independent

Monday 23 October 2017

Face to Face with Pat Gibson

Anne Marie O'Connor quizzes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Mastermind's charming champion, Pat Gibson

PAT GIBSON should have considered a career in politics. After all, he's never one to shy away from a tricky question, has found himself perched in some of the world's most notorious hot seats, and when he gives a 'final answer' he means it!

An Egghead, a Who Wants to be a Millionaire winner, and most recently the Mastermind Champion of Champions, Pat Gibson is quite possibly one of the world's smartest men.

And despite his encyclopaedic knowledge, this 49-year-old Wigan based boffin remains an unassuming, humble and entirely modest individual.

Born in Galway in 1962, Pat was reared in Letterkenny in Donegal, before moving to Wexford when he was 15 years of age.

Pat's mother Fanchea continues to reside in Barntown, and while Pat doesn't get home 'as often as I should' he has some very fond memories of growing up in the Model County, and particularly his time in St. Peter's College.

'I did my Leaving at St. Peter's. I can remember getting awful writer's cramp there thanks to the quaint practice of a teacher dictating his thoughts on, for example, Toraíocht Diarmuid agus Gráinne, as students scribbled furiously for the hour – I don't miss that,' he laughed.

However, he thoroughly enjoyed the maths and applied maths classes with Fr. John O'Brien which he describes as 'genuinely absorbing'. 'I got into a very good study rhythm during those two years (in St. Peter's), I really enjoyed it.'

St. Peter's also put paid to any of Pat's aspirations as a hurler – and he laughingly remembers his brief time lining out in the school colours. 'I remember playing hurling briefly as St. Peter's. I had lived in Kilkenny where I was small hurling fry indeed, but when I moved to Donegal (not a hurling powerhouse at the time, at least), I was, in relative terms almost a ''player''.

'So when I got to St. Peter's I felt I should, once again, flex my hurling muscles. Bad mistake. I think I only ever played one game. Giant schoolboys thundered down the pitch without any fear of any apparent ability to feel or even acknowledge pain.

'I think I remember a future Wexford star, George O'Connor wandering to the touchline with an alarming stream of dark blood oozing from an earhole only to be sent straight back into the fray by an utterly unimpressed coach. 'Know your limits – I retired promptly,' he laughed.

After his time in St. Peter's Pat studied for an engineering degree in University College Galway, but later re-trained as a computer programme, and for 20 years he spent his time as a software developer.

Married to Shelagh, and with two children Elizabeth (16) and Noah (13), Pat became the fourth contestant to win the UK title, and the £1million prize fund, on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in April 2004. It was a life-changing moment. With two lifelines still left, Pat sat quietly confident opposite Chris Tarrant as the million pound question flashed onto the screen. 'Which of these is not one of the American Triple Crown Horse races? A) Arlington Million B) Belmont Stakes, C) Kentucky Derby or D) Preakness Stakes.

After using his 50:50 and then having his suspicions confirmed by his phone a friend, Mark Kerr (another highly ranked British quiz player), Pat correctly answered 'Arlington Million' to lift the £1m cheque.

'As you can appreciate, competing in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' is both intensely exciting and stressful. In those days, to get into a one-on-one with Chris Tarrant at all, contestants had to prevail at Fastest Finger. For me, the tension there was even worse than in the answering chair itself.

'When I finally, at the last gasp saloon, managed to escape Fastest Finger, I was absolutely shattered.

'My heart-rate had probably just settled to something approaching normal when the klaxon went after the £250,000 question was completed,' he said.

After winning Millionaire, Pat set his sights on becoming a Mastermind champion and he earned the title after swotting up on an array of specialist subjects from Father Ted to the books of Iain M. Banks and the films of Quentin Tarantino.

In August of this year he had the privilege of returning to the Mastermind studios – this time with 16 previous winners to compete for the once in a lifetime chance of being crowned Mastermind Champion of Champions.

Pat qualified for the final by excelling in his specialist subject of 10 animated Pixar films. For the final he chose the much broader subject of the lives of the great mathematicians. 'It was a big subject and with hindsight I should have chosen the life of one great mathematician instead!'

NEVERTHELESS HIS specialist round performance left him one point shy of the lead at the half-way point, and his amazing general knowledge, and a final score of 36 with no passes, saw him take the title.

'It's very pleasing to have managed to nab the title. Returning to vigorous specialist swotting was a bit tough – I thought that sort of effort was behind me,' he said.

'Given that you had to be a Mastermind winner just to be invited to take part in Mastermind Champion of Champions, acknowledging the standard of the opposition and most of all, recognising that it was such a complete ''one-off '' event, I'm absolutely elated to have won.'

In 2006, Pat won the BBC Radio 4 quiz show Brain of Britain, and on the national and international quiz show circuit he has amassed 34 international medals and this year he won the International Quiz Association World Quizzing Championship achieving an all-time high score of 180 out of 210.

In 2008 and 2009, Pat competed in the first and second series of 'Are you an Egghead?' – a series which sought to find a new panellist to join the resident team of the BBC Two/12Yard show 'Eggheads'.

In the first series Pat was beaten in the quarter finals by Mark Kerr, but he returned the following year and won the final broadcast on November 23 beating fellow 'Mastermind' and 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' winner David Edwards.

'I thoroughly enjoy being an Egghead. The filming takes place in several highly-compressed sessions spread throughout the year – over a fortnight, we would typically film for 12 days in 13, recording four or five shows a day.

'It's quite a business, but you settle into the routine and by the time the end of the recording block comes, although you are feeling the effects of recording dozens and dozens of shows, it's still strange when it all comes to an abrupt end and everyone disperses.'

Pat's tremendous knowledge is borne out his natural curiosity.

'I was a great atlas reader as a child. I have many different atlases now – my main problem is the decline in eyesight that affects so many people in their 40s.

' Those minute map details take a bit of squinting. The giant magnifying glass beckons,' he laughed.

When preparing for a big quiz Pat uses several techniques and a lot of his facts are absorbed as much through osmosis as they are through hard graft.

'Some things are picked up in passing – some are actively learned. Over many years of keen quizzing, certain habits have become entrenched. When reading newspapers, a certain part of me is always looking for the tasty morsel – always on the hunt – like a vulture circling high above the plains – if that is not too bleak an image,' he smiles.

He gives a recent example. ' A man died recently, Eric Tindill. Imagine my reaction to discover from various obituaries that he was the only man to play rugby with the All Blacks and Test cricket with New Zealand, AND it transpires he, living to 99, was the oldest ever Test cricketer! The first 100-year old ex-Test cricketer cannot be far away – we are waiting.'

The affable and quietly spoken mastermind doesn't have a favourite subject. 'I like most things, and even if I didn't I would have tried to acquire a universal taste. It's not personal – just business,' he said.

There aren't too many quiz topics that he fears either.

'In general I am fortunate that there are many question setters out there with taste who set quality questions. There are, however, just a few slightly tedious topics that have historically attracted the eye of some quiz setters – but I can't possibly say what they are,' he said.

Pat's great quiz nemesis also turns out to be his friend Kevin Ashman, who he says has 'set the standard for everyone else to aspire to'. 'We have never clashed on TV, and we compete together on various teams, and, of course, we are both Eggheads. Usually, winning an event is pretty much equivalent to beating Kevin,' he said.

Away from the quiz world Pat takes great pride in his family, and it's evident that the genius gene runs in the family as his daughter Elizabeth in August gained an impressive 10 As in her GCSE exams.

'She had a very good track record in examination before the GCSEs so we had our fingers crossed for a good performance and we were delighted to see that she did.'

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth now plans on studying A-levels in science, maths and French but hopes to one day follow in her dad's footsteps. 'I think I would like to have a go at quizzes too. I would like to do Mastermind when I'm old enough,' smiled the bright teenager.

And what do Pat's family think of his fame and fortune?

'I think they are pleased for me,' he smiled, 'possibly slightly bemused.'

He laughs at the notion of playing trivial pursuits at home with the wife and kids. 'No, we don't play it. We don't even own a copy. I have played it in the distant past. I knew someone once who systematically read through all the cards, memorising the answers while having baths. That's definitely not cricket.'

For his own relaxation Pat likes to swim 'a bit'. 'Really, I sit in a bubble pool, think about the world and tell myself, I'm exercising.'

And what does the future hold for the great Pat Gibson?

'It's hard to say. Having come so far with my hobby of answering questions, I may as well continue to do so. I really enjoy Eggheads so I hope that there's much more of that to come. This world generates new ''stuff '' every day, and it's my job to spot or log it – a job I take seriously.'

As Magnus Magnusson might started, so he'll finish'. PAT GIBSON should have considered a career in politics. After all, he's never one to shy away from a tricky question, has found himself perched in some of the world's most notorious hot seats, and when he gives a 'final answer' he means it!

An Egghead, a Who Wants to be a Millionaire winner, and most recently the Mastermind Champion of Champions, Pat Gibson is quite possibly one of the world's smartest men.

And despite his encyclopaedic knowledge, this 49-year-old Wigan based boffin remains an unassuming, humble and entirely modest individual.

Born in Galway in 1962, Pat was reared in Letterkenny in Donegal, before moving to Wexford when he was 15 years of age.

Pat's mother Fanchea continues to reside in Barntown, and while Pat doesn't get home 'as often as I should' he has some very fond memories of growing up in the Model County, and particularly his time in St. Peter's College.

'I did my Leaving at St. Peter's. I can remember getting awful writer's cramp there thanks to the quaint practice of a teacher dictating his thoughts on, for example, Toraíocht Diarmuid agus Gráinne, as students scribbled furiously for the hour – I don't miss that,' he laughed.

However, he thoroughly enjoyed the maths and applied maths classes with Fr. John O'Brien which he describes as 'genuinely absorbing'. 'I got into a very good study rhythm during those two years (in St. Peter's), I really enjoyed it.'

St. Peter's also put paid to any of Pat's aspirations as a hurler – and he laughingly remembers his brief time lining out in the school colours. 'I remember playing hurling briefly as St. Peter's. I had lived in Kilkenny where I was small hurling fry indeed, but when I moved to Donegal (not a hurling powerhouse at the time, at least), I was, in relative terms almost a ''player''.

'So when I got to St. Peter's I felt I should, once again, flex my hurling muscles. Bad mistake. I think I only ever played one game. Giant schoolboys thundered down the pitch without any fear of any apparent ability to feel or even acknowledge pain.

'I think I remember a future Wexford star, George O'Connor wandering to the touchline with an alarming stream of dark blood oozing from an earhole only to be sent straight back into the fray by an utterly unimpressed coach. 'Know your limits – I retired promptly,' he laughed.

After his time in St. Peter's Pat studied for an engineering degree in University College Galway, but later re-trained as a computer programme, and for 20 years he spent his time as a software developer.

Married to Shelagh, and with two children Elizabeth (16) and Noah (13), Pat became the fourth contestant to win the UK title, and the £1million prize fund, on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in April 2004. It was a life-changing moment. With two lifelines still left, Pat sat quietly confident opposite Chris Tarrant as the million pound question flashed onto the screen. 'Which of these is not one of the American Triple Crown Horse races? A) Arlington Million B) Belmont Stakes, C) Kentucky Derby or D) Preakness Stakes.

After using his 50:50 and then having his suspicions confirmed by his phone a friend, Mark Kerr (another highly ranked British quiz player), Pat correctly answered 'Arlington Million' to lift the £1m cheque.

'As you can appreciate, competing in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' is both intensely exciting and stressful. In those days, to get into a one-on-one with Chris Tarrant at all, contestants had to prevail at Fastest Finger. For me, the tension there was even worse than in the answering chair itself.

'When I finally, at the last gasp saloon, managed to escape Fastest Finger, I was absolutely shattered.

'My heart-rate had probably just settled to something approaching normal when the klaxon went after the £250,000 question was completed,' he said.

After winning Millionaire, Pat set his sights on becoming a Mastermind champion and he earned the title after swotting up on an array of specialist subjects from Father Ted to the books of Iain M. Banks and the films of Quentin Tarantino.

In August of this year he had the privilege of returning to the Mastermind studios – this time with 16 previous winners to compete for the once in a lifetime chance of being crowned Mastermind Champion of Champions.

Pat qualified for the final by excelling in his specialist subject of 10 animated Pixar films. For the final he chose the much broader subject of the lives of the great mathematicians. 'It was a big subject and with hindsight I should have chosen the life of one great mathematician instead!'

NEVERTHELESS HIS specialist round performance left him one point shy of the lead at the half-way point, and his amazing general knowledge, and a final score of 36 with no passes, saw him take the title.

'It's very pleasing to have managed to nab the title. Returning to vigorous specialist swotting was a bit tough – I thought that sort of effort was behind me,' he said.

'Given that you had to be a Mastermind winner just to be invited to take part in Mastermind Champion of Champions, acknowledging the standard of the opposition and most of all, recognising that it was such a complete ''one-off '' event, I'm absolutely elated to have won.'

In 2006, Pat won the BBC Radio 4 quiz show Brain of Britain, and on the national and international quiz show circuit he has amassed 34 international medals and this year he won the International Quiz Association World Quizzing Championship achieving an all-time high score of 180 out of 210.

In 2008 and 2009, Pat competed in the first and second series of 'Are you an Egghead?' – a series which sought to find a new panellist to join the resident team of the BBC Two/12Yard show 'Eggheads'.

In the first series Pat was beaten in the quarter finals by Mark Kerr, but he returned the following year and won the final broadcast on November 23 beating fellow 'Mastermind' and 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' winner David Edwards.

'I thoroughly enjoy being an Egghead. The filming takes place in several highly-compressed sessions spread throughout the year – over a fortnight, we would typically film for 12 days in 13, recording four or five shows a day.

'It's quite a business, but you settle into the routine and by the time the end of the recording block comes, although you are feeling the effects of recording dozens and dozens of shows, it's still strange when it all comes to an abrupt end and everyone disperses.'

Pat's tremendous knowledge is borne out his natural curiosity.

'I was a great atlas reader as a child. I have many different atlases now – my main problem is the decline in eyesight that affects so many people in their 40s.

' Those minute map details take a bit of squinting. The giant magnifying glass beckons,' he laughed.

When preparing for a big quiz Pat uses several techniques and a lot of his facts are absorbed as much through osmosis as they are through hard graft.

'Some things are picked up in passing – some are actively learned. Over many years of keen quizzing, certain habits have become entrenched. When reading newspapers, a certain part of me is always looking for the tasty morsel – always on the hunt – like a vulture circling high above the plains – if that is not too bleak an image,' he smiles.

He gives a recent example. ' A man died recently, Eric Tindill. Imagine my reaction to discover from various obituaries that he was the only man to play rugby with the All Blacks and Test cricket with New Zealand, AND it transpires he, living to 99, was the oldest ever Test cricketer! The first 100-year old ex-Test cricketer cannot be far away – we are waiting.'

The affable and quietly spoken mastermind doesn't have a favourite subject. 'I like most things, and even if I didn't I would have tried to acquire a universal taste. It's not personal – just business,' he said.

There aren't too many quiz topics that he fears either.

'In general I am fortunate that there are many question setters out there with taste who set quality questions. There are, however, just a few slightly tedious topics that have historically attracted the eye of some quiz setters – but I can't possibly say what they are,' he said.

Pat's great quiz nemesis also turns out to be his friend Kevin Ashman, who he says has 'set the standard for everyone else to aspire to'. 'We have never clashed on TV, and we compete together on various teams, and, of course, we are both Eggheads. Usually, winning an event is pretty much equivalent to beating Kevin,' he said.

Away from the quiz world Pat takes great pride in his family, and it's evident that the genius gene runs in the family as his daughter Elizabeth in August gained an impressive 10 As in her GCSE exams.

'She had a very good track record in examination before the GCSEs so we had our fingers crossed for a good performance and we were delighted to see that she did.'

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth now plans on studying A-levels in science, maths and French but hopes to one day follow in her dad's footsteps. 'I think I would like to have a go at quizzes too. I would like to do Mastermind when I'm old enough,' smiled the bright teenager.

And what do Pat's family think of his fame and fortune?

'I think they are pleased for me,' he smiled, 'possibly slightly bemused.'

He laughs at the notion of playing trivial pursuits at home with the wife and kids. 'No, we don't play it. We don't even own a copy. I have played it in the distant past. I knew someone once who systematically read through all the cards, memorising the answers while having baths. That's definitely not cricket.'

For his own relaxation Pat likes to swim 'a bit'. 'Really, I sit in a bubble pool, think about the world and tell myself, I'm exercising.'

And what does the future hold for the great Pat Gibson?

'It's hard to say. Having come so far with my hobby of answering questions, I may as well continue to do so. I really enjoy Eggheads so I hope that there's much more of that to come. This world generates new ''stuff '' every day, and it's my job to spot or log it – a job I take seriously.'

As Magnus Magnusson might started, so he'll finish'.