Buzzer silent for quizmaster

Neil O'Brien, educationist and quizmaster, passed away at his south Calcutta home on Friday afternoon. He was 82 and had been fighting lung ailments for months. He is survived by wife Joyce and their three sons, Derek, Andy and Barry.

By A STAFF REPORTER
  • Published 25.06.16
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Neil O’Brien: Q: First day? 
A: May 10, 1934
Q: Last day?
A: June 24, 2016

Neil O'Brien, educationist and quizmaster, passed away at his south Calcutta home on Friday afternoon. He was 82 and had been fighting lung ailments for months. He is survived by wife Joyce and their three sons, Derek, Andy and Barry.

"... Dad Neil O'Brien gone... quiz pioneer, ex ICSE chief, AI community icon, educationist..." eldest son Derek had tweeted at 4.12 pm.

O'Brien will be taken to Frank Anthony Public School on Sunday afternoon, and then to Christ the King Church for a service to celebrate his life. He will then be laid to rest at the Lower Circular Road cemetery.

Born on May 10, 1934, O'Brien was educated at St. Xavier's School and College, where he then taught for eight years before moving into publishing. After a 38-year innings at Oxford University Press, he retired as managing director.

O'Brien served as the chairman of the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, which conducts the ICSE and ISC examinations, from 1993 to 2011. He was on the board of schools like La Martiniere for Girls, La Martiniere for Boys and Frank Anthony Public School.

He became the founder-chairman of The Telegraph Education Foundation in 1999, which instituted TheTelegraph School Awards for Excellence.

Read, record & recall

 

O'Brien was a nominated representative of the Anglo-Indian Community in the West Bengal State Legislature from 1977 to 1991, an Anglo-Indian Member of Parliament in the 11th Lok Sabha, and the president-in-chief of the All India Anglo Indian Association.

But he will be best remembered as the "father of quizzing" in Calcutta and beyond. O'Brien conducted the first formal quiz at Christ the King Church Parish Hall in Calcutta in 1967 with an audience of 40 after he returned from England where he had been exposed to the pub quiz culture. He remained active in quizzing throughout his life and hosted popular quiz show broadcasts, including the North Star Quiz.

He passed on his love of quizzing to sons Derek and Barry, who've carried on the O'Brien tradition. In a t2 chat in 2010 with Derek, he spoke of his quizzing and the diaries he kept of all he read, observed or heard, and his questions, which he said he was going to leave for his wife Joyce. He always handwrote his quiz cards and followed the 3-R formula for quiz excellence: 'read, record, recall'.

That formula was followed till the end, when he engaged in Q&A chats with his sons by his bedside and kept track of the Euro Cup scores and Brexit vote till Friday morning. Perhaps to prepare for a quiz that filmmaker and student Sujoy Ghosh referred to in a tweet - "Goodbye Neil O'Brien .. a part of our school days goes with you. please ask god those seriously tough questions that you used to ask us."