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Q: Do you feel robbed of Mastermind title Jim Maginnis?

By Angela Rainey

Published 05/04/2016

Lurgan Mastermind contestant Jim Maginnis
Lurgan Mastermind contestant Jim Maginnis
Mastermind host John Humphrys

A: In the words of Sinatra, that's life - A Mastermind finalist from Northern Ireland who narrowly missed out on being crowned the winner after a misread question about Frank Sinatra's death has said "That's life."

Jim Maginnis (54), from Lurgan, was pipped at the post during a nail-biting tie-break round in the final last week on BBC 2.

The RAF navigator was leading the six-strong field at the halfway stage after achieving a perfect score of 15 during the specialist subject round of the quiz.

He had chosen as his subject the Battle of Berlin in 1945, in which Soviet forces reduced much of the besieged German capital to rubble.

In earlier rounds, Jim had chosen to answer questions on the career of RAF chief Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris and on the Plantation of Ulster during the 17th century.

But despite his inspiring performance, he lost out after a question mixed up the year in which year US singer Sinatra died.

The question, read out by quizmaster John Humphrys, asked: "Which singer, who died in 1988, had the words 'The best is yet to come', the title of the last song he ever performed publicly, etched on his tombstone?"

Mr Maginnis answered "Ray Charles", not realising that the correct year of Sinatra's death was a decade later - 1998.

But rather than say Somethin' Stupid', Jim reacted with remarkable grace.

"I'm feeling sanguine about the whole thing," said Jim, who admitted that he is a big Frank Sinatra fan.

"No one is to blame for it. There's no point in wondering what if. Those things are imponderables.

"For anyone to reach the final of Mastermind is an achievement - any one of us could have won on the night.

"Winner Alan Heath was very good, he knew his subject. He was a complete gentleman and a very worthy winner."

Mr Maginnis auditioned for the show in London and competed at the final in Manchester, with wife Elizabeth and daughter Victoria in the audience to support him.

A good sportsman, he said he was not too bothered about the misread question because he "thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience".

He also told how he heard the stunning head-to-head was being avidly followed on Twitter, but he was more keen to hear the final score of his beloved Glenavon in their match against Crusaders.

Mr Maginnis said he was pleased to hear that First Minister Arlene Foster had been following his progress.

She tweeted: "Jim from Lurgan was brilliant #mastermind #proudofNI"

Mr Maginnis, who has an MA in Irish politics from Aberdeen University, said he enjoyed studying for the quiz. But it was not the first time he has been on a television game show - or even Mastermind. He also appeared on the original Fifteen to One and Richard Madeley's Runway in the late 1980s, as well as Mastermind in 1991.

"At the end of the day, it could have been a different if the mistake was made on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and I was playing for a million pounds," said Mr Maginnis.

"The mistake wasn't picked up during the show or post-production. If it had been, it would have been rectified, but it's just one of those things.

"I'm pleased with how far I got and I will not beat myself up about it or blame anyone else. I just thoroughly enjoyed everything from all the reading I did to appearing on the show. So, I suppose, in the words of Frank Sinatra, that's life."

Although not bothered by the gaffe, eagle-eyed viewers on Twitter were quick to spot the mistake.

Susana Mourato, a professor of environmental economics at the London School of Economics, tweeted: "The Frank Sinatra question was wrong, he died in 1998, not 1988. Jim should complain."

The conversation was quickly joined by Belinda Brooks Gordon who also spotted the error and tweeted that she thought it was "controversial".

Fellow boffin Sam Shelton added: "Yeah I spotted this. With the way contestants this good remember dates it almost certainly cost him I would think."

A spokesperson from BBC said: "During the Mastermind final a question was misread from the card to include the date 1988 instead of 1998.

"We have since spoken to Jim Maginnis, the contestant who gave an incorrect answer to the question, and he graciously accepts that the correct date would not have changed his answer. We are satisfied the mistake did not affect the outcome of the final."

Yesterday, as the controversy continued the BBC team tweeted: "Several people noticed that there was a mistake in Friday's episode.

"We've spoken to Jim and we're happy that it didn't affect the outcome."

Brainbox Jim’s words of wisdom over quiz gaffe

“At the end of the day, it could have been a different if the mistake was made on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire  and I was playing for a  million pounds”

“The mistake wasn’t picked up during the show or in post-production, if it had have been, it would have been rectified, but it’s just one of those things”

‘No one is to blame for it. There’s no point in wondering what if? Those things are imponderables. Winner Alan Heath was a gentleman and a very worthy winner”

Belfast Telegraph

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