Helen’s quarantine quizzes raise almost £15,000

Helen Gilchrist donned a wig, colourful dress and face mask as she made her entrance at her first online quiz.
Helen Gilchrist donned a wig, colourful dress and face mask as she made her entrance at her first online quiz.

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What began as a one-off quiz to relieve boredom when lockdown started, turned into 11 weeks of fun and fundraising, with more than £14,000 raised for charity.

Quiz-master Helen Gilchrist, renowned for organising and hosting charitable events, admits her online quarantine quizzes started off as ‘a bit of a laugh’ but quickly snowballed into something much bigger.

Helen first went live on Facebook on Thursday April 2. People enjoyed the evening so much they requested more quizzes and for them to be held on Fridays instead, closer to the weekend, so people could enjoy a ‘swally’ with Helen, whose tipple of choice is gin and tonic.

People from around the world began to tune in each week, looking forward to an evening of entertainment with hundreds of other like-minded people during lockdown.

‘I’m not technically minded,’ Helen said, ‘but I couldn’t believe that at the click of a button all these folk were connecting.’

In anticipation of lockdown being further relaxed this week, Helen decided last Friday’s quiz would be the final event.

She said: ‘I never dreamed it would take off the way it did and I never dreamed we’d raise that much money. I’m so glad I started up a fundraising page because I wasn’t intending to do that initially but so many people asked me to, especially those tuning in from abroad.’

A GoFundMe page was set up so people could donate money to take part, as they would if attending a regular quiz. The fund was further boosted by the creation and sale of a popular nude calendar featuring some of the town’s more risqué characters.

‘Leighann Burns really got behind that,’ said Helen. ‘We got the calendars out to people within a few weeks. It’s incredible.’

Boxing memorabilia – a Tyson Fury glove and photograph and an Anthony Joshua glove – was donated by Iain Pollock to be auctioned to add to the fund. Helen has championed local businesses and causes during lockdown and she donated the £720 raised from the auction of the gloves to Core MMA Campbeltown.

On Tuesday, Helen transferred £7,000 to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance which, alongside the Scottish Ambulance Service’s air ambulance fleet, she believes provides a ‘lifeline’ to people in remote areas including Kintyre.

Some of the remaining money has been spent on hampers for essential service providers including staff at Campbeltown Ambulance Station, Campbeltown Hospital, Kintyre Care Home and Lorne Campbell Court.

Shopper-Aide, which hosted a virtual afternoon tea catering for 250 of its clients on Wednesday afternoon, received £500 towards the cost of the event.

Helen says the rest of the money will be donated to other worthy local causes, but some will be kept to fund a July 4-style celebration which, it is hoped, will take place at Machrihanish Airbase Community Company next year.

Explaining the inspiration behind her idea, Helen said: ‘Years ago, when the American base was there, we went out to July 4 celebrations and they were amazing.

‘This event will be for everyone – children and adults. The money will go towards hiring inflatables and things like that. Anyone who has been doing the quiz away from here can come back for it.’

People have been keen to show Helen their appreciation over the last few weeks, making doorstep deliveries of gin, glasses, baking and other gifts, with a weekly visit during the quiz from Willie Ross of Grammar Lodge Guesthouse.

‘These quizzes wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for the community coming together,’ Helen said. ‘I’ve thoroughly them. I’ve enjoyed organising them as much as everyone else has enjoyed tuning in. Everyone has been colossal and so kind.’

A post on Facebook after the final quiz, which received hundreds of ‘likes’, read: ‘Helen – you truly are the one in a million. The real queen of the Wee Toon. A wonderful soul. There’s no place like Campbeltown.’