Edinburgh’s own Joe Boyle caused controversy on University Challenge last Monday when he appeared to have misidentified an island off the coast of Sweden as ‘Ireland’.
As well as gaining a bemused look from Jeremy Paxman, Boyle’s response caused an uproar on social media.
University Challenge was a trending topic on Twitter and Facebook in the hours following Monday’s 8pm showing of the long-running, student general knowledge contest.
At first it seemed beyond belief that someone at one of Britain’s top universities, especially one who had made it onto a University Challenge team, could have made such a drastic error. How can you not know where Ireland is?
However, as quickly as neigh-sayers had taken to Twitter to rip into Boyle’s apparent mistake, Geography experts came out of the woodworks to explain that Boyle wasn’t that wrong.
Turns out Gotland (the correct answer), is situated near an island called ‘Åland’. Meaning that while Boyle wasn’t right, he certainly wasn’t as far off as Ireland.
In the wake of all this controversy, we talked to Joe about his experiences on University Challenge and whether he really did say Åland.
Hi Joe, how’d you get into University Challenge?
I’d watched it a bit when I was a kid, and I just noticed the initial quiz in an email one day and decided I’d go. I actually tried out the year before but didn’t score highly enough to make it onto the team.
Have you always been good at general knowledge?
I’ve got a good memory for otherwise useless information, and I suppose I always have, but it really depends who’s asking the questions as to whether I’ll have the answer. Some things I’ll have no experience of or interest in, and the information just won’t stick
Is there any topic you reckon you’re especially good at?
I’m usually pretty happy with biology and geography, but that seems a little odd to say in the wake of Åland…
Did you actually say Åland then?
I’ll let you decide. They’re both wrong, and I knew what I meant, but the coverage has been entertaining enough that, considering it didn’t affect the outcome of the match too much, I’m almost glad for the misunderstanding. Someone audibly scoffed in the studio audience, and that’s when I knew it was going to blow up in my face.
How do you train for something like University Challenge?
I didn’t really train. A few teams went out for dinner during the filming, and some members were dedicated enough to be revising while they were eating, but we were just trying to relax and enjoy the whole experience. If you don’t know the answers by the time you’re in the studio, I feel like there’s not much chance to learn them.
What kind of stuff are they revising from? Encyclopaedias?
I’m not too sure to be honest, I was tucking into my food and didn’t really notice.
You seemed really calm during, were you not nervous?
We all had a good laugh as a team, and that meant that we felt pretty happy the whole time. Waiting outside the studio was a buzz, and we were all a bit shy to go for the first question, but I think we helped each other out by not taking it too seriously.