He tried to make us fight. Like the mouthy little git in the playground goading his classmates to smash each other for his lunchtime entertainment, Farming Show host Jamie Mackay wanted his guest and his producer to engage in some verbal fisticuffs.

But neither Keith Quinn nor I were having a bar of it. Keith was in the studio along with publisher (and author in his own right) Joseph Romanos to promote his latest book, Quinn's Whims, and I was waiting to hear some of the stories from his 15th book and the third in a series of sporting vignettes, a successor to Quinn's Quirks and Quinn's Quips.

Keith's passion for collecting Beatles books is well known, while I once made the mistake of telling Mackay I am the nation's foremost authority on the Fabs.

This is a questionable and totally unproven claim but enough for Mackay to try and pit us in a battle of Beatle wits, asking Keith when the Beatles played their last official concert. Keith correctly answered August 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco while in a display of smartarseism I added "29 August".


I was more interested in hearing some of the anecdotes and stories from the book. For the thing about Quinn is he not only has remarkable recall, he has an ability to regurgitate what he's heard in a way that makes you think you're personally being let in on a wee secret.

Of particular interest were the stories with a farming connection, as this is becoming a real topic of interest for me. Having perused the book I can find at least four: Sam Cane, the "fresh-faced farm lad out of Reporoa College", becoming the first test captain from his Central North Island home town when he was given the captain's arm band for the All Blacks Rugby World Cup match against Namibia earlier this year.

There's also the story of the incredible rugby lineage of the Whitelock brothers, traced back to North Canterbury sheep farmer, World War II combatant and 1950s All Black, George Nelson Dalzell.

The book also tells of a young prop from Canterbury Agricultural College by the name of Wilson Whineray who was part of the New Zealand Universities team that upset the Springboks in Wellington in 1956, incidentally the same year as my favourite All Blacks story of them all.

Such was the dominance of the South African scrum on that most famous of tours, the All Blacks selectors were in somewhat of a quandary as to how best combat the likes of giant props Chris Koch and Jaap Bekker. Even after the first test, which the All Blacks won, Kevin Skinner had received two visits from rugby officials to his farm out of Auckland. When the tourists won the second test, the real panic settled in and the 28-year-old former captain and amateur boxing champion answered the SOS, promptly "sorting out" the giant Springbok props and paving the way for New Zealand's first ever series win over the old foe.

Mackay kept taunting us with Beatles questions in a vain attempt to see who knew the most. He reverted to yet another boring travel story, this time regaling the long-suffering listeners with tales of his recent trip to Liverpool and taking the official Beatles Tour. He asked Mr Quinn about the Cavern Club, which I told them was on Mathew Street. They thanked me for this useless piece of trivia and Jamie again tried to goad Keith by saying I'd beaten him to the punch. The bait was left dangling.

We spoke with Sir Brian Lochore and Dick Tayler with Quinn taking the role of lead questioner and managing to glean an interesting and reasonably fresh perspective regarding the 1970 tour to South Africa under coach Ivan Vodanovich. Sir Brian said, "That team was Fred Allen's team and if everything had gone to plan he would have taken us to South Africa and we would have won". That blunt assessment had Mr Quinn momentarily lost for words and in doing so perfectly illustrated his tremendous ability to obtain fresh insight into old stories.

Joseph Romanos wanted us to play A Hard Day's Night, which naturally led to a discussion about what the opening chord was. It's a Fadd9, which had everyone looking blankly at each other and the discussion naturally turned to politics. And it was glorious. It turns out messrs Quinn and Romanos are unashamedly left of centre in their political leanings, which I'm told is an uncommon persuasion among the nation's sports media. Once the show finished, they had Mackay cowering under an onslaught of left-wing political theory.


The extent of Keith Quinn's dislike of the political right only came apparent to me when I chanced upon another entry in Quinn's Whims. In Leaning to the Left, he describes an encounter with a very affable Bill English at a First XV rugby match, which concluded with a photograph being taken of Bill and the Sky Sport commentary team. Quinn placed himself on the edge of the line-up so he could be cropped out for publication purposes, lest he be seen with a National politician! Mackay was speechless; his endeavour to make us fight over a common love of great music extinguished before it even had a chance to ignite.