DICKIE Bird, Michael Parkinson, Darren Gough... unlike his famous Barnsley counterparts, CJ De Mooi doesn't immediately spring to mind as someone who comes from 'tarn'.

So it may come as a surprise to some to learn the 43-year-old professional quizzer was born here and lived in Barnsley until he was four.

However, it wasn't a happy childhood for CJ - who was born Joseph Connagh before changing his name by deed poll.

He says he purposely chose to remember very little about his years here due to living in what he described as 'an abusive household'.

"I was born in Barnsley and lived there until I was four and then moved to Rotherham," he said.

"What I do remember about Barnsley is the road I was born on in the town centre, a little about the surrounding area and I have got some memories of the school I used to go to."

His life took a completely unexpected direction just after his 17th birthday - he left home and chose to sleep on the streets.

He spent about three months sleeping rough in Sheffield and travelled to London in the late 1980s.

He found his way to Holland and endured 18 months sleeping rough on a staircase in Amsterdam before stowing away on a train to Cologne in Germany.

"While I was there begging, a guy came up to me who was a photographer and offered me a modelling job.

"In 2000 I thought to myself I'm a bit bored and I have got good general knowledge so I entered a few TV quiz shows.

"The second one I went on was 15 to 1 and I won so then I applied for The Weakest Link and was voted off despite being the strongest link."

But it served him well as his post-show rant on the Weakest Link got him noticed.

He says it's a stroke of luck that BBC quiz show Eggheads came along.

"The thing is 97 per cent of stuff I know is completely useless outside of a quiz environment."

CJ has moved from quizzing into acting and has just finished producing and appearing in the West End musical, Geek.

"Acting is the only thing I have ever wanted to do and I never thought I would be able to fulfil or pursue that, but with the career Eggheads gave me I have been able to move into it," added CJ.