Back to the Past with historial Ed Grimsdale.
Do you remember the film Spellbound that was nominated for best documentary in the Oscar awards of 2003?
It followed the American Dream shared by nine million children who entered heats across the USA in its annual National Spelling Bee competition.
Eventually, 249 survivors reached the finals in Washington DC.
Spelling Bees are a genuine all-American confection, created about 160 years ago deep in New England.
‘Bees’ swept through the States like a forest fire and the Atlantic Ocean couldn’t quench this game show’s viral spread.
Soon Ireland embraced it and in 1876 north Bucks fell under its spell.
The Rev C.W. Stubbs, Vicar of Granborough, brought this first game show to north Bucks.
Charles William Stubbs was a liberal thinker who maintained his common touch.
A prolific writer, he rose to be the fourth Bishop of Truro.
One Bucks parishioner recorded: “Ah, sir, we liked Muster Stubbs, he taught me to box, he did!”
Winslow staged the first Spelling Bee on February 8 in its iron temple to literacy, the Reading Room.
‘Muster’ Stubbs was the interrogator, starting with simple words – one faller at his first ‘spell’ spelled flour as flower.
As in Countdown, the Vicar of Winslow, Mr Preston acted as adjudicator in dictionary corner.
The Spelling Bee’s slow burn kept the audience in suspense.
Rounds were separated by recitations such as The Wreck Of The Hesperus, while a choir increased the tension with glees such as Fear Not...
And then, there were three left.
Master Alfred Ernest Field, of Buckingham, fell over the Jurassic flipping monster plesiosaur. Mr Wm Turnham, of Winslow, succumbed to the geometrical tangent at infinity – asymptote. Leaving Mr C. Elley, also of Winslow, unwounded and the winner of 7s 6d.
Ten days later, ‘Muster’ Stubbs made a beeline for Buckingham’s packed Town Hall.
This second Bee was for profit, its honey used to underwrite the failing Literary and Scientific Institution.
Twenty-five competitors, including several ladies, were ranged across the platform.
The first to go, fell off his bough making it his final bow.
The going soon got difficult. One fellow lost his land rights over ‘feoffment’.
The last lady sitting was Mrs Meehan who came third after being unseated by mnemonics.
Ichthyology (fishy science) beat Mr Walsh, but not Mr Allen, who won 30s.