Gail Trimble quizzed . . . out

25 February 2009

by Pat Ashworth

Victors: above: the quizmaster, Jeremy Paxman, with University Challenge winners from Corpus Christi, Oxford (left to right): Sam Kay, Lauren Schwartzman, Gail Trimble, and James Marsden

Victors: above: the quizmaster, Jeremy Paxman, with University Challenge winners from Corpus Christi, Oxford (left to right): Sam Kay, Lauren Schwartz...

THE CHAPLAIN and Fellow of Corpus Christi College Oxford, Canon Judith Maltby, described the Senior Common Room as “very proud” of the college’s victory over Manchester in the final of the BBC2 quiz programme University Challenge on Monday.

The result intensified media inter­est in the team captain, Gail Trimble. Miss Trimble, who is studying for a doctorate in classics, was credited in an Observer article as having “trounced all opposition almost single-handed”. Her speed on the buzzer was likened to “blitz­krieg”. She has been called “the female Stephen Fry”; and Jeremy Paxman, the quizmaster, has expressed his admiration.

Her brother received a request for her email address from the lads’ magazine Nuts, who wanted “a tasteful shoot”. But on the internet, in particular, she has been assailed for “smugness”.

Speaking on Breakfast on BBC television on Tuesday, Miss Trimble said that she had not encountered that particular prejudice before. “I have always seemed to be a clever person who knows things, and you really don’t want to come across as smug; so I was a bit sorry when people did see me like that.”

Staff and fellows watched the final in a local pub. Dr Maltby, who has known Miss Trimble since she was an undergraduate, said that she was “a very resourceful and together person”, who was coping very well with all the publicity.

Miss Trimble is a practising Anglican from childhood. She has sung in the chapel choir since her first year, and also sings at the University Church. “She is someone who takes her faith very seriously and is thoughtful and reflective about it: a very well-informed Anglican,” Dr Maltby said.

“She’s very clear-headed, and needs now to finish her doctorate on Catullus and get on with her academic career. It’s one of the pleasures of the sort of ministry I have, seeing bright young people develop in their faith and commitment over the years like that.”

Miss Trimble had been almost overwhelmed by the publicity on Tuesday, and had had to set up auto-forwards to the central university press office to deal with the volume of emails. She said on Wednesday: “To my great confusion, the media interest ran the risk of getting out of control.”

She confessed: “I’m very embarrassed that in the quarter-final I couldn’t name the season in which the Church remembers the Four Last Things. My excuse is that the match was filmed in mid-November, and Advent hadn’t come round for a long time.”

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