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How Crawley's brainiest man made a living from quiz machines

By Crawley News  |  Posted: December 23, 2013

By Chris Ballinger

  • THERE'S NOT A LOT HE DOESN'T KNOW: Trevor Montague with the latest edition of his book

  • THERE'S NOT A LOT HE DOESN'T KNOW: Trevor Montague with the latest edition of his book Photo by Grant Melton

  • THERE'S NOT A LOT HE DOESN'T KNOW: Trevor Montague with the latest edition of his book

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IF you walk into your local pub ready for its weekly quiz and see Trevor Montague sat at a table you might as well turn round and go home.

Because the 59-year-old has one of the best brains in Britain – and has memorised the answers to almost every quiz question imaginable.

He is such a fountain of knowledge that he founded the British Quiz Association.

And he is now releasing an updated book listing thousands of general knowledge facts.

Mr Montague, from Berstead Walk in Bewbush, has appeared on a host of quiz shows – and puts his success on them down to an amazing ability to memorise large amounts of information rather than any significant intelligence.

From a young age he had a craving to appear on The Krypton Factor, something he finally achieved in 1987.

This first taste of appearing on TV led to him striving for more and he decided to memorise a quiz book from front to back.

The only problem was he could not remember the answers if the questions were asked out of order.

Mr Montague, who was close friends with the late Mastermind host Magnus Magnusson and Jeremy Beadle, has appeared on more than 60 quiz shows, with notable victories in Today's the Day and Fifteen-to-One.

However, the second win would later lead to legal action against him.

The Crawley Wheelers cycling club member first appeared on Fifteen-to-One in 1989 but lost and rules stated a contestant could not take part again unless invited.

Determined to give it another crack, he appeared on the show again in 1992 – pretending to be "Steve Romana", an Italian writer, slicking his hair back, taking his glasses off and wearing earrings, in the hope he wouldn't be recognised.

Again he did not win but was invited back in 1997 – as himself – and won the grand final, taking home a vase as a prize.

However, a viewer spotted the similarity between Mr Montague and Steve Romana during a rerun of the show and this resulted in legal action against him.

Mr Montague, who settled out of court, said: "The presenter (William G Stewart) always said 'I never forget a face' so I wanted to test him.

"It was not about cheating because I didn't want to win (as Steve). I made it through to the last four but got my last question wrong on purpose because I didn't want to get through to the final.

"When I was invited back I won fairly. I was awarded an Egyptian vase that I took to Sotheby's to insure it for £3,000 but it broke and they ended up giving me the value in money.

"I paid about £5,000 out of court and my friendship with Bill Stewart finished. We haven't spoken since."

Mr Montague won a bronze medal in the 2002 National Quiz Championships, where he beat several stars of BBC2 show Eggheads, including Daphne Fowler, Chris Hughes, Pat Gibson and Barry Simmons.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Mr Montague's memory skills became so lucrative he was banned from playing pub quiz machines.

He recalled: "I knew the location of every pub quiz machine south of Luton and I memorised every question possible with a friend.

"We would go round pubs winning the jackpot on every machine possible, taking about £100 from each at a time.

"Gatwick Airport was the best location for us because there were nine machines. We would spend all day in there and come home with £1,000 a day easily.

"The most we won in a single day was £1,472 and I remember laying the pound coins out on a towel counting them while my friend made sure no one was looking over our shoulder.

"Pubs started regularly banning us but I bought shares in the six biggest breweries and I would bring out the certificates whenever landlords tried to ban us."

Mr Montague, who also rang daily telephone quizzes to win hundreds of pounds, stopped playing quiz machines in 1995 when the databases were changed and it was made a lot harder to win the jackpot.

The sixth edition of his book "A to Z of Almost Everything" is available on Amazon and in leading bookshops.

With 896 pages it has new sections as varied as heads of state and beers of the world.

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