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Secretary's eulogy to Harry Beevers' funeral

"For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Simon Curtis and in 1991 Harry Beevers and myself started an organisation called the Five Towns Quiz League, which since then has gone from strength-to-strength is currently in the course of its 25th year and I feel very privileged to have been asked by Joan to say a few words about the Harry Beevers I knew.

 

So, Harry Beevers...what a man.

 

I first got to know Harry in 1989, when I was directed towards a Thursday night quiz at the Redhill Hotel by its Questionmaster Ricky Hepworth and knowing my appreciation for quality quizzing, Ricky sat me with the best team in the room consisting of Harry Sledmore, my subsequent best-mate-to-be Shaun Flanagan (who as some of you will know, sadly passed away in 2003), Steve Scott aka the Dude and of course the quiz maestro, Harry Beevers.

It quickly became apparent that Harry was not your common or garden quizzer and commanded the respect of all those around him as the best quizzer they had ever met.  He just seemed to know everything and could mop up most things the rest of the team couldn’t.  He was, as already said, the maestro.  It was a well-earned soubriquet.

One particular example of his jaw-dropping knowledge was when he managed to win us £100 at the Horse & Jockey quiz one night when the Questionmaster asked us “What is the word for a form of torture involving beating the soles of the feet?”, and after a lot of thinking Harry whispered “Try...Bastinado”.  Well we were like “whaaat!” (jawdrop etc) but it was the right answer and that was a measure of the man, his thirst for knowledge, just to know things when asked, and that’s what makes him the legend that he is.  Now nobody knows everything.  But Harry Beevers, just nearly everything.  And when a question came up that he didn’t know he would always pull out his voice recorder and make a note of it so he could research it later.

Harry was also a pretty self-deprecating sort of a bloke and always took the team banter in good spirit, especially when there were numerous times when we had occasion to joke that “Harry Beevers played a blinder”.  Harry won us that £100 quiz so many times that the brewery even sent an area manager down as a sort of mystery shopper to sit in a corner and try to see if we were cheating.  But we didn’t need to cheat.  We had Harry Beevers.

We graduated as a team to a Wednesday night quiz at the Station Hotel just over the way there and apart from the fact that we used to win the Station Wednesday quiz most weeks, it was during one of those Wednesday night afterquiz chit-chats during the spring of 1991 that Harry started to bemoan the fact that the John Smith’s Quiz League, the only one in the area, had just gone defunct and so there was now no competitive quiz league to play in for our district.

         So me, being starter of good ideas and harebrained schemes that I am and knowing by then that Harry Beevers was a fantastic quiz setter as well as player, piped up “Well I’ll tell you what Harry, we’ll start one, I’ll find the teams and you set the questions.  How about that?”.  Harry agreed.  I do think Harry was a little sceptical at that point that I could find enough teams to populate a league, but there were and I found them.  Eighteen of them and thus after an initial meeting at the Parkside Inne, the Five Towns Quiz League kicked off in earnest in October 1991.  Harry set all the questions and all he wanted for doing it was a small donation to his charity every season.  Harry was Chairman, I was Secretary.

         It was before the days before I myself played in the league, so I would go round to Harry’s house once a week and collect a disk with all the questions and then print and package them and deliver them in a much similar way as I still do.  Harry set the questions for the first four years of the Five Towns Quiz League, at which point in 1995 he said that with us having got the league up and running with a healthy membership and solid foundation for the future he would like to step back from setting and let someone else do it and do more charity setting without a commitment to every single week that a league takes.

Harry then went on to play for more than one team in the FTQL in the later 90s and early naughties and he occasionally used to pop up at the odd Finals’ Night in recent years and his last contribution to FTQL life was to set a charity quiz at the Olde Tavern at the start of last season, in aid of a Braille books organisation.  But also, his contribution to setting charity quizzes for many events, especially the St Dunstan’s ex-service charity and the British RP Society and his other charity fundraising efforts, some of which, considering his disability, were quite amazing (tandem cycling and jumping out of aeroplanes for instance), are well-known and he also ran the Pontefract and Castleford District ‘Top Firm’ quiz for many years until his health slowed him down. 

There was a great piece in the Pontefract and Castleford Express last week where the headline said “He never let his disability rule his life” and I have to say that I really couldn’t have put it better myself.  Some of the things he accomplished were incredible.  I wouldn’t do skydiving for instance, ever, but then, maybe not being able to see would have been an advantage on that particular outing.

Harry was held in such high regard by all of us that on the occasion in 1995 when he was taken ill on a train ride to Edinburgh, myself and Shaun who I mentioned earlier, thought it was the right thing to do to go and visit him.  And the look on Harry Beevers’ face when he heard voices he recognised as we walked into the ward at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary when he wasn’t expecting anyone 250 miles from home, was something that I’ve treasured since that day.  He really appreciated our effort and that was a measure of the man, he was just a really nice bloke.

Harry also had an incredibly sharp wit and a dry one at that and one particular anecdote that springs to mind to illustrate that was at the first ever FTQL Finals’ Night in April 1992 when the Captain of the one of the Final teams, who to be fair had just taken a bit of a pasting in the Final, came up to Harry and said (in a tongue-in-cheek manner of course) “Those questions of yours Harry, they were rubbish”.  To which Harry’s immediate, shall we say retort, was quick as a flash, “But not as rubbish as your answers”.He never let his He

So yes, it’s especially poignant that he should leave us in our twenty-fifth year but Harry Beevers, without him the Five Towns Quiz League couldn’t have happened, we owe him so much for our startup.

Harry Beevers, inspiration, quiz legend, top quiz setter, but most of all, top man.  He won’t be forgotten around here for a long long time".