Mayor is Guest of Honour

The Worshipful the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC Cllr Onnalee Cubitt with Probus President David Wickens
Speaker Jeff Evans with Probus President David Wickens

The Probus Club of Basingstoke was honoured to receive a visit from the Worshipful the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, joining the members for lunch at their regular meeting at the Test Valley Golf Club.

Cllr Cubitt told of her background in charity fund raising starting as a seventeen-year-old, encouraging Basingstoke businesses to make small financial contributions to support her work as a volunteer in Sri Lanka. With a business degree she entered the world of high finance working several years for Standard Chartered Bank, then tried her hand at estate agency, which she did not like, although her company car proved very beneficial for getting about in London being a black cab. These days she and her husband have a building business specialising in renovation work across north Hampshire and Berkshire.

With ambitions to be a Member of Parliament she applied to join David Cameron’s list of potential candidates but was told that she could not progress as she had no political experience. Consequently, local politics beckoned standing initially in the Basingstoke Norden ward where she was beaten soundly by the incumbent councillor. Then an opportunity arose in the Basing ward where she has been their representative for many years.

Probus President, David Wickens, presented Cllr Cubitt with a cheque for her selected charity appeal, the Community Furniture Trust and Friends of St Michael’s Hospice.

Before lunch members had been entertained by speaker Jeoff Evans who traced the changing role of TV quiz shows over the years. Starting in 1938 with mental challenges, when TV returned in 1946 there was an updated version which was a trans-Atlantic quiz where London based panellists had a radio connection with participants in New York.

American TV, being commercial, attracted large audiences with quiz programmes that had large value prizes, but the BBC’s charter would not allow it to follow suit and although they continued with quiz shows the prizes were either very modest or even non-existent. Shows like What’s My Line and Brain of Britain then had to compete with the introduction, in 1955, of Independent Television who had Double Your Money, hosted by Hughie Green and Take Your Pick with Michael Miles. Trying to emulate the famous American quiz, The 64,000 Dollar Question, Hughie Green ran a show called The Sky’s The Limit with the top prize being 64,000 sixpences.

American audiences like big winners but shows ran into trouble when it became known that some contestants were fed the answers to ensure that they kept winning. The American Congress became involved setting regulations to overcome such dishonesty which had an influence on UK television which then set a limit of £1,000 on each quiz show. The BBC then progressed with quizzes that had intellectual challenges but no monetary prize and had University Challenge, hosted for many years by Bamber Gascoigne, Six Form Challenge, Top of The Form, Ask the Family with Robert Robinson and then in 1972, Mastermind hosted by Magnus Magnusson. The show’s format was based on the interrogation of prisoners of war in a darkened room with a spot light – still used to this day.

1971 saw Sale of The Century, from Norwich, with Nicholas Parsons, The Golden Shot on Sunday afternoons with Bob Monkhouse, Jim Bowen with Bull’s Eye and in 1980 the BBC introduced The Question of Sport.

The prize limit was raised to £6,000 in the 1990s and by 1996 all prize limits were removed. This eventually led to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire which had struggled to get acceptance by various TV companies as they thought that showing four possible answers would make it too easy to win. 2009 saw The Chase, hosted from the start by Bradley Walsh, and now Beat The Chaser.

The speaker had been a contestant on Mastermind, Egg Heads and several others, and these days is a quiz question writer. Perhaps a role reversal of being today the game keeper and not the poacher.