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Gascoigne in 2006
Arthur Bamber Gascoigne
24 January 1935
Magdalene College, Cambridge
|Occupation||Television presenter, historian, author|
|Known for||Original quizmaster of University Challenge|
Arthur Bamber Gascoigne CBE, FRSL (born 24 January 1935) is a British television presenter and author, best known for being the original quizmaster on University Challenge, which ran from 1962 to 1987.
Gascoigne is the elder son of Lieutenant-Colonel Derek Ernest Frederick Orby Gascoigne (himself the son of Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Frederick Orby Gascoigne) by his marriage in 1934 to Mary Louisa Hermione O'Neill, a daughter of Captain the Hon. Arthur Edward Bruce O'Neill and Lady Annabel Hungerford Crewe-Milnes.
His great-grandfathers include Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe, and Edward O'Neill, 2nd Baron O'Neill. He is a nephew of Sir Julian Gascoigne who was in charge of the Household Division during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and of Terence O'Neill, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland 1963-1969.
He is a direct descendant of the 18th-century Lord Mayor of London Sir Crisp Gascoyne and the Tory politicians Bamber Gascoyne (the elder) and Isaac Gascoyne. Isaac's son General Ernest Frederick Gascoyne, of Raby Hall (1796–1867), was his great-great-great-grandfather.
Gascoigne was born in London and educated at Sunningdale School in Berkshire before winning scholarships to both Eton College and Magdalene College, Cambridge (1955), where he read English literature. While at Magdalene he wrote a musical, Share My Lettuce, which was produced in London in 1957 by Michael Codron, and performed by Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams (with music by Keith Statham and Patrick Gowers). He then spent a year as a Commonwealth Fund scholar at Yale University (1958–59). After National Service in the Grenadier Guards he became a theatre critic.
Gascoigne came to national fame as the original presenter (from 1962) of the popular television quiz show University Challenge, based on the US series College Bowl. He held the position for 25 years, until the end of the initial run in 1987. Although he has written several books, mostly works of history, and presented other television programmes, his name is permanently connected with University Challenge for many viewers. His questioning manner was firm yet polite. Phrases he often used which became catchphrases include: "Your starter for ten", "fingers on buzzers", and "I'll have to hurry you".
Gascoigne is the author of 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.
In 1977, Gascoigne wrote and presented The Christians, a 13-hour television documentary series on the history of Christianity, produced by Granada Television and broadcast on ITV. He wrote a companion book, under the same title, with photography by his wife, Christina Gascoigne, published by Jonathan Cape.
He wrote Quest for the Golden Hare, a 1983 account of the internationally publicised treasure hunt associated with the publication in 1979 of Kit Williams' book, Masquerade. On 8 August 1979, Gascoigne was witness to the burial by Williams of a unique jewelled, solid gold hare pendant in an earthenware jar "somewhere in Britain". The book documents the search and a scandal associated with finding it.
In 1987, Gascoigne presented a documentary series of six 30-minute programmes on Victorian history, Victorian Values, which looked at how Victorian society put in place the infrastructure of the modern welfare state, also produced by Granada Television.
He was the writer and presenter for the TV series The Great Moghuls (1990), a study of the Mughal Empire of India. The series was based on Gascoigne's 1971 book of the same name, which features photographs by his wife.
On the death of his grandaunt Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe, in 2014, he inherited an estate at West Horsley, Surrey, including West Horsley Place, a large country house dating from the 16th century. Gascoigne has been selling some of the late Duchess's possessions in order to invest in restoring the house. An original pencil and chalk study for the well known painting Flaming June by the Sir Frederic Leighton, was found on the back of a bedroom door. Art historians had known a sketch existed as it had been included in an art magazine in 1895 but did not know who owned it; it was probably bought by the Duchess after Leighton's death.
Gascoigne is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (elected 1976). He has served as a trustee of the National Gallery, a trustee of the Tate Gallery, a member of the council of the National Trust, and as a member of the board of directors of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He is a patron of the Museum of Richmond.
Gascoigne and his wife, Christina (née Ditchburn), whom he met at Cambridge, have lived in Richmond, London, since the late 1960s. In 2014 Gascoigne inherited West Horsley Place from his aunt and godmother Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe.
|New creation|| University Challenge host
1962 – 1987