the EBU Grand Master Pairs with David Barnes in 2008
- winning the mixed pairs three times with Carolyn Peploe in 1970, Liz McGowan in 1973 and Hedy Brown in 1997 (when Hedy was in her eighties)
- designing the Jasmine Club bridge system, immortalised on his website (

You can read more about dad and bridge on the Scottish Bridge Union website (links below). If you're reading this and have any stories please do share them here we love to read them!

Dad has been very unwell for the last seven years. He's been in and out of hospital and had numerous operations. Throughout it all he's been his usual cheery, funny, optimistic self. Mum and David have been there with him every step of the way, supporting him to live at home as long as possible. From staying up late to watch Columbo repeats and order midnight take-aways, to finally finishing our childhood computer game Hugo's House of Horrors, they made his last year something to remember.

Several bridge tributes spoke of the sweet way dad would call everyone 'partner' like they were his long lost bridge partners. This greeting often extended to his family as well. Particularly when he couldn't remember our names because he was thinking of a bridge hand he'd played in 1972.

We'll all miss him so much. Bye dad, I hope there's good buns and buckets of horrible tea wherever you are.

Thank you for reading about Nigel, beloved dad, partner, brother and friend. I couldn't ever do him justice, there'll always be so much more to say. Please do share your stories and memories of dad, we love to read them:

If you can upload photos, do, we'd like to share them at his funeral breakfast. If you'd rather email them let me know in the comments.

Memories and notices on other websites

Thank you everyone for sharing your memories. And please do let me know if I've missed any.

Stuart Gipson on Bridge Winners:

Ying Piper on Bridge Winners:

Mark Guthrie on North Shore Bridge Club, Sydney:

Scottish Bridge Union:

English Bridge Union:

S Merriman on Bridge Base Online:

More about Nigel

Nigel and Sandra's wedding on YouTube

Dad's bridge system Jasmine Club