Yes, I’m afraid that Clive’s win is being used here as a pretext for a little praise of my chosen profession. By my reckoning – which may of course be wrong – 16 of the 40 champions have been present or former professional educators. If I’m correct, they are: -
Nancy Wilkinson 1972
Patricia Owen 1973
Elizabeth Horrocks 1974
John Hart 1975
Rosemary James 1978
Leslie Grout 1982
Margaret Harris 1984
David Edwards 1990
George Davidson 1994
Robert Gibson 1998
Stephen Follows 2000
Michael Penrice 2001
Geoff Thomas 2006
David Clark 2007/8
Ian Bayley 2011
Clive Dunning 2014
Students of the history of Mastermind will be aware that, in its early years, Mastermind was seen to a certain extent as being the province particularly of professional educators, and there is some justification for this point of view. Of the 8 champions in the 1970s, no fewer than 5 were either college lecturers or school teachers. We’ll have a look at each of them shortly. For what follows, details of Magnus-era champions are for the most part taken from Magnus’ superb – “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish”. If there are any inaccuracies I can only apologise.
The late Nancy Wilkinson was the first ever champion in 1972. At the time she was a part time lecturer in French and German literature at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology. She offered three separate subjects – respectively French Literature – The History of European Antiques – The History of Music 1550 – 1900. In 1975 She became the first ever Champion of Champions, winning the Supermind contest between the first four champions, and she also participated in the 1982 Champion of Champions series.
I was fortunate to meet the late Patricia Owen during our heat of the 2010 Champion of Champions series. At the time of her 1973 win Patricia was a part time lecturer in English and Art at the Maria Grey College of Education in Isleworth. Her specialist subject for both first round and final was Grand Opera, while her semi final subject was Byzantine Art.Patricia was the first champion to arrive in the final by the repechage route, having narrowly lost her first round heat. She was one of only two people to participate in all three Champion of Champions competitions, coming joint runner up in the 1982 series.
Elizabeth Horrocks was an English teacher at the time of her win in 1974. Magnus doesn’t specify where she was working at the time of her win, although he does say that it is possible that her Mastermind win helped her get her next position in Hyde Sixth Form College at Tameside. Elizabeth took three different subjects in her series, respectively Shakepeare’s plays – the Works of JRR Tolkein – Dorothy L Sayers. Elizabeth was the other champion to participate in three Champion of Champions contests.
The late John Hart was notable for being the first man to win Mastermind. It has often been noted that after the first three finals were won by women, perhaps the show ought to be called Mistressmind. John Hart was the senior Classics master at Malvern College in Worcestershire. John opted for the History of Athens 500-400BC for his first and final rounds, and the History of Rome 100 – 1 BC for his semi final. John also took part in the 1975 Supermind contest, and the 1982 Champion of Champions tournament. Incidentally, the Supermind contest was run immediately after his final!
The late Rosemary James was a teacher of Latin and Classical Studies at the Mount School in York when she won the 1978 series. She was actually beaten in her first round heat by the 2012 Brain of Britain champion, Ray Ward. Nonetheless she stuck with her specialist subject from the first round – Roman and Greek Mythology, in the final, where it served her very well. In the semi final she took The works of Frederick Wolfe. Rosemary participated in the 1982 Champion of Champions tournament, where she was joint runner up in the final. She also participated in the Mastermind International tournament.
The last heat of the 2010 Champion of Champions line up actually included 3 educators, or former educators. Of course, the other contender, the great Pat Gibson actually won, and went on to win the title. Still, the other three were Patricia Owen, me, and Leslie Grout. At the time of Leslie’s 1981 win he was a teacher at Ottershaw Middle School in Surrey. According to Magnus he had been rejected 6 times for the show previously. Leslie took St. George’s Chapel Windsor as his first and final specialist subject, and the Burial Grounds of London for his semi final. The burial grounds of London was also reprised for his 2010 Champ of Champs specialist. Leslie also participated in the 1982 champions series. Leslie became the first UK champion to win the Mastermind International title, answering on Windsor Castle.
Like Patricia and Rosemary, Margaret Harris had to go through the repechage semi final before triumphing in the 1984 series. At the time she was the Deputy Head of Woolston Comprehensive School in Southampton. Margaret kept faith with her first specialist subject, Cecil Rhodes, which she used to win the final. In the semi she opted for The Postal History of South Africa. In the Final, Margaret set a record – later broken – with 38 points, which I believe is still the record score for an educator on the series.
Like Margaret, Rosemary and Patricia, David came to the 1990 Grand final via the repechage semi final. At the time, David was Head of Science at Cheadle High School. In “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish” Magnus relates how the team were running out of questions about Michael Faraday, David’s first round subject, and so prevailed upon him to take James Clerk Maxwell for his final subject. In between David took Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. This was also David’s final subject in the 2010 Champions series, where he took the Mystery of Rennes le Chateau in the heat. David, as well as being a thoroughly good egg, is one of our most prominent educator champs, having gone on to win the £1 million pounds on who Wants To Be A Millionaire, to contest the final of Are You An Egghead? and to be a member of the victorious Wales team on Round Britain Quiz.
In 1994 George Davidson became the first University lecturer to win a series. At the time he was the senior lecturer in organic chemistry at the University of Nottingham. In 1966 he had been a member of a team that reached the quarter finals of University Challenge. George applied for the 1976 series of Mastermind but failed to get in. He never applied again until 1994, when he was rather surprised to make it onto the show. By this time the rules had been changed so that everyone had to take three different subjects, and George’s were English coinage 1066-1662 - History of Chemistry 1500-1870 – John Dalton.
From now on, and especially for the radio 4 champs, I have had to rely on other sources, and so I do apologise if any of my information is incorrect. Robert Gibson, winner of the first BBC Radio 4 Mastermind competition, is a qualified teacher and self employed tutor, running his own tutoring business in Cumbria. In 1998 he took The Solar System – Charles II and Robert the Bruce as his specialist subjects. In 1993 Robert had reached the semi-final stage
Again, I apologise if I have any of Stephen’s details wrong. Stephen, if you let me know I will correct them. I believe that Stephen has taught in various independent schools, and also in Oxford Brookes University, and has also worked as a tutor. I know for a fact that Stephen holds a unique distinction – at the time of writing he is the only person to win both Mastermind and University Challenge. In the 2000 radio 4 series Stephen answered on Benjamin Britten – T.S.Eliot – Leos Janacek.
The contemporary BBC News reports from 2001 hailed Michael as a’primary school teacher from Cumbria’ when he won the Discovery Channel’s 2001 Mastermind series. The whole round system in Discovery Mastermind was a little more complicated than the other series, but I can say that Michael took Professional Boxing to 1980 as his first round subject, and English History 1603 – 1714 as his final subject. Michael has been something of a serial quizzer, being a regular grand finalist in Fifteen to One, and in the big money quiz Grand Slam he was beaten in the semi final by 1993 Mastermind champ Gavin Fuller.
You could maybe argue that Geoff was no longer an educator by the time he began accumulating his many honours within the quiz world, having taken early retirement from his job lecturing in modern languages in Mid-Cheshire College in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, a retired educator is still an educator. Geoff was a semi finalist in the 1994 series, a contender in Discovery Mastermind, and runner up in the inaugural John Humphrys series in 2003. Geoff carried all before him in 2006. His specialist subjects were Edith Piath – William Joyce and Margaret Mitchell, and the final saw him set a Humphrys era record of 36 points, subsequently beaten by Jesse Honey. Geoff is one of our most successful ever educator champs – winning amongst other competitions Brain of Britain and Counterpoint. Geoff participated in the 2010 Champ of Champs series, taking The Life and Career of Sir Don Bradman.
Well, you didn’t think I was going to leave myself out of this, did you? I have been teaching English in the same 11-16 comprehensive school in Neath, South Wales, since 1987. At the time of my series I was also Head of Year. I had several unsuccessful TV appearences behind me when I won the 2007 series (recorded 2007, but broadcast 2008). In particular I was knocked out in the first round in Geoff’s 2006 series – I had the joint highest runner up score, but there were no repechage semi-final places in the revived series until 2010. In 2007/8 I took Henry Ford – The Prince Regent/George IV – The History of London Bridge.IN the 2010 Champions series I took The Bayeux Tapestry as my specialist subject.
Ian is a senior lecturer in Computer Science at Oxford Brookes University. In 2008 Ian won the prestigious Only Connect quiz as part of the unbeatable Crossworders. In 2009 Ian narrowly lost the Grand Final of Mastermind to Nancy Dickmann. In the two years between his Mastermind appearances Ian scored a crushing victory in the 2010 series of Brain of Britain – I should know, I was sitting in the chair next to him! In 2011 Ian’s three subjects were the History of Chemistry 1500-1870 – Jean Sibelius - Pictures in the National Gallery. Following his Mastermind victory Ian won the title Brain of Brains.
Clive is the 40th Mastermind champion. In his filmed insert Clive said that one of the things which finally helped him make the decision to apply for Mastermind was being made redundant from the college in Stockton where he lectured in English. Clive’s subjects were Blackadder – John Lennon and Philip Larkin. Prior to Mastermind, Clive was a semi-finalist in the 2013 series of Brain of Britain.