Janet played in the Liverpool and Merseyside Quiz Leagues for over 30 years. She was a leading player in the Poste House / Excelsior team that dominated the Liverpool League from the late 70s to 2000 and won the Merseyside Challenge Cup and the Feeny Cup many times. In that period Janet was also part of the Liverpool team that won the President’s Trophy on 8 occasions. She was Liverpool Mimir Champion 7 times, a feat so-far unrivalled, and was Merseyside Mimir Champion in both 1990 and in 1993.
Those who played against Janet will remember her as an exceptional player and a formidable opponent. We offer her family and friends our sincere condolences.
Neville Cohen, her friend, colleague and long-time team mate has written the following;
Janet Barker was born and brought up in London and moved to Liverpool to study English Lit at the University from where she graduated in 1959. It was her eclectic reading and her general interest in the world around her that made her the formidable quiz competitor she was – one of the best in the history of the MQL.
Her first quiz team was Kirkdale Royal in the North Liverpool League where she played alongside her husband Harry. It was as a member of that team that I first encountered her when she almost single-handedly demolished my team in the final of the Radio Merseyside quiz competition. On the way out of the studio she told me her team was breaking up and I cheekily asked her if she’d like to join my rag-tag outfit. I was more than surprised when she phoned me a few days later to say she would. Apparently, Bill Bent of the formidable Brook team called her about an hour later but, being a person of honour, she told him she’d already agreed to join another team.
As well as her exploits in the MQL, Janet was a regular on radio and TV quizzes. She won ‘Ask the Family’ in 1977 with Harry and her two daughters Debbie and Emma, won a lot of money on ‘Winner Takes All’ with Jimmy Tarbuck and ‘Jeopardy’ and was a semi- finalist on Mastermind in 1981 where she scored 20 points in the GK round, at the time a record shared with Sir David Hunt. She also appeared on ‘Counterpoint’ and ‘Brain of Britain’.
1984 was a pivotal year in Janet’s career. The final of a quiz competition held in conjunction with the Garden Festival was recorded at the Philharmonic pub and televised. As a result of this she was put in contact with Steve Leahy, the head of Light Entertainment at Granada TV and commissioned to write a new show called ‘Runway’. It was a complete disaster from many points of view but was the start of a writing career that covered a wide variety of TV quiz programmes. These included a quirky sports quiz with the winner awarded the Brentford Nylons Golden Anorak, ‘Lucky Numbers’ a quiz where Shane Richie ran onto the set shouting Show Us Your Balls’ and a quiz with sleazy overtones designed to go out against Channel 4’s ‘The Word’. Involvement with ‘University Challenge’, easily the most enjoyable part of her writing career, and ‘Mastermind’ followed. It was frustration at having to satisfy John Humphrys’ version of the English language that made Janet end her career as a quiz setter.
Janet had many interests beside her involvement with quizzes. She was a lover of fine living, good wines and gourmet food. She was an avid reader and also enjoyed opera. Her spiritual home was probably Tuscany. Apart from her family, her other great loves were her cats – generally long-haired she-cats – and Tottenham Hotspur FC.
It was this latter love that is the cause of one of the great regrets of my life. I was due to ring her for a chat but held back because City had just beaten Spurs 3-0. That call will now never be made.
Janet was one of the most intelligent and warm-hearted people it has been my privilege to know. Her passing has left a hole that can never be filled by all who knew her.
She is survived by her daughters, Debbie and Emma and her four grandchildren Helen, John, Julia and Millie.
Janet died on 26 February 2021.
The Liverpool Echo published an article about Janet on 21 March 2021 which can be read here.
Kirkdale Royal (North Liverpool League)
Poste House / Excelsior / Roscoe Bottom / Ship & Mitre
LQL Council Member 1982-1998
LQL Public Relations Officer 1985-1989
LQL Chairman 1993-1998
LQL League Champions (24)
1977, 1978, 1980-2001
LQL Mimir Champion (7)
1985, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1997 and 1998
MQL Mimir Champion (2)
1990 and 1993
Merseyside Challenge Cup Winner (7)
1978, 1981, 1989-1992, 1997, 1998 and 2000
Feeny Cup Winner (17)
1977, 1980-1982, 1985, 1987-1993, 1996-1999 and 2001
President’s Trophy (8)
1982, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1997-2000