The Unbelievable Truth. David Mitchell. Copyright: BBC / Random Entertainment.

The Unbelievable Truth

BBC Radio 4 panel show built on truth and lies. 153 episodes (pilot + 25 series), 2006 - 2021. Stars David Mitchell.

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Series 12, Episode 6

Henning Wehn, Graeme Garden, Jeremy Hardy and Victoria Coren Mitchell talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as the British, beetles, the clergy and novels.

Further details

The Truths

Jeremy Hardy - The Clergy

- There is a member of the clergy called Cardinal Sin, who helped the Philippines make their transition to democracy. Found by Victoria.

- Pilgrim preachers in Massachusetts used a wooden ball on a string attached to a stick to hit sleeping parishioners on the head and wake them up. This device was known as "God's conker." The sermons would often last 2-3 hours and no-one was allowed to leave while they were being delivered. Found by Henning.

- There have been two Catholic bishops called "Bishop": Bishop John Bishop of Chichester and Bishop William Bishop, Vicar Apostolic of England. Successfully smuggled.

- One Bishop of Raphoe also worked as a highwayman on Hounslow Heath. Successfully smuggled.

- At the enthronement feast of Archbishop of York George Neville one dish consisted of 104 peacocks. QI also claimed that he ate 1,000 baby eagles, but this wrong. Successfully smuggled.

Graeme Garden - Beetles

- People who have had slime-mould beetles named after them include George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Darth Vader. Found by Henning.

- Jewel beetles are able to detect fires over 50 miles away. They fly towards the fire as they need burnt wood in order to breed. Found by Jeremy.

- Some sweet coatings, such as those on jelly beans, are made out of the anal secretions of the female lac beetle. Found by Jeremy.

- Horror writer Stephen King is scared of beetles. He lists the things he is most scared of (in descending order) as death, beetles, spiders and flies, clothes in places, rats, snakes, deformity, squishy things and the dark. Successfully smuggled.

Victoria Coren Mitchell - Novels

- Anthony Trollope invented the pillar box. They were introduced in 1854 in St. Helier, Jersey. They were rectangular, sage green and had a large ball on top. Found by Graeme.

- About 2.5 million pulped Mills & Boon novels were used to help make the M6 toll road. The books hold the tarmac in place and absorb sound. Found by Graeme.

- Herman Melville was instrumental in the success of Starbucks. The name of the company comes from the character Starbuck, first mate to Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. Co-founder Gordon Bowker originally wanted to name the firm after the ship in the book, but his creative partner Terry Heckler vetoed it saying that no-one would want to drink a cup of "Pequod". Successfully smuggled.

- Jane Austin's novel Northanger Abbey contains a reference to baseball, 40 years before the American claim to the invention. Successfully smuggled.

- Italian Enea Silvio Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II, wrote the popular 15th century erotic novel The Tale of Two Lovers. Successfully smuggled.

Henning Wehn - The British

- Until the Romans invaded the British had no word for "kissing". Although kissing probably did occur in Ancient Britain it was the Romans who formulised it. Found by Victoria.

- Researchers believe that more British people died on the Titanic because they queued politely for lifeboats. According to the Queensland University of Technology testimonies reveal that British women and children were put on the lifeboats while their husbands went to the back of the lifeboat to have cigars, stand around and be chummy while the ship went down. Found by Victoria.

- Britain imports more champagne than any other country in the world. It is the second largest consumer of champagne after France. In 2011 the British imported 34,533,983 bottles of champagne, 78% more than the Americans, the second largest export market. Successfully smuggled.

- Britain consumes more cans of Heinz Baked Beans than any other country in the world (and thus more than the entire Solar System). Britain counts for around 80% of Heinz's global baked bean sales. Successfully smuggled.

- Fortnum and Mason was the first place in the UK to sell Heinz Baked Beans. They were brought over in 1886 by Henry J. Heinz, who brought 5 cases of samples to the country. Fortnum and Mason took them all. Successfully smuggled.

The Scores

- Jeremy Hardy: 2 points
- Graeme Garden, Henning Wehn and Victoria Coren Mitchell: 1 point

Broadcast details

Monday 3rd February 2014
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Graeme Garden Guest
Jeremy Hardy Guest
Henning Wehn Guest
Victoria Coren Mitchell Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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