March 5 2015 Latest news:
Diane Scully meets Daphne Fowler, the Eggheads whizz from Weston at her Somerset home
Daphne Fowler has become a familiar face on our TV screens, with her trademark twinkle in the eye, as she delivers the killer blow to another hopeful Egghead challenger! Meeting her, shes every bit as charming as she appears on screen, and I quickly decided against trying to catch her out with a few tricky questions on the grounds it would be highly unlikely she would be stumped by anything I dreamt up in a feeble attempt to outwit her!
Daphnes love affair with TV quiz shows started by watching others win and lose. At home in Somerset she would watch Winner Takes All, hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck, with her three youngest boys and shout out the correct answers. The boys, who knew she was doing better than the contestants, urged her to apply to take part but as she didnt get around to it they wrote in with the persuasive words, our mum ought to be on your show because she knows everything! Her application was successful. Although she didnt win, she was hooked, loving the experience and finding she was completely at ease in front of the cameras.
Born in Warwick and raised in Kent, Daphne was at grammar school when her mother died and a well-meaning headmistress persuaded her father she would make an excellent teacher. She wanted to be a secretary, following in her mothers footsteps, but she found herself at Exeter University studying theology. Two years later she decided to leave and after a brief spell enjoying London she married her husband, Bernard. They moved to the Bourneville Estate in Weston-super-Mare where she did train to be a secretary. Daphne loved the strong community, warmth and friendliness she found there but with five small children, a husband in poor health and little money, she began to wonder if she could boost the finances by winning quiz shows. Her sons certainly thought so!
After her first TV appearance she fancied her chances of winning a car on Bulls Eye so she persuaded her darts enthusiast husband to have a go. Thats when she discovered her gifts were not universal. She has an extraordinary memory and she doesnt suffer from stage fright but Bernard was so terrified he could barely throw the darts. They missed out on the car but Daphne persisted and the following year she won a mini on Sale of the Century, which stayed in the family for 20 years.
More TV appearances and prizes followed including three trips to Australia to compete in Sale of the Century programmes, arranged to coincide with The Ashes series being played there. She won enough money on one of these trips to buy her council house outright. Life was just brilliant, she says but her joy was short-lived as her husbands health deteriorated soon afterwards and he could no longer work. Having no mortgage to worry about and funds to adapt the house for Bernard meant they could survive, and Daphne acknowledges the money changed her life. Sadly, soon after winning Going for Gold and enjoying the trip of a lifetime to the Seoul Olympics with Bernard, he died. She cherishes the memories she has of their 29 years together.
Quizzes continued to occupy Daphne, so much so, that when she married her second husband, Pete, they delayed their honeymoon as she had a quiz show to film the following day! After early retirement her quizzing career escalated, with a succession of wins on the notoriously difficult Fifteen to One before the idea for Eggheads was hatched in 2003 and she was invited to join.
Now in its twelfth series, the team, made up of Britains best quizzers, agree they have one thing in common: Brains like Velcro everything sticks! Daphne has a huge database of facts on her computer, memorises new lists easily and realising she would be targeted for sports questions, she deliberately gens up, so rarely loses. Shes notorious for her ability to guess the correct answer, explaining that Eggheads have what they call an inkle defined as something in the back of your mind which you didnt realise was there infuriating for the opposition but always delivered apologetically!
Eggheads has been described as one of the most successful quiz shows ever and Daphne loves the whole experience the professional hair and make-up, clothes, smart hotels, the filming, and meeting the opposition, which includes teams from Minehead and Weston in the next series. She likes the challengers to win and the worst scenario is one lone contestant facing them in the final round.
Daphne has no thoughts of retiring but why stop when its that much fun! As she says: We all get on famously with each other and I still cant believe just how lucky I am to have been picked to be part of such an entertaining show. Long may Eggheads reign!
Series 11 of Eggheads is currently on BBC2 at 6pm, Monday-Friday. Series 12 features Somerset teams and will be broadcast next year.