RETRO: Full house every week

The official opening of the first bingo hall in the country to be built specially for the purpose, held its first session at Chesterfield. Our picture shows caller Mr Patrick Braden watched by manager Mr Peter Clancey (right). 30 December 1968
The official opening of the first bingo hall in the country to be built specially for the purpose, held its first session at Chesterfield. Our picture shows caller Mr Patrick Braden watched by manager Mr Peter Clancey (right). 30 December 1968
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In Sheffield bingo circles they used to tell the story of a man who became so excited while playing the game, he had a heart attack.

An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital but his wife didn’t go with him... she went back to her game.

No matter what games, gambling, entertainment or new technology have appeared over the decades, bingo has kept a very special place in the heart of generations of Brits. The newspaper cuttings in our archives reveal many a dramatic story - including several women going into labour mid-game.

It all just goes to show that, no matter happens, there is never a good enough reason to interrupt when the whole hall has eyes down.

Their dedication is not in doubt, yet in 1983 a 93-year-old fan of the game refused to speak to one of our young reporters because a newspaper had previously called her companions ‘addicts’.

They were a married couple in their late 70s who had played bingo almost every day for 25 years - but addicts they were not! At that point there were 6,000,000 players in Britain every year and 100,000 of them were on the Sheffield Top Rank Club’s books.

Every week 14,000 men and women passed through the doors of the former cinema hoping to win the prizes on offer. In 1982 the club had handed out £2.5 million in prizes.

Bingo goes back much further than that though. It was reputedly played by the Romans - although it was first patented in the 1930s by the Americans. The game’s boom in the 1960s was followed by a decline until the old clubs were given a refurbishment.

In 1996 South Yorkshire had 20 licensed bingo clubs and, although there are now numerous online sites, many are still going strong.

As Top Rank caller Marie Brown said in 1983: “A big city can be very lonely. The older ones are so lonely and bingo brings them out – they meet people and have a laugh.

“I’ve made some marvellous friends here. I’ve got married since I’ve been here and half the customers turned up at the register office.

“They tell me all their troubles. But you have to be like a doctor really and not repeat anything.”