Thursday, 14 November 2013
he's behind you!
Bamber Gascoigne is an interesting character. I've had some BG Wikipedia tabs open for a million years waiting for me to do something about them:
1. You know BG (assuming you to be British and not younger than 35) as the host of the original University Challenge. Fine.
2. While at Oxford, he wrote a musical called Share My Lettuce, which was put on the West End starring Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams. Fair play.
3. It is extremely hard to find his first novel, Murgatroyd's Empire: a 1972 satirical novel concerning an entrepreneur who finds an island of pygmies, and trades them arms for treasure, recreating the development of European medieval weaponry and armour. I want to, though.
4. In 1983, BG wrote Quest for the Golden Hare, which is about a very weird 1979 publicity stunt sort of thing. Kit Williams wrote and illustrated a beautiful children's book called Masquerade. He filled it with clues to the whereabouts of a beautiful golden hare which he had made and buried in a clay pot.
The book sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world, and people went treasure hunting.
In 1982, Williams announced that the hare had been found by a guy called Ken Thomas. Triumph? Disaster. Six years later The Sunday Times exposed Ken Thomas as Dugald Thompson, whose business partner John Guard was the boyfriend of Veronica Robertson, who was in turn the former live-in girlfriend (not a phrase you hear much these days) of Kit Williams.
How did Guard solicit Robertson's help? They were both animal rights activists and he said they'd put the money towards the cause.
Robertson guessed vaguely where it was from things she had learned when she lived with Williams and Thompson then tricked Williams by sending him a drawing which convinced him they were right - he told them to dig.
Vexingly, some physics teachers had cracked the code and they dug up the hare in its little clay casket. But they didn't notice it and left it lying in the upturned earth, where it was found by Thompson, who was loitering nervously nearby.
Later, when he found out, he was annoyed. The hare sold for £31,900 in 1988. The story sometimes reemerges when someone who didn't know it finds it interesting. This is one of those times.