The Quiz League, and the Museum Vaults team in particular, were sad and shocked to hear of the unexpected death of Denis Cowell.
Although Denis was 83 his death came as a complete shock because he looked so young. Indeed when his daughter Annette went to collect him from an appointment at the Royal Hospital the nurse said: "This can't be Denis Cowell, it says here he's 83."
Denis, Mike McClennan and myself all started in the League on the same night in September 1979 playing for the Echo B team, which was based at the Echo canteen at Pennywell. With the help of George Johnston and Bob Horn, who also died this year, we finished second in our first season, mainly thanks to George, who was also playing for the first time after setting the questions for many years.
Denis, who was always a moderate drinker, used to drive us all over Wearside to home and away matches, something than continued over many years as the Echo team left the canteen and went to play in a series of venues that included The Jacobean Club, the King's Arms, The National Reserve Club, the Saltgrass and finally the Museum Vaults where he was part of the team that won the League three years' running from 2005 to 2007. During this time he never complained about doing all the driving, something as young lads in our 20s we really didn't appreciate, though we did appreciate not having to pay for taxis.
Bob Horn, who played for the Echo team in the late 70s and 80s and latterly for the
Hastings Hill is presumed dead after falling off a cruise ship off South America
on the night of January 30/31st. Bob, who was 69, was part of the Echo B team, which
finished as runners-
Hastings Hill team mate Gary Dixon has written this personal reflection:
Bobby was one of my closest friends for the last 30 years and it was always a pleasure to be in his company. Some of my fondest memories are of spending time with Bobby at local quizzes; he was particularly knowledgeable about literature and shipping, but we shared an interest in sport (particularly football and cricket) and comedy, which is a good combination when you are a Sunderland supporter!
He had a love of travel and was well known for his quick wit. Bob’s love of language was always plain to see, whether he was writing a quiz answer in the Cyrillic alphabet or learning Portuguese for a trip to the Iberian Peninsula. He was a great storyteller, both in his work as a reporter and with his friends over a pint. It was an honour and a privilege to be his friend and he will be greatly missed by all of us for the rest of our lives.
As we played longer in the League and got to know other players we realised that Denis knew about half of them as he'd taught them all at the Bede. One story sums up his amazing calmness and patience.
We lost a final, where the questions were set by a former pupil which turned on a question about a geological period, which Denis surprisingly got wrong. Rather than moan and complain he just said to us in the car going home: "Well, that's what it was in the lesson when I taught him."
It is with great sadness that I confirm the death of Jim Clark after a long and courageous battle against prostate cancer. He passed away quietly late in the evening of Monday, June 23rd, at St Benedict’s Hospice, Ryhope, with his family at his bedside.
Jim represented us in the Echo Quiz League under our various guises as the Rosedene, Belford House, and latterly the Ashbrooke Sports club for over forty years during which he became a very strong player for us and was recognised in the wider context as an extremely good quiz player.
Although he enjoyed the competition very much the quiz never became more than a social occasion for him. He never tried to learn lists but he read widely and wisely to increase his knowledge. When he took early retirement he enrolled on examination courses at the Sixth Form College studying Law, History, Astronomy and English Literature among others.
Jim’s areas of excellence were many: we relaxed every time a question was asked on American politics, films ,the world wars and, of course, Scottish football. He was, perhaps, the most diffident in our team in arguing for his answer in our conferrals. Consequently I was inclined to go for his answer whenever he expressed confidence in it. He was popular with everybody as they recognised his integrity. Whatever the result he was gracious in victory and generous in defeat. He told me how much he had enjoyed appearing on Eggheads. We shall miss him immensely.
His funeral is on Wednesday, July 2nd at 10.45am at St Nicholas’s Church and the crematorium at 11.30am.
When Chris’s email headed Jim Clark arrived, I knew what it would say without opening it. I suspect we all did. And on an overcast day made all the more miserable, thoughts and memories swirled.
Foremost perhaps was the day I joined Jim and others on a train trip to London, to record Eggheads. As one can readily imagine, the banter and tales recounted by a squad comprising Messrs Eddy, Shearer, Clark, Taylor and Brewis was endless. On a day of highlights, the fondest memory I have is of Jim negotiating the purchase of an enormous bottle of ‘champagne’ for the triumphant journey homeward. The shopkeeper never stood a chance. Safely ensconced in a sardined carriage, we decided to celebrate at a point somewhere north of Potters Bar. My abiding memory of that foolish impulse was watching the uncorked plonk bounce off the ceiling while Jim and Dave tried in vain to rescue the situation by catching what they could in plastic carrier bags.
Of course, we’ve all been in Jim’s company during our regular Wednesday night quizzing
forays. Those who played in the days when individual questions were asked will know
for certain what a formidable player Jim was. This never waned with team questions
since you knew that when Jim got involved in deliberations, two points weren’t far
behind, nor was the destination of the now familiar ‘Ashbrooke 20p’. Above all
else though, Jim was a joiner-
Quiz people are a funny bunch, with facts frequently to the fore. But I didn’t know when Jim’s birthday was or where he was educated; I never knew his phone number, I don’t know if he had children or drove a car. Could he swim; did he ever have a dog; did he prefer Merlot or Shiraz; crime or science fiction; jazz or blues? On that basis I never knew Jim Clark, but I knew him well enough. Jim Clark was a very nice man.