Here are two men, one from the left of Australian politics, one from the right. Appropriately Labor’s Barry Jones (1932 -) is shown below at left. Conservative, long serving Prime Minister John Howard (1939 -) is on the right. This odd couple are linked by their engaging appearances on Aussie quiz shows.

John Howard was a 16 year old quiz contestant.

I’ve always imagined Barry Jones to have a larger than average head, but maybe that’s because I just can’t imagine so much knowledge being contained within a normal sized one. Jones served as Minister for Science in the Hawke government from 1983 until 1990

In the 1960s he was a Melbourne schoolteacher, and became a legendary contestant on Bob Dyer’s televised version of Pick-a-Box. Someone once described him perfectly as ‘endearingly earnest’. Information spilled from him in torrents that could leave host Dyer completely nonplussed.

Bob Dyer and quiz contestant Barry Jones.
BOB DYER WITH CONTESTANT BARRY (Source – Adelaide Remembers When FB page.)

During a ‘World Championship’ episode in 1963 between Australia and New Zealand, Bob Dyer asked Barry to name the first two Presidents of the United States. It was no surprise when he responded. ‘I can name all 34‘. Dyer said they didn’t have time for all that, so Barry said OK, it was George Washington followed by John Adams. ‘I can’t pay that Barry. My information tells me that John Hanson was the first President of the United States.. The look on Barry’s face was priceless. Now this was all a set-up to get a reaction from him. (Hanson was actually the President of Congress).

Bob Dyer playing a joke om Barry Jones during the quiz.

On another occasion Dyer jokingly asked Barry to name the foreman during the building of the great pyramid in Cairo. Jones gave as good as he got and requested clarification; ‘Night shift or day shift?’ (He probably knew both!)


John Howard is remembered for his hilarious time accumulating bars of Velvet soap as a 16 year old schoolboy on Jack Davies’ radio show ‘Give It a Go,’

Jack Davey with young  quiz contestant John Howard.

John was actually trying to win a washing machine when he answered the question, ‘What is a loch?‘ with; ‘It’s a Scottish Mountain‘. Davies generously accepted the answer as correct, quipping that digging a loch would certainly have created a mountain of soil. Young John was duly awarded another ten bars of soap.

DAVEY – ‘What is the unusual characteristic of a kiwi?

HOWARD – ‘It’s on the face of a tin of boot polish.’

Haha…that was correct too. 😎

Throughout the show he amused everyone as he cheekily tried to answer questions he had no idea about.

DAVEY – ‘What is Mimosa?’

HOWARD – ‘It’s the name of a sort of tribal dance.

DAVEY – ‘This fellow would have the most colossal imagination I have ever come across!

Some would say it was all a good grounding for his future career. 😎

The following cartoon by John Kron was inspired by Barry Jones putting a series of questions to John Howard in Parliament in 1997.

Would it be possible to find a photo of the two quiz icons together? Well yes. Here they are at the launch of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in 2012. Thanks for the entertainment chaps.


The most famous interaction between Bob and Barry was over the question, ‘Who was the first Governor General of India?’ You can watch it on YouTube HERE.

The young John Howard was a sheer delight on Jack Davies’ radio quiz show. Have a listen.

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