Lack of knowledge was so costly

A MERCURY headline last month, “Pub quiz will be the biggest yet”, announced an escalation in Great Yarmouth Rotary Club's annual charity brain-teasing competition.

A MERCURY headline last month, “Pub quiz will be the biggest yet”, announced an escalation in Great Yarmouth Rotary Club's annual charity brain-teasing competition. It caused my thoughts to waft back to the Seventies when I was in the Gorleston Rotarians quiz team that won its way to the controversial final of an inter-club district tournament at Woodbridge in Suffolk.

I cannot now recall whether we ended as champions or not, but our hotly disputed crucial answer about Irish Sea ferry ports was ruled as incorrect and might have scuppered us. Our allegedly wrong reply led to one of our supporters in the audience to declare that as a master mariner and pilot he spent years at the disputed port, taking ferries in and out daily before moving to the Yare, so our answer was right.

The question master insisted that he had to accept the answer given by the setter, who was absent, so we were still wrong. More dissent and negotiation resulted in the question being scrapped and a tie-breaker replacing it. The outcome eludes me three decades later.

Time was when I was an enthusiastic quiz participant, but no longer; I am content to be a know-all listener, striving to get the answer before the contestant. I have had my share of quiz experience, including an appearance on national radio in a programme called Three in a Row recorded by the BBC in Gorleston Pavilion in the Seventies.

Although I won a few quid with the simple lead-up questions, the jackpot prize of £100+ escaped me because I was baffled by the origin of the word “lych” (as in lychgate). It is the Old English for a corpse, the body being sheltered from the weather under the lychgate roof while awaiting priest and mourners.

I will never forget that definition...but will never be asked it again.

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Also, I was in the Great Yarmouth Mercury team that won a pub quiz at the Sun Inn at Bradwell in the Nineties. But, I wonder, would a Mercury team with its presumed wealth of local knowledge have been able to answer a question about our borough posed in a national newspaper recently?

When I saw this particular question, I could not help but ask myself if somebody influential on the quiz scene nationally been given Caister historian and author Colin Tooke's excellent latest book as a Christmas present?

For in the Daily Telegraph in January a 20-question pub quiz set by Gavin Fuller added this as its “Snorter of the Week”: “Due to a decree from the local council, what was unusual about the Gem Cinema when it opened in Great Yarmouth in 1908?”

I must admit that I would not have known the answer - “Men and women were forbidden from sitting together” - if I had not read the book and reviewed it in a December column!

That's Entertainment - Theatres and Cinemas of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston is that new book, and in my review I reported that among the wealth of facts, anecdotes and photographs, the author had written that in the first four days of the Gem's existence, no fewer than 17,000 patrons paid for admission “despite a local by-law that prevented men and women sitting together in a darkened public place, therefore men sat one side of the central aisle and women the other”.

I assume the by-law, that sounds so ludicrous in the anything-goes 21st century, applied to all the entertainment venues in the borough. The Gem, of course, has been known as the Windmill for many a long decade. The comprehensive Tooke study of our show business history is still on sale in local bookshops.

Undoubtedly quizzes like Trivial Pursuit and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? were popular at family gatherings over Christmas, but Mrs Peggotty and I turned to less cerebral challenges, one of which was a new boxed game with some grandchildren - Pegity! Yes, that is the correct spelling, a phonetically correct styling of Peggotty and totally unconnected with the Dickensian character whose name has signed this column since its inception the Thirties.

Whoever devised the game (in 1939, but new to me) for six-year-olds and above called it Pegity because it involves pushing pegs into a square board of 256 holes (16x16), each combatant striving to make an uninterrupted row of five of his or her particular colour while the opponents try to thwart him while aiming for their own five in a row.

It was my Christmas present from four of our grandchildren aware that I am Peggotty and would appreciate the little in-joke. It made a change from Rummikub and a Lord of the Rings version of Monopoly - a favourite with two of the youngsters - with which Mrs Peggotty and I have trouble because the names and places are mystifying as we have neither seen the films nor read the books.

We fared better with Destination Norwich, another Monopoly-type game hitherto unknown to us. This features taxis having to find their way around the streets of our county city by way of dice throws as they head for their hirers' chosen destinations of which there are 50 - The Forum, for example, or cathedral, Carrow Road, cinemas, nightclubs, landmarks, places of historic interest, the Prospect House headquarters of the Mercury's publisher...

The cabbie has to collect fares, buy petrol, negotiate traffic lights, pay parking and speeding fines, be wary of being banned, and other hazards. Four adults played it and we thoroughly enjoyed it although progress was stuttering because we had to keep referring to the instruction book.

On reflection, perhaps the quartet would have been advised to have bought an alternative board game offering us the novelty of Destination Norwich and the familiarity of Monopoly - the specialised Norwich version of Monopoly, one of the 40-plus English towns and cities and umpteen worldwide to have their own roads, streets, districts and other places where we have been accustomed to seeing the Old Kent Road, Trafalgar Square, Regent Street, Park Lane etc.

As a fierce Great Yarmouth patriot, I must hope that before long, my home town is honoured by being chosen for Destination Yarmouth or a Yarmouth edition of Monopoly. They could feature a range of prominent locations like the Time and Tide Museum, Golden Mile, Racecourse, Pleasure Beach, Mercury office, law courts, market chip stalls, Marina Centre (unless it has been razed), employment and benefits offices, Gapton Hall roundabout, Vauxhall Bridge, new casino and third river crossing (if they materialise)...not forgetting, of course, the outer harbour.