Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

The Jolley Gang

Sunday, 21 December 2008

This isn’t really a proper blog post, I just wanted to put up a link to my Observer piece today, partly because it’s the only piece of proper investigative journalism I’ve ever done, and mainly because I want the name and habits of the person concerned to get as wide a currency as possible, to make it harder for him to carry on doing what he does! All I have to add here, really, is a rather fantastic photograph of the fellow, which doesn’t appear on the Observer site.

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Zinnia Cyclamen at 10:20 pm on December 21st, 2008

Hi - I am a humanist funeral celebrant and have been blogging about death-related issues for a few years at  I’ve written a post for Monday 22nd, drawing my readers’ attention to your article and some other bits and pieces I’ve dug up about Terence Jolley and his cronies on Google.  I’m sorry you had to go through this, and I hope that by publicising your experience you can save others from similar experiences.  Best wishes.

David at 10:26 pm on December 21st, 2008

I love the piece in The Observer - you and whoever tipped you off deserve some free drinks of your own.

Andy W at 10:54 pm on December 21st, 2008

Just when I thought that couldn’t get any more awesome :

“(in the guise of Sir William’s heartbroken boyfriend)”

Lollerskates, as we say on the Internet :-)

Have a great Xmas,


Victoria Coren at 11:36 pm on December 21st, 2008

Thank you - I got so involved in creating my trap, I think I went slightly loony… I was beginning to think I WAS the heartbroken boyfriend (Andrew Fremantle). When I read the email which said “Sir William was a wonderful chap, so thoughtful and supportive of the arts”, I felt very proud of him.
  And then I remembered.

  Happy Christmas to you too x

Sid Griffin at 11:58 pm on December 21st, 2008

VC, genius piece on Terrence Jolley and what a sicko to wanna go to memorial services of people he didn’t even know. I’ve heard of freeloading and I’ve heard of social climbing and I’ve heard of networking but he takes the cake. Which it looks like he did…several times.
‘Twas a fine column and your Dad, who I never met as I am an ex-pat Kentuckian trying to lose the tag of hillbilly after sixteen years in London, would have been proud.
Dunno about the porn movie attempt. Surely if you really had such a ghastly idea there would then logically be a “Adults Only” section on your website, right?
best always, Sid Griffin trying to fit in in Hampstead, London

David Bodycombe at 5:48 am on December 22nd, 2008

Surely the thing to do would be to set up Funeral II on the very same day and time in some far-away place and hope they’d choose the path of least resistance? By the time they realised they’d been set up, they’d have no chance to hoof it back to the proper service. I wonder if Mr J was the one who briefed against you in the local paper?

Odd how many people still perpetuate the myth about cuckoo clocks coming from Switzerland. That Orson Welles has a lot to answer for - that’s what you get for changing the script on the hoof.

P.S. Signs There Is Too Much Poker On The Internet #74: Normally the site I play on names its tables after cities. In the last two games, I played on “Mosul” and “Basra”.

Phil Pearson at 8:00 am on December 22nd, 2008

As a fellow poker player, and someone who cheered you on to your EPT title (mainly as i was out and you can’t exactly support foreigners, lol), merry christmas.

And I read your article online just now, which goes to prove me wrong as I told a friend yesterday you’d stopped writing nationally. Hey ho

Victoria Coren at 10:27 am on December 22nd, 2008

Stopped writing nationally? If you click the ‘writing’ tab on this site, you’ll get to the columns I write for the Guardian and for the Observer every week! I never went away! Obviously no-one’s reading them <sigh>... But thanks for your nice words.

  And Sid - in principle you’re right, but if you buy the book concerned, you’d find that it’s all rather innocent and comical…. I mean, I’m not sure I’d have published it while my GRANDPARENTS were alive, but, all things considered, it’s not really terribly rude.

Nb. re Terence Jolley, I see the bounder is in the Daily Telegraph today, vowing to carry on doing it…

Adam at 11:42 am on December 22nd, 2008

I was reading my mum’s Observer last night and realised that I had met this guy, or, am pretty sure I did, at the IoD Conference around three years ago.

Bizarre behaviour by all accounts.

Ralph Tritt at 2:14 pm on December 22nd, 2008

It was an excellent piece: bizarre and compelling. But the man obviously has a screw loose. How on earth did he become a magistrate? What really struck me though was the pic of you with your Dad lighting up ciggies. Poignant certainly, but perhaps an odd choice given the nature of his demise. Are you as defiant about smoking as he was?

Dafydd at 2:42 pm on December 22nd, 2008

Really enjoyed reading the Jolley story.  I’ve noticed a large group of uninvited guests insinuating themselves into London promotional parties but have thought of them as a slightly heroic group. Often enjoying the thrill of getting past the security and then partying more than the genuine guests who probably go mainly for work reasons. Crashing a memorial service would be easier than a film premiere but you really wouldn’t expect it to happen. These particular crashers are a very seedy group of characters. I’m sorry about what happened - the last thing you want to have to deal with. But at least you’ve turned it into a gripping story about a hidden group of people.

Jack Arrundale at 2:46 pm on December 22nd, 2008

Heard your broadcast today on 5 Live.
Your dad would have been delighted with your response.
I think that there would have been another ploy to fix them. You could have emailed them apologising for an unavoidable change of venue (or date) perhaps due to another death in the family. The choice of venue would need some thought.
On second thoughts, if you have any other famous friends who have a memorial service or event due give them a ring. Has Humph been honoured yet?
All the best

Colm at 2:56 pm on December 22nd, 2008

Fantastic piece in the Observer.

Can’t believe that idiot has never been slapped for doing what he did, still, s’pose that says more about the funerals I’ve been to….

Nice to see that a career as a polite, charming Investigative Reporter could be an option for the future, after all in these difficult times…

I’m really enjoying your Dad’s collection at the moment and couldn’t help smiling at the inspiration for a column that idiot Jolley would have provided.

Keep up the good work and Happy Christmas,


Ian Carpenter at 3:05 pm on December 22nd, 2008

Victoria I was really moved by the ending of your piece, and the truly surprising, wise and forgiving choice you made.  Still harder, in the face of such unrepentant weaselling as his “reply”.  I also wanted to say that you wrote a lot about your love for your dad: but in that photo, despite/because of its being wonderfully un-PC,  I can somehow really see and feel it.  Thank you for being prepared to share such intimacy.

Rrrrr at 4:39 pm on December 22nd, 2008

Goodness, what an artful trap! Very nice, Vicky! Your father would beam with pride!

And thanks to David Bodycombe for pointing out that the Kuckucksuhr is actually of GERMAN origin (it’s helpful to know that the Swiss have had antipathy against the Germans since time immemorial, for the latest developments, check: ). One way or another, I love every single cliché about Switzerland - they’re all so frighteningly true! There are, of course, some exaggerations, e.g. excessive punctuality obsession: in reality, it’s not THAT BAD - up to 3 minutes of lateness are usually very warmly forgiven (well, strictly speaking, it’s 8 minutes of lateness, since one is expected to be there 5 minutes before the appointed time.)

mike at 5:15 pm on December 22nd, 2008

I have long thought you a feisty lady, VC, & never more so than in your delightful & remarkably tolerant piece, outing the awful Terence Jolley.

Your father was a lovely writer & broadcaster & you carry his mantle well. Hope you can enjoy your Christmas despite your book deadline.

Victoria Coren at 5:44 pm on December 22nd, 2008

Thanks all for your lovely comments. Although I think about my father all the time, everything looms larger at Christmas and I miss him terribly; bringing this story out now, somehow, makes him feel closer and more alive. All the way through the “sting operation”, I was wishing I could ring him up to chat about it. I know he’d be chuckling. So I really appreciate the kindness of your comments, especially those that include him.

  I was interested by the two different comments about the photo; I agree with both of you. If I had a wider range of pictures of me with my dad, I might not have chosen the one in which we were both smoking; of course it’s not a great thing to be doing. No I’m certainly not “defiant” about smoking; it’s a dreadful habit and I’m determined to kick it. My dad wasn’t defiant about it either; he just loved it. When I feel sad that it probably (almost certainly) took a few years off his life, I console myself with the thought that, at least, every cigarette he smoked he LOVED. Lying on his back in the grass, in the countryside, smoking and staring at the clouds…. Sparking one up in a restaurant after dinner, chatting wittily through the fumes…. Having a crafty drag as he sat behind the desk at the News Quiz, in the old days when you could smoke at the BBC, allaying his performance nerves with that familiar nicotine taste…. Flicking the top off his favourite zippo lighter… Imagining that he was a cowboy in a Western, enjoying a stogey… He loved it all. And I wish he’d never done it, and I fervently hope I will be a non-smoker by the end of next year, but I take some consolation in the pleasure it always brought him. He never smoked for the sake of it.

  And I love the fact that Ian (above) saw what I saw in that picture, when I decided to let them run it with the piece. I love the CONSPIRACY of it, the two of us huddled over the same lighter - we were lurking outside a wedding, having a secret snout and a little chat - and there’s something about the image, combined with the story, that makes me feel like he’s been right there with me all the way through. As if we were hatching the Jolley Plan together. And, vile habit or no vile habit, I find that a very happy thought.

David R at 7:28 pm on December 22nd, 2008

Vicky, if it’s any help, here is Henry VIII having a crafty cigarette (third row of pictures down):

(DISCLAIMER: Under no circumstances do I approve of inappropriate actors playing Henry VIII)

John at 8:59 am on December 23rd, 2008

It’s good to be able to celebrate our parents’ habits which can sometiimes threaten to turn many of us into the jackboot brigade.  It’s not always easy.
  And this T. Jolley person seems to be quite the Alan Partridge, ‘with his big plate’ !  But there’s no such thing as a free lunch… cos the chocolate mousse will always bite you in the end.  Happy Christmas!

Lili at 10:32 am on December 23rd, 2008

I think its sad and pathetic what they did or indeed still do!
I hope it didn’t spoil the service to honour the memory of your late and truly great father, he surely didn’t deserve it nor did the rest of the people whose services they came uninvited.
p.s.Bought the book already, lovely read.
Best regards from Slovenia :)

spidermonkey at 11:45 am on December 23rd, 2008

Now that he is somewhat linked to your fine self he will be able to legitimately attend any service held for you, if ever some unbalanced Scandinavian should do you some terminal harm after you inflict a particularly harsh bad beat on them.
Also, seeing his impressive head of hair reminds me i forgot to get some cooking oil while in Asda earlier.

Ian Carpenter at 2:18 pm on December 23rd, 2008

Yes, “Conspiracy”: that’s exactly it.  Curses, pride myself on being no slouch with words myself but - you nailed it.  (I now withdraw my Vegas comment below - you’d probably still win, even if I did cheat…)

Lindsey at 5:48 pm on December 23rd, 2008

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece in the Observer. What an utterly perplexing story!

It’s certainly good to hear that your cunning plan clearly outwitted him, but it still confuses me as to what possesses him to even bother. The photo is absolute gold though. Your “Dickensian”  description is rather spot-on. Put period clothing on him and he’s a proper costume drama buffoon.

The lengths to which you were willing to go did make me laugh. I too would have been incensed. There’s something about being confronted with a situation like that, makes your imagination run wild. I’m sure that your dad would have been very proud of your efforts.

As a side note, I will miss Only Connect. No matter how crushingly stupid it makes me feel. I will continue to view, even if only for the quips.

The Camel at 11:03 pm on December 23rd, 2008

Are there any tickets left for Sir William’s bash?

I feel I should raise a glass to my old friend.

(ps Happy Christmas xx)

Ralph Tritt at 12:17 am on December 24th, 2008

I’m with you and Ian on the picture completely, don’t get me wrong. It’s all of those things you say it is. It’s just that being seen smoking a fag today is about the most seditious thing you can do and I thought perhaps you were sticking one on Mr Balls and his interfering wife by including it in the article.

Keith Waterhouse reckons you never give up, you just become a smoker who doesn’t happen to have any ciggies on them. That’s me!

Andy the Dealer at 1:48 pm on December 24th, 2008

Jolley (‘dzoli) vb. to gather together a group of like minded blood sucking leeches and arrange for them to descend on a memorial service in order to have a good time at the expense of grieving relatives.
n. A boor who can only be removed by scumming.
[C 21]

haven hamilton at 1:57 pm on December 24th, 2008

Your dad’s voice was regularly welcome in our kitchen. I listened to the NQ episode that was preceded by “this was recorded before” I felt a sense of loss - good humourists are rare. The Japanese title certain people, when their works attain the highest art, as living national treasures. Your dad’s work was appreciated. Do I owe a debt to T? It never occured to me that I could have attended Alan’s memorial service.

I loved the sting operation and am so sorry that you, understandably, pulled it.  What a great British BBC xmas drama it would have made.  And who else could have played Terry?  Have you seen his deleted wikipage? priceless

Anyhap, don’t be too hard on poor Terry!  Perhaps he had seen your youtube piece on stilettos and wanted to meet you?

Tom at 7:26 pm on December 24th, 2008

Great piece. After my Dad’s death I was also contacted by someone calling themselves Terrence Jolley. 

I put a death notice in The Times with an email address so that friends and colleagues could get more information about his memorial service. I very quickly received an email from Jolley, Noreen Wray and others all in a similar grammatical style, from a similar email domain, offering condolences and asking for details of the service. No one in the family recognised the names and I was immediately suspicious. I did some googling and found out that 2 of them had been in attendance at some high profile remembrance services. I replied and asked them all for further information on how they knew my Dad.

  The responses were suitably vague and non specific and all contained information that could have been gleaned from his obituary. After the initial anger subsided we did consider inviting them to the memorial and then halfway through the proceedings offering them the microphone and asking them to share their reflections on his life. It would have been fun to watch them squirm. My Dad would have found it very funny. But the business of the service and the burial took over and I just put the email addresses in the spam box.

When I read your article I and the rest of the family were very glad this had been brought into the public eye. The death of someone you love is the very last time you expect someone to try and take advantage of you.

Victoria Coren at 8:54 pm on December 25th, 2008

That’s exactly what I was going to do at the Ormerod service! That was my plan: to throw open the microphone to personal memories of Sir William, and pass it to the Jolleys as soon as possible…. I am sorry, in a way, that I never went through with it. But also glad to have told the story before the end of the year, and drawn a line under it before a fresh 2009. Thanks for posting, Tom, I’m very tickled to think you had the same idea as I did. Let’s hope they all resolve to give up this shady practice and find a new hobby for the New Year.

  Happy Christmas all x

Ben Ohmart at 4:47 am on December 26th, 2008

Hi. I’m a BIG fan of your father’s work on News Quiz. And I’ve heard you brilliantly on radio too. :) I just want to say that if you’re ever seeking an outlet for your dad’s complete work, I’d be very interested. My publishing co. is BearManor Media at Thanks.

Victoria Coren at 11:26 am on December 26th, 2008

That’s very kind, Ben - but my dad’s anthology has just been published by Canongate! It’s on the books page of this site, and it’s a real box of delights so I hope that anyone who didn’t get it for Christmas will consider buying it as, erm, a New Year treat…

Jon at 7:42 pm on December 26th, 2008

Just watched the final of “Only Connect” on the iplayer and was surprised to recognise both teams from my student quiz days at university in the late 90s. I have seen those guys on University Challenge, 15-to-1, Countdown ... one of them even got on “Who wants to be a millionaire?”, with one of his teammates as the phone-a-friend. They are the “Jolley gang ” of TV quizzes!

Btw I think the treatment of Jolley is slightly harsh. Obviously the remembrance service scam is extremely tactless (and I hope he stops doing it), but the concept itself is quite amusing. And getting 5 grand from London underground in phoney compensation claims strikes me as mildly heroic. Anyway, these two scams must be the tip of the iceberg for this modern day Robin Hood and his band of merry men ...

james at 9:39 pm on December 28th, 2008

I know a great deal has been said of the “Jolley gang” above - however as a regional reporter myself, Mr Jolley might well have a right to attend services, he is a “stringer” reporting obituaries back to regional papers and to “in other lives remembered” of people who are not necessarily celebrities but have quietly achieved various things.Also he is a regular media review writer for various regional papers and for PressNews magazine.Therefore I feel though your investigations have gone far threy have not quite gone as far as they ought.It is fair to say Mr Jolley is by no means perfect - who is?
But has recovered from a breakdown, successfully writes good copy for regionals and is a fundraiser for various charities.

Victoria Coren at 9:53 pm on December 28th, 2008

How interesting, James - you express yourself in terms just like Terence Jolley does! Maybe that’s because you’re both stringers? Certainly you have a similar writing style.

  All I would say is that I am a journalist myself, and have been for many years, and in my experience it is not customary for reporters to apply for dozens of tickets to memorial services, using a string of false names, if their plan is simply to collect a legitimate story. There were diarists and reporters at the service legitimately; they revealed themselves to be such, as is only polite and respectful, in advance. Even if Mr. Jolley was under the impression that stringers are supposed to sneak into memorial services undercover, as if reporting on the Watergate scandal, he would only have needed one ticket. He wouldn’t need 12. And he wouldn’t need a ticket for anybody’s dog.

  Also, if that had been Mr. Jolley’s motive, I can’t see why he wouldn’t have mentioned this when he was defending himself to my assistant, to the security man, to the church, to the Observer or to the Daily Telegraph. Never mentioned any plan to write it up. If he were planning to report on it, but for some reason chose not to declare this openly, he might certainly have mentioned it when his credentials were questioned; at that time, he didn’t come up with the name of a newspaper editor to whom he might be submitting a story. Instead, he gave us the name of someone at the BBC whom he insisted would vouch for him. When we contacted her, rather than vouching for him, she said that she would be writing to him to insist that he stops using the name of the BBC, and misrepresenting his relationship with them, when pursuing his questionable goals.

  So, although it is kind of you to come to his defence, and impressive that you know so much about him, I think perhaps your theory does not fully explain his actions after all.


Rrrrrrrrrrrrr at 12:45 am on December 29th, 2008

Hmmm, maybe we’re doing Mr Jolley an injustice!

He seems to be not only a successful journalist and a beneficent fundraiser, but apparently also

... a fighter for transparency in the legal system:

... a promoter of public transportation:

... and an understander of the issue of urinary and faecal incontinence:

Very respectable and honourable goals altogether, aren’t they? Which leads us to our final petition, the hard-earned and very richly deserved reward for this man’s heroic struggles:

dominic radley at 4:01 pm on December 30th, 2008

Since when do the public have to “defend” themselves when applying to go to a memorial service.It is a chance to pay ones respects and bid a fond farewell to someone.It is not an interrogation session by MI5 or a public trial.If that was the case half the hacks in the country would be exposed as free-lunch grabbing pariahs and told not to turn up.

Victoria Coren at 7:38 pm on December 30th, 2008

The pro-Jolley backlash! It had to come.

  So, when do people have to “defend” themselves when applying to attend a memorial service? I suppose when they apply using a series of false names and addresses; when they apply on behalf of large numbers of other people who hadn’t said they wanted to be there; when they apply on behalf of dogs; when they make a series of double applications on the grounds that the first tickets “didn’t arrive”; when they apply on behalf of wives who don’t exist; when they pretend to have known someone personally if they didn’t… Under those circumstances, I can’t help suspecting that this is not motivated by the “chance to pay one’s respects and bid a fond farewell”, but something else entirely. If you felt respectful and fond of someone who had died, would you really want to mislead and trick that person’s grieving family? And would you keep doing it, over and over again, one service after another?

  But I’m certainly charmed by the idea that any of them had particularly fond and respectful memories of Sir William Ormerod… God bless the old fellow.

Carl Greenwood at 3:14 pm on February 1st, 2009

I wonder if Mr Jolley would mind us all popping over to his Memorial Service? It’s bound to be a large affair with all of his friends.

morgan90099 at 6:00 pm on March 4th, 2009

as a person working in catering at memorials myself its a joy for crashers to come
as we’d have masses of stuff left over to throw out otherwise.
also its widely known in catering circles that people crash mnemorials-only last week we did three events in surrey and the same old folk thirty miles apart came to each.a few admitted it saved them havig to cook and eat alone in their houses.
good luck to them

Victoria Coren at 1:38 am on March 5th, 2009

Hello again Terence…

Anthea at 1:31 pm on March 14th, 2009

Good evening. A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.
I am from Nauru and learning to write in English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “With a little forethought and some flexibility, you can reach your favorite destinations without breaking the bank.”

With respect 8-), Anthea.

bish at 3:12 am on July 15th, 2009

I just read the article, then found myself compelled to read through all the comments as well. Truly jaw-dropping stuff towards the end there.

I do hope ‘james’, ‘dominic’, ‘morgan’, and everyone else who might turn apologist to Mr Jolley’s cause (odd that so many feel the need to defend such rank exploitation of grieving families) doesn’t upset you too much. I suppose the best response is pity, since anyone who - caught red-handed - would sooner invent characters to defend himself than hold hands up and apologise, is truly pathetic. Here is a man who takes such enjoyment from attending remembrance services for strangers, that he would rather pursue further acts of foolishness in seeking to rationalise his behaviour, than simply admit that he has a problem and seek the help he needs.

I do hope you bear that in mind the next time you read a comment from an ‘honest bystander’ looking to shed some more favourable light on Mr Jolley’s disgusting opportunism - these people are sick, and getting angry at them will do no good whatsoever.

Top marks on the exposé though: I’ll certainly be checking the guestlist for Jolley et al in the future, and advising others to do the same.

bish at 3:13 am on July 15th, 2009


I do hope you bear that in mind the next time you read a comment from an ‘honest bystander’ looking to shed some more favourable light on Mr Jolley’s disgusting opportunism - these people are sick, and getting angry at them will do no good whatsoever.

Top marks on the expose though: I’ll certainly be checking the guestlist for Jolley et al in the future, and advising others to do the same.

Chanzee at 1:27 pm on October 7th, 2009

If the picture you found is in fact the same man then his facebook picture currently shows him in a black suit with a black clad Tara Para Tomkinson smiling.

This is funny, an elaborate question about you was asked on Yahoo. It was answered by an account that was created at the same time of the asking and is that accounts only activity….. What a strange man!

Killian at 11:56 am on October 14th, 2009

I just found the piece in the Observer. It’s of the funniest things I’ve ever read. I wished you would have had the Ormerod memorial - though there is something painfully tragic about a group of people touring memorials and funerals for kicks.

Victoria Coren

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