Barbara Thompson was the only one of tonight’s contenders to have taken part in the show before. She played in the 1995 series, which is famous for two main reasons, namely, that it was the first season when previous contenders were allowed to reapply, and as a direct result of this, it was won by former semi finalist Kevin Ashman, who set a record of 41 points which seems unlikely to ever be beaten. Barbara Thompson is the same person who lost in the first round of this year’s Are You An Egghead to Mark Kerr. However she won Brain of Britain 20 years ago in 1989. So you just knew that she was going to be a serious contender before she was even asked her first question.Her special subject was british women cabinet ministers. Some of these questions were accessible enough that I could answer them – not that many , I hasten to add, but Barbara handled it all confidently, and scored 14. Along the way she informed us that a young Hazel Blears appeared in a street urchin in the film of “A Taste of Honey “ !
Michael Burton from Peckham came next. He won the prize for the widest, most esoteric subject of the night, offering Angels. That is, the celestial beings as opposed to the 1980s BBC twice weekly soap opera. I don’t know a great deal about angels, although I’ve been told that salvation makes their wings unfold. Sorry. OK – Mr. Burton didn’t have a great round, and scored 2.
Mike Gradone was answering questions on The Stone of Destiny. If you’re not aware of this, it was the special stone which played a part in the coronation ceremony of the kings of Scotland from time immemorial, until stolen by King Edward Ist of England, and placed within the English coronation chair. You wouldn’t necessarily have thought that there was an awful lot you could have asked about this, but you’d have been wrong , since it provided a varied and interesting round, and Mike Gradone put himself in a good position with a fine 13 points.
John Higgins’ subject was “The Birdcage Novels of Victor Canning”. I will admit that I only know Victor Canning from some of the children’s novels he wrote, which I used with children at the start of my teaching career. Fair play to Mr. Higgins, the smile never left his face, and he really seemed to be enjoying himself. And why not ? 12 was a good performance, and put him only two points behind the leader at the halfway stage.
So after the specialist round only one contender was out of the running. Michael Burton added 5 in the general knowledge section , to take his score to 7. This, I believe equals Colin Kidd’s lowest ever 7 from 2005. Full credit to Mr. Burton – he knew that he’d had a ‘mare in the first round, and as he took to the chair he quipped “Did I have any passes ? “ A fine example of what Kipling would have called treating those two imposters, success and failure, just the same.
If truth were told, John Higgins didn’t do that much better in his own GK round. He scored 7, to give him 19. However Mike Gradone suffered all kinds of agonies in his own round, where a horrible pass spiral derailed both his challenge for the win, and his hopes of getting onto the semi finals board. He scored 4 to finish with 17. So Barbara Thompson needed a modest 5 and few passes to go through. Barring an implosion , she was home and dry, and her general knowledge was always going to be far too good for that. She seemed to concentrate on accuracy rather than speed. The range of her knowledge was very impressive, which you’d expect from a Brain of Britain, and even the questions she seemed to be guessing were mostly answered correctly. Congratulations, Barbara. She will be a force to be reckoned with in the semis, especially if she can answer just a little more quickly.
|Barbara Thompson||British female cabinet ministers||14 - 2||12 -1||26 - 3|
|Michael Burton||Angels||2 - 7||5 - 8||7 - 15<|
|Mike Gradone||The Stone of Destiny||13 - 1||4- 8||17 - 8|
|John Higgins||The Birdcage Novels of Victor Canning||12 - 3||7 - 5||19 – 8|
Current Highest Scoring Runners Up
|John Cooper||29 – 3|
|Ian Scott Massie||26 – 2|
|Les Morrell||26 - 3|
|Colin Wilson||25 - 0|
|William de'Ath||25 - 4|
|Frances Gregory||24 - 2|